The often turbulent six-year stint of Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks ended last week with a bizarre twist – a six-page “Resignation and Settlement Agreement” that included several references to his wife, Ann, and a pledge that the board will put an investigative report on a “serious personnel issue” involving Brooks into a separate, secret file.
Based on that document, the Albuquerque Public Schools board voted unanimously Friday morning to accept Brooks’ resignation and give him a $350,000 buyout.
Without his resignation and buyout, Brooks’ contract for overseeing the state’s largest school district would have continued for the remaining two years he had left and would have carried a price tag of about $600,000.
The board remained mum on details concerning Brooks’ resignation, any future search or the contents of the investigative report. Brooks was the superintendent of Wichita public schools for a decade before leaving in 2008 for Albuquerque.
President Analee Maestas read a short statement following the closed-door meeting, which Brooks did not attend, and announced that Chief Operating Officer Ruben Hendrickson was acting superintendent, pending a decision to name an interim superintendent.
Maestas’ statement said, in part, “The decision to end the employee relationship will allow both the board and Brooks to establish a new direction. Both agree that this decision is the best option for APS at this time.”
The agreement released by the board contains several clauses involving Brooks’ wife, Ann, in which the district agreed not to file any legal complaints against either one. The district also promised not to “disparage the conduct, character, performance or ethics” of Brooks and his wife. Similarly, Brooks agreed neither he nor his wife would disparage the APS board or the district’s administration.
Any violation of that agreement would result in “liquidated damages of $25,000,” plus possible attorney fees and other related costs.
And, the document said, the district must keep private an original of the settlement agreement and a report from private attorney Agnes Padilla, who investigated a “serious personnel issue” involving Brooks. The documents will be kept “in a file separate from Brooks’ personnel file, and it shall not be released to anyone, including potential future employers, in response to a request for Brooks’ personnel file.”
Neither Brooks nor his wife returned phone calls from the Journal on Friday seeking comment.
Brooks’ tenure included plenty of controversy:
There was the much-publicized Twitter fiasco in which Brooks posted the now infamous “moo, moo-oink, oink” tweet in reference to state Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera, with whom he disagreed about many of her mandated public education reforms; there are pending lawsuits filed by former APS employees alleging a “pattern of treating women with disdain and disrespect,” and “sex-related bullying;” and his controversial shuffling of APS principals and demotions of assistant superintendents.
Reaction to his departure ranged from relief to regret.
The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce praised the board’s actions.
Ralph Arellanes, chairman of the Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico, said the action was too long in coming and that his organizations “have never had so many complaints about abuse of power against women and minorities as we have received from this superintendent.”
However, Gary Atwood, executive director of the Albuquerque Public Schools Principals’ Association, called Brooks “an effective superintendent” who focused APS employees “on instructional improvements more than any superintendent I’ve ever been associated with.”
After a July executive session at which the board became aware of the still secret concerns regarding Brooks, board president Maestas hired Padilla to do the investigation.
The brief statement read by Maestas was, according to the settlement agreement, to be “the only public comment made by the board, APS administration, Brooks, or Ann Brooks regarding this resignation and waiver of claims.”
The statement read:
“The APS board and its superintendent, Winston Brooks, have concluded that it’s in their best interest to part ways at this time. All involved agree that the relationship has resulted in some noteworthy progress for the Albuquerque Public Schools over the last few years. The decision to end the employee relationship will allow both the board and Brooks to establish a new direction. Both agree that this decision is the best option for APS at this time. The district wishes Brooks well in his future endeavors, and similarly Brooks remains very appreciative of the wonderful years that he spent at APS.”
The document’s waiver said the board “releases any and all claims, it or its members may have against Brooks or his wife, Ann Brooks, from any and all legal claims related in any way to his employment with the Albuquerque Public Schools, which it or they have filed or could file, in any and all forums.”
Brooks will, however, get a letter of recommendation from the board, according to the settlement.
That letter, attached to the settlement agreement, said the board “appreciates his (Brooks’) service and wishes him well in his future endeavors.”
It said that, under his tenure, graduation rates jumped from 50 percent to 73 percent and the achievement gap narrowed, “particularly among Hispanic, African American and Special Needs youngsters.”
It said he was “largely responsible” for bringing the Council of Great City Schools national conference to Albuquerque, “bringing millions of dollars to the Albuquerque economy” and that he “advocated tirelessly” for partnerships with the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College.
Brooks, 62, will remain on the payroll on paid sick leave until his buyout is authorized by the state Public Education Department and the 2nd Judicial District, at which point Brooks will use some of that money to purchase additional years of retirement from the Educational Retirement Board, according to the agreement.
The agreement states the $350,000 will buy out the remainder of Brooks’ contract for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years. His base salary is $250,000 a year, plus a $51,500 yearly payment toward his retirement plan.
The Board of Education voted in March 2008 to hire Brooks to lead the state’s largest school district, with about 86,000 students. He began work in July.
Brooks, then 55, succeeded retiring APS Superintendent Beth Everitt. He had been the superintendent of the Wichita school district for 10 years.
Brooks signed a three-year rolling contract, under which he was eligible for a one-year extension every year.