APS board expected to decide new superintendent Monday
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque Public Schools has narrowed down its search for a new superintendent to two candidates: Gabriella Durán Blakey and Thomas Ahart. The board is expected to decide Monday morning.
“Dr. Thomas Ahart. He’s the former superintendent of Des Moines, Iowa Public Schools. He’s also currently a coach for the Council of Great City Schools, which is essentially the organization that supports large urban school districts,” said APS Board of Education President Danielle Gonzales.
Gonzales says Durán Blakey is local and familiar with the district.
“She is currently the chief operations officer with the district but has previously served as an associate superintendent, and started her career here as a teacher,” said Gonzales.
Last Tuesday, both candidates attended three public forums. They answered questions from students, staff, and the community.
A student panel asked the finalists about lunch options, after school activities, improving math scores and more.
Some questions students had overlapped with what the community wanted to be answered, like making sure every student had equal opportunities, regardless of race or language.
“The first step that I would need to take especially not being privy to this area, is making sure that I understand through building relationships and how to communicate two-way with the students. As well as their families exactly what their priorities are, but also where they feel like we’re not quite hitting the mark,” said Ahart.
Durán Blakey pulled from her own experience for her answer.
“Part of what we need to do is encourage more students to be proud of who they are, and to provide the opportunities for them to be able to succeed in school and to see it as an asset. Because who you are as a person and who I am as a person, it’s an asset to our community, and it should never be seen as a barrier or something that you’d have to overcome,” said Durán Blakey.
The community also asked both candidates about what plans they have to keep students safe, especially when it comes to gun violence.
Staff asked the finalists how they plan to retain teachers, work with the union, and more.
Last Wednesday, the school board interviewed each candidate for 90 minutes. That night, the board voted unanimously to delay the decision to Monday, saying it needed more time for due diligence.
Gonzales emphasized whoever the board chooses, they want to make sure they can get started on day 1.
“One thing I think that’s really important to the school board, and to the community, is that we find someone who on day one is able to hit the ground running. And that’s what we’re looking for,” said Gonzales.
The board is meeting Monday, Feb. 5 at 8 a.m. to make a final decision on the superintendent position.
The open session portion of the meeting will be livestreamed on the APS Board of Education YouTube page.
Current Superintendent Scott Elder’s last day is June 30.