The final two candidates in the Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent search presented themselves at a series of candidate forums January 30, taking comments for almost 12 hours, from the public, students, and APS staff about what they would do to improve the district if chosen to lead APS.
The search process began after the announcement that current Superintendent Scott Elder would not have his contract renewed. The APS Board of Education has said it seeks a leader who will shape the future of the school district and advance the new strategic plan.
The candidate forums provided an opportunity for the public to meet and interact with the two finalists vying for the superintendent position: Dr. Gabriella Duran Blakey and Dr. Thomas Ahart. Both candidates shared their perspectives on various educational topics, highlighting their qualifications and visions for APS. To expose the community to this superintendent candidates, APS held a morning session with students, a town hall session, an afternoon employee session, and a late afternoon general public forum.
Duran Blakey, a graduate of APS’ Highland High School, emphasized the strength of diversity in her leadership approach. She emphasized her commitment to APS’ goals and guardrails, focusing on the importance of meeting the needs of all students within the district.
Duran Blakey said her vision includes increasing high school internships, expanding career technical programs, and improving access to the arts for APS students.
Ahart, with 34 years of professional experience in education, including 10 years as a superintendent, said that equity is his guiding principle. He stressed the importance of recognizing that no two students are alike, and that understanding what works for each individual student will help to ensure their success. Ahart also underscored the significance of community partnerships and student agency in his approach to educational leadership.
The forums covered a range of critical educational topics, including early childhood education, candidate perspectives on addressing underserved students, education in the post-COVID era, school safety, standardized testing, student successes, career pathways for non-college-bound students, cell phone policies, promoting equity, and collaboration with teachers’ unions.
Community members were encouraged to share their thoughts on the candidates through a portal set up by APS. The input gathered from the forums and public feedback will play a crucial role in the APS board’s decision-making process.
The chosen candidate will take over from Elder, whose contract expires on June 30. Selecting the right superintendent is a critical responsibility for the board as they seek to improve academic outcomes for the district’s 68,000 students and oversee the daily operations of over 140 schools.
The APS superintendent search process reflects a community-driven approach, with extensive community engagement and input throughout the process , a requirement of the board’s strategic plan.
The board held final interviews with both candidates on January 31, bringing the superintendent search process closer to its conclusion. The board was in executive session for over 10 hours. Business before the board was, “Interviewing Superintendent Finalists, Reviewing and Discussing Finalist Applications, and Discussing a Possible Contract for the Next Superintendent.” The board tabled this discussion around 8:30 p.m. and has scheduled a special board meeting for Monday, February 5 to conclude their business.