Thursday, August 07, 2014

Journal has no "education" reporter, why not?

The Albuquerque Public Schools spends a quarter of the state's budget. They control, in a very real way, the destiny of nearly 100,000 children. Everything they do is newsworthy.  One would think the Journal would cover them more closely. perhaps actually assign a reporter to specialize in gathering news from APS.

From where, from from whom, does
the news and the truth really flow?
They are content apparently with the news that flows out of APS.  They are getting what they want; they needn't really dig.

But are the gathering the truth? 
To whom do they listen?

Who exactly do APS Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta and APS' million dollar a year public relations effort, serve?

Do she and that effort serve the people or do they serve the school board and senior administration?

Case in point; apparently, APS has given the Journal nothing to report regarding the school board's unanimous passage of a new Public Participation in Public Meetings Policy, PPPMP, and the Journal has dutifully reported nothing.

Forget for the moment how arrogant and unlawful I think the policy is.  It is after all still only my view and opinion.  Pretend they have passed a public participation policy that truly respected the Constitutionally protected human right to stand in their face and point to their public corruption and incompetence.  It would be newsworthy.

Either way or in the middle; newsworthy, even if only the last inch, on the last page of their newspaper.

Journal coverage of the meeting included pointing out that, for the second time in a row, a closed session had been cancelled because of chronic board member attendance issues.  I reported on the first cancellation, link, and Board Member David Peercy's candidly express views on the issue, link.

The Journal passed along the board's position on the availability of public records of administrative and or executive incompetence or corruption; it's a personnel matter and none of the people's business.
Nor apparently, of APS Supt Winston Brooks.
"“I know absolutely nothing. That’s a fact,” 
Brooks said, referring to the report."
Journal reporter Jon Swedien writes;
"Details of the plan are not public".  
If there is an award in journalism for understatement of the year,  Swedien is a shoo-in.

So why didn't Kent Walz et al., inform the democracy regarding APS' new rules for public participation in their public meetings; rules that go far and beyond open meetings law; standards that are far higher standards than the law?  Why will he never?

There is no court wherein Kent Walz will ever have to explain, defend, deny or even acknowledge the Journal's decision to stand by Marty Esquivel while he rammed this junk by the board.

There is no court wherein Kent Walz will ever have to explain, defend, deny or even acknowledge the Journal's decision to become complicit in, or continue to be complacent about, the standards and accountability crisis in the leadership of the APS.

There is no due process where newspaper editors and broadcast news directors can be held accountable for their part in the cover up of the cover up, of felony criminal misconduct involving senior APS administrators.

The trouble with higher standards of conduct than the law is, there's no place to enforce them.  It stands to reason that courts of the lowest standards of conduct cannot enforce higher standards of conduct.

Frankly, a certain amount of secrecy is appropriate in the evaluation of APS Supt Winston Brooks.  But, the level of that secrecy is the prerogative of the people, not of board members and administrators who are conflicted by their own needs to keep secrets.

Politicians and public servants meet in secret from the people whose power they wield and whose resources they spend, with the permission of the people.

What it is they want to keep secret; apparently, a lawyer was hired to prepare some kind of report on Winston Brooks. Perhaps it represents compendium of all of the suits in which Brooks is a named respondent, an honest accounting of the money that is being spent defending him and in settlements of complaints against him.  Just kidding - like that will never happen.

They hire lawyers to do their investigations in order that the findings can be kept secret under lawyer work product.  It makes the hiding of public records "legal".

The Journal reports;
Kathy Korte, Lorenzo Garcia and David Peercy voted against the closed session. Korte said they should wait until all board members were present, and Peercy said he opposed it because the whole board didn’t vote to hire the attorney who wrote the report. And further;

(School Board President Analee) Maestas on July 18 hired Agnes Padilla, an attorney with the Butt Thornton & Baehr firm at a rate of $190 an hour. Maestas said she informed the board of the hire. 
According to APS' award winning website;
The powers of the Board of Education lie in its action as a public body. Although a member of a board of education is a public officer, that person has no authority or power individually. emphasis added
Seems pretty clear.  So how did the whole board not vote to hire the attorney who wrote the report?  Except in violation of the law?  Who is going to pay the lawyer her $190 an hour?

There is much going on here.  The Journal's deliberate decision to ignore it is manifest journalistic malpractice; yet another body of utterly unenforceable higher standards of conduct than the law.

Armenta photo Mark Bralley
Walz photo ched macquigg

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