Website claims ABQ Academy has mismanaged finances | KOB 4
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Website claims ABQ Academy has mismanaged finances

Caleb James
February 05, 2018 10:41 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Some parents at Albuquerque Academy are publicly blasting the school's board of trustees over financial management. Those parents accuse the board and administrators of overpaying the school's headmaster and jeopardizing scholarships for underprivileged students.

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It's a story playing out publicly online. A core group of about a dozen parents has taken it upon themselves to audit the school's finances and launch a website with their findings and an open letter to the school's board. The website, SaveAlbuquerqueAcademy.com, has generated more than 10,000 views in a week according to a site administrator.

The group wants to know where tens of millions of dollars have gone. Academy officials on Monday tell KOB many of the claims made on the site are inaccurate.  

Nestled behind security gates in the Northeast Heights, Albuquerque Academy is one of New Mexico's all-time most expensive private schools. Regular full price tuition at the school hovers at $23,000 a year.

In the open letter to the Academy board of trustees, the group details its grievances. The letter claims to reveal a troubling financial trend -- alleging Academy's financial endowment was healthy at $126 million in 2011. But as of 2016, the letter claims there is $84 million is left -- a 67 percent loss over seven years, according to the parent group.

The letter levels a strong charge.

"We believe the board has badly mismanaged the endowment and failed to carry out its fiduciary responsibilities," that letter states in part.

The data in the 10-page letter are extensive, and the parents behind it tell KOB they want to expose financial dealings that have previously been kept behind closed doors. Those parents say the ultimate concern is for students attending the school on scholarship. The letter expresses concern the school will no longer be able to honor scholarships if it keeps spending.

A particular sticking point for parents seems to be Academy's headmaster Andrew Watson. According to the letter, Watson was paid nearly $400,000 in 2016. That's more than the CEO's of the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State, University and Central New Mexico Community College, according to the letter.

The parents claim Watson is paid over $100,000 more per year than Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Raquel Reedy. The letter demands more transparency from the board on financial issues and that Watson's salary be adjusted to match Reedy's.

Albuquerque Academy spokeswoman Cathy Garber released an extensive statement on behalf of the Academy board of trustees Monday night. The full text of the statement is included below:

The Board of Trustees respects the thoughts, opinions, and feelings expressed by the letter’s author, but we regret that he chose to address his concerns in this manner without attempting to address them first with the Board.  We have consistently been very willing to meet with anyone who has concerns regarding our school. The Trustees strive to be responsive to inquiries we receive from members of the school community and external community, and we are always happy to discuss situations and concerns.  Any information distributed to the broader Academy community needs to be fully accurate, contextualized, and in line with our mission.

We believe the appropriate place to address the types of concerns raised is first through face-to-face discussions.  Often such discussions allow us to come to a common understanding regarding the facts and issues, which is in line with the spirit of respectful discourse that we try to instill in our students.  The Board disagrees with many of the assertions made in the letter and believes those could have been addressed and clarified had this been brought to the Trustees before sending the correspondence.  In addition, anonymous responses to the letter have spread misinformation about the school.  These matters are complex, with many factors to consider, and are not easy or necessarily appropriate for the Board to address in an email.  The Trustees have already reached out to the concerned parent and will work diligently to facilitate an in-person meeting with any concerned parents referenced in the letter as soon as possible.

The Board would like the community to know that we are encouraged by the school’s current academic outcomes, faculty commitment to our students, and its financial position after many years of work reducing endowment spending closer to a sustainable level.  The financial assistance we offer to the community, supported by our endowment and generous donors, is rising again, as are our applications for next year’s admission.   Most importantly, our students continue to thrive and achieve great things.   We also have the utmost confidence in and support for Head of School Andrew Watson and the leadership team he has in place.  We appreciate the support and trust of our community members, and we commit to remaining transparent as we address the issues raised.

Credits

Caleb James

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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