School Board Mum on Albuquerque Superintendent’s Resignation

Winston Brooks has resigned from his position of superintendent at Albuquerque Public Schools (APS), agreeing to a lump sum payment of $350,000 in addition to $25,000 worth of sick pay.

Brooks refused to elaborate on his resignation, and the APS is refusing to release a report investigating a “serious personnel issue” concerning Brooks that forced his resignation.

A six page “Resignation and Settlement Agreement” stated APS waives a right to file a legal complaint against Brooks’ wife Ann, who is not an employee of APS. If either side slanders the other, a $25,000 penalty will be assessed.

According to the agreement, the report will be kept “in a file separate from Brooks’ personal file, and it shall not be released to anyone.”

“The public needs to know why he was let go,” said Kathi Bearden, president of the executive committee at New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. “It’s their money.”

The board did issue a statement concerning the resignation, which simply said “both (Brooks and the board) agree that this decision is the best option for APS at this time.”

While New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act does hold an exemption for “letters or memorandums which are matters of opinion in personnel files”, executive director for NMFOG Susan Boe does not believe they apply in this situation.

“Our position is there are a lot of facts in that report and they should be disclosed,” Boe told New Mexico Watchdog on Monday. “As for the attorney-client privilege, we don’t have the report so we don’t know how much of that strictly applies. And the attorney-client privilege can be waived by the client. In this case, the client is the school district.”

Brooks also faces two pending lawsuits.  One states that women in the district had been unfairly demoted in 2010.  A former associate superintendent who stated she had been demoted for saying Brooks “treated women with disdain” filed a second.

One clause in Friday’s agreement cryptically says if “Brooks is sued by any person for any actions taken while acting in the course and scope in his duties as Superintendent, Brooks will be provided a defense and indemnification for any settlement or verdict, with counsel designated by the District.”

Brooks had previously been in the news for a tweet he posted about state Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, which simply read “moo, moo-oink, oink.”  Brooks had been at odds with Skandera over her reforms to the education system.

Despite the controversy that arose surrounding Brooks, the settlement agreement did mention how the graduation rate had risen from 50% to 73% during his tenure, “particularly among Hispanic, African American and Special Needs youngsters.”

Brooks, who had held the position since 2008, had two years left on his contract worth $600,000.