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‘You know me': APS hires internal candidate as next superintendent following national search

Gabriella Durán Blakey speaks at a press conference after accepting the position as Albuquerque Public School's next superintendent on Feb. 5, 2024. She will take over for Superintendent Scott Elder on July 1.
Courtesy Albuquerque Public Schools
Gabriella Durán Blakey speaks at a press conference after accepting the position as Albuquerque Public School's next superintendent on Feb. 5, 2024. She will take over for Superintendent Scott Elder on July 1.

Amid low test scores, sagging enrollment and graduation rates, and a court mandate to provide a more sufficient education to students who’ve been left behind, Albuquerque Public Schools Monday named its next superintendent. Gabriella Durán Blakey was the only internal finalist for the job and said her long history with the district is an asset.

Blakey’s relationship with APS goes all the way back to when she attended district schools growing up in Albuquerque. As she accepted the position following a board vote, she said she hopes to be a role model for current students, “and that there are girls at Van Buren Middle School right now looking up thinking they can accomplish whatever they work for.”

She went on to work for APS as a teacher, principal, associate superintendent and chief operations officer.

“I am humbled to be standing before you this morning, but it’s not like I haven’t stood before you many times before,” she said. “You know me.”

She’ll take the helm this summer as Superintendent Scott Elder steps down after about three years in the role.

“I know the community trusts me and with that trust comes a lot of responsibility,” Blakey said. “So, I want the teachers and the children to know that they’re in good hands with APS and with my leadership.”

She was one of two finalists alongside former Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Ahart following a national search with 24 applicants.

While the Board of Education postponed its decision last week to allow “more time for due diligence,” President Danielle Gonzales said Blakey was ultimately the right choice.

“Vision and passion really stood out,” she said of Blakey’s application. “I think there are other factors too, of course. Like school safety, equity and transparency, which are all areas where Dr. Blakey has also demonstrated some really significant assets and skills.”

The search began in October with several opportunities for community input, including a forum just last week.

"Our choice is a reflection of what you told us,” Gonzales told the APS community at a press conference following the board’s vote. “And we heard over and over again that our next superintendent should be someone who believes all students can learn and succeed, wants to improve student outcomes and who knows how to do it.”

Gonzales said the community also wanted a superintendent who understands and values Albuquerque’s unique culture and could hit the ground running.  

Blakey said she has a plan for her first 90 days leading the district. While she didn’t get into specifics, she said it includes assessing academic programs, evaluating district financials and strengthening relationships.

But most importantly, I will do everything in my power to improve our student outcomes,” she said.

Blakey signed a 2-year contract with a $295,000 annual salary. She will be shadowing Superintendent Elder in his final months before taking over on July 1.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
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