Personal tools

News from 2023-2024

Posted: January 30, 2024

Superintendent Finalists Field Questions From the Community

APS Board expected to pick district’s next leader on Wednesday.

APS students question superintendent finalists.

APS students question superintendent finalists.

Nearly 500 people showed up at the Berna Facio Professional Development Complex on Tuesday to hear from the two finalists vying to be the next superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, as more than 1,800 others watched the forums on the Board of Education’s YouTube channel.

Finalists Thomas Ahart, the former superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, and Gabriella Durán Blakey, chief operations officer of APS, kicked off the day by introducing themselves to community and business leaders and answering their questions.

Among those attending the forums was Max Zuni, governor of the pueblo of Isleta, who, during opening remarks, urged district leaders to teach the history of the area. He said he’s also encouraging young kids in his community to learn their native language.

“We have a lot of kids here in APS, and that is the reason I’m here. We have to support our kids as much as we can,” Zuni said.

The finalists fielded dozens of questions throughout the day touching on everything from teacher shortages and school start times to restorative justice and student safety.

“I’m very committed to the students here, and I’m very committed to our community,” Blakey, a native of Albuquerque, told attendees at the end of the morning session. “I’m committed to listening, and I’m committed to delivering results to make sure that we achieve the goals that our community has very publicly outlined for us and for the school board. I know that it’s our responsibility to make sure that we work as a community to better our student outcomes and achieve the goals.”

Ahart highlighted his 11 years as a teacher and 10 years as a superintendent.

“I think the innovation I’ve engaged in in almost every role that I’ve had as a public educator helps to demonstrate that I do look at public education from a little bit of a different angle than a lot of traditional school administrators,” Ahart said. “I care deeply for kids. … I’m a firm believer in the power of public education and feel like that’s been my life’s mission. I want to continue to do that work.”

Among those asking questions were six students, two each from elementary, middle, and high schools around the city.

“What do you feel is the right amount of homework for an elementary school student,” asked Sophia Frost, a fifth-grader at Longfellow Elementary.

“I don’t think at the elementary level that a whole lot of time should be expected, but I wouldn’t put a hard number on it,” Ahart responded. He added that homework at the elementary school level needs to be purposeful and that it should be assigned based on the needs of individual students as opposed to blanket homework assignments for the entire class.

Blakey said that when elementary students are at home they should be taking time to play and read, activities that develop their brains.

“Homework as practice, I think, is really appropriate,” she added. “But homework that’s graded and that you get stressed out and you’re in second grade and you have to bring back the homework, I don’t think that that’s as appropriate.”

About 1,200 questions were submitted for the finalists. The search consultant whittled the submitted questions down to the ones that were asked at Tuesday’s forums. The public forums can be viewed on the Board of Education’s YouTube channel.

Blakey and Ahart will meet behind closed doors with the board on Wednesday for a final round of interviews. The board is expected to select the district’s next leader following those interviews.

The person chosen will succeed Scott Elder, who is leaving APS when his contract expires on June 30.