Superintendent questions go unanswered

By Chelle Delaney: QCS Associate Publisher

Tucumcari school board Chairman Rex E. Kirksey on Friday declined to explain why Superintendent William Reents has been placed on paid administrative leave.

“It’s related to personnel matters and we are not at liberty to discuss them in public,” Kirksey said Thursday.

Reents, superintendent since July 2002, declined comment when contacted Friday.

Reents, whose annual salary is $101,000, was placed on paid administrative leave at Tuesday’s special meeting of the school board. The board met in a closed executive session for 90 minutes before approving the action 5-0.

At the same meeting, the board agreed to name Aaron McKinney acting superintendent. McKinney, who was assistant superintendent and would have earned an annual salary of $78,000 beginning in July, is now being paid on an annual salary of $90,000 a year, officials said.

While the school system will be effectively paying the salaries of two superintendents as long as Reents is on paid leave, that will have minimal effect on the budget, Kirksey said. “We’ll have to make adjustments,” he said.

Tucumcari’s $12 million school budget was submitted on May 25 to the New Mexico Public School Education Department for approval. Of that sum, salaries are included in the $8.5 million general operating fund. Changes in the superintendent post and respective salaries do not require approval from the state, Kirksey said.

Reents’ status should be known soon, Kirksey said.

“By the end of the month, we should know how long he will be on administrative leave,” he said.

Asked if the school board would be initiating a search for a new superintendent, Kirksey said, “I would expect that he (Reents) would be on paid leave and we would not be looking to do anything else until his situation is resolved.”