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HomeNewsAPS Welcomes Dr. Duran Blakey as Superintendent with Strategic Vision for Improvement

APS Welcomes Dr. Duran Blakey as Superintendent with Strategic Vision for Improvement

Albuquerque Public Schools, the largest school district in New Mexico, is set to welcome Dr. Gabriella Duran Blakey as its new superintendent starting July 1, 2024, under a contract with notably different terms from that of her predecessor, Scott Elder.

Duran Blakey’s contract, which runs until June 30, 2026, outlines the rules that distinguish her tenure in both scope and compensation. In 2023 the APS Board of Education made a shift. With declining enrollment and students unable to perform at their grade level in both reading and math, the board adopted goals and guardrails in hopes of getting the district and its students back on track. Because of this shift, the scope of her work is more structured than Elder’s, reflecting work from the APS Board of Education’s new strategic plan: “Emerging Better.”

On June 7 of last year, Elder was up for a contract review. The Board of Education, which has changed as a result of the recent school board election, did not renew Elder’s contract. Before the end of June, APS began searching for a new leader, about six months later, APS hired Duran Blakey to the position of superintendent.

Term and Compensation

Duran Blakey’s contract stipulates a term from July 1, 2024, to June 30, 2026, with an annual salary of $295,000.

In contrast, Elder’s tenure, beginning on July 1, 2021, and ending on June 30, 2024, started with a base salary of $225,000 per year.

Professional Development and Benefits

Duran Blakey will receive an annual salary of $295,000, along with a contribution equal to 12 percent of her base compensation ($35,400) to a supplemental retirement plan at the end of each contract year. Elder’s initial base salary was set at $225,000 per year, with specific increments for each contract year towards a supplemental retirement plan ($50,000 for the 2021-2022 year, $55,000 for the 2022-2023 year, and $60,000 for the 2023-2024 year).

Duran Blakey’s contract provides her with a vehicle for district functions, covering all associated costs, and includes provisions for administrative support, an office, a laptop, and a cell phone. Elder’s contract provided a district car for travel to and from work, with his contract also including resources for an administrative secretary, reimbursement for contract review, and technology equipment as needed.

Duran Blakey’s benefits extend to comprehensive professional development and community engagement opportunities, with the board covering membership costs in various educational and administrative organizations. Moreover, she is required to attend at least one professional conference per year, with additional opportunities subject to board approval. Elder’s agreement also included provisions for professional development but with less specificity regarding coverage of expenses and memberships.

Performance Reviews and Termination Clauses

Performance Reviews

Embraces a modernized evaluation process including performance-based financial incentives and a comprehensive evaluation, gathering feedback from a wide range of groups. This approach is designed to foster holistic professional growth and help the district meet its specific goals, particularly in literacy and math. Duran Blakey’s contract sets a precedent with the implementation of a detailed evaluation rubric and regular progress monitoring. This ensures continuous assessment and alignment with the district’s strategic objectives under the “Emerging Better” plan.

Elder’s contract relied on a more conventional annual review system, with evaluations based on agreed-upon goals and performance measures. While effective for standard operations, this approach offered less frequency and breadth in feedback compared to the innovative methods introduced for Duran Blakey.

Termination

Duran Blakey’s contract provides detailed scenarios and behaviors that could lead to termination, providing a transparent framework for accountability. This includes unsatisfactory performance related to the strategic goals, ensuring that there is a direct link between job security and student outcomes. Her contract also provisions for her termination if criminal felony charges or substance abuse issues arise, emphasizing her role as a community figure and educational leader.

Elder’s agreement describes broader, more general grounds for termination, such as incompetence or moral turpitude, without connecting these to the district’s strategic objectives or including a comprehensive plan for addressing personal conduct issues. Elder’s contract also provided a less detailed protocol for public misconduct, focusing more on potential legal charges than on broader community and educational leadership responsibilities.

Health and Leave

In terms of health and leave, Dr. Blakey’s contract mirrors the district’s licensed administrators’ benefits, highlighting a continuity with APS policy. Mr. Elder’s contract specified entitlements to annual and sick leave, including accumulation and compensation for unused vacation and sick days.

Her contract states that Duran Blakey is entitled to all leave benefits that APS licensed administrators receive, including annual and sick leave, without specifics on the number of days. Sick leave will accumulate and is capped at the same amount afforded to other district licensed administrators, with no compensation for unused sick leave upon resignation or termination. For Elder, sick leave entitlement was detailed as 12.6 working days per year, with accumulation up to 256 days. The final sentence of Section 6 in Elder’s contract states that he can be paid for any unused sick leave.

When it comes to annual leave, Duran Blakey “shall be entitled to all leave the APS licensed administrators receive,” according to her contract. A notable requirement is that she will need to consult with the board president before taking any annual leave and to ensure an acting superintendent is in place for absences beyond three days. Elder was entitled to twenty-two working days of annual leave per year, with the ability to accumulate unused leave up to sixty-six days. Upon contract termination, he could receive payment for up to sixty-six days of accrued but unused annual leave. His contract had no requirements to consult with the board president for taking annual leave or the assignment of an acting superintendent during extended absences.Blakey’s contract is more structured than Elder’s, following the district’s Emerging Better plan to improve student results. As part of their work to improve student results, and part of Duran Blakey’s performance reviews, the APS Board of Education will be reviewing improvements among their students. In February the board reviewed student results in literacy, and now in March the board will review student results in math.