Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal
A clearly distraught Winston Brooks can be heard on a 911 call asking law enforcement to hurry up and get to his home after his wife broke a window and packed up his car with items for her return to Kansas.
The Wednesday morning call, in which the couple can be heard arguing, was dispatched as a domestic situation but ended as medical transportation. Brooks, a diabetic, was taken to a local hospital for observation after paramedics determined both his blood pressure and blood sugar levels were elevated.
Brooks at one point told the dispatcher that he and his wife, who lives in Wichita, had pushed each other, but responding deputies wrote in their report on the incident that they’d found no evidence of domestic violence. No charges were filed against Brooks or his wife.
It has been a difficult couple of weeks for Brooks, who early last week exchanged tweets with a TV reporter in which he made a derogatory reference to Public Education Department chief Hanna Skandera. The APS Board subsequently suspended him without pay for three days. He was on suspension at the time of Wednesday’s incident.
On Friday, the APS board met in a previously scheduled session to talk about the possible extension of Brooks’ contract. The board is expected to vote on whether to extend the contract next week.
Board President Marty Esquivel said he informed other board members at the meeting about the domestic situation with Brooks.
“This kind of developed quickly over the last 24 hours, and it’s delicate because we have to respect the superintendent’s right to privacy, but we also have to make a determination about what’s best for the district,” Esquivel said in a phone interview after the meeting.
He did not indicate whether the board was leaning one way or another regarding extending Brooks’ contract.
Brooks did not return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon, but his office issued a statement earlier saying it had been a “stressful time” for him and his family.
Brooks reported for work on Thursday and Friday, said Monica Armenta, executive director of APS communications.
Throughout the nearly 19-minute 911 call made Wednesday morning, Brooks and his wife, Ann Brooks, can be heard continuing to argue. The call had been put on speaker phone.
The dispatcher reminds the couple no less than a dozen times to stop arguing and separate themselves from one another.
“There’s not any arguing going on,” Ann Brooks is heard saying.
Her husband quickly rejoins: “There’s been arguing for two days, and you’re not being honest.”
Brooks mostly refrains from raising his voice, even as he responds to his wife’s shouting in the background.
At another point, Brooks makes reference to the difficulties he’s been having as superintendent.
“I am 61 years old and I have been to hell and back,” Brooks says, nearly breaking down. “I am the superintendent of schools in Albuquerque. I have been through hell, and then she comes here from Wichita, and now she’s mad at me and accusing me of having affairs, which I’ve not had.”
Ann Brooks is then heard in the background saying, “I want you to know Winston is having a diabetic fit and called the police on me.”
Several times during the recording Brooks confirms that he is a diabetic but denies that he is experiencing any cognitive problems.
The 911 operator early on asks Brooks if the arguing had escalated.
“This isn’t a physical dispute between you two, though? Right?”
“No, just pushing and shoving,” Brooks tells her.
“She’s been pushing you?” the dispatcher further inquires.
“Both. She started this by pushing me.”
Ann Brooks is then heard in the background: “He’s a liar!”
Winston Brooks calmly responds, saying, “I am not lying ma’am.”
At another point on the recording, Brooks complains that his wife is making phone calls and asking people to come to the home. The dispatcher requests she not do that because more people will only make the situation more confused for the officers, she says.
“I’m calling my daughter. She doesn’t live here,” Ann Brooks tells her.
“Neither does Ann,” her husband asserts.
“I certainly do,” she counters.
“No, you do not live here. You haven’t been here for three years. You got the car packed up to go to Wichita. You were going to take the only car I have.”
Deputies from the Bernalillo County Sheriffs Office arrived at the home 19 minutes after the call was made and while Brooks was still on the phone with the county 911 operator. One deputy said in the report that Brooks’ wife said he was having trouble sleeping due to the stress of dealing with the media, and that a mixture of high blood sugar and certain medications “sometimes makes him hallucinate or become paranoid.”
On Friday, APS issued the following statement from Brooks: “It’s been a very stressful time for me and my family. Without going into great detail about my personal health, I will share that two days ago I sought emergency medical attention after experiencing an irregular heartbeat. When all was said and done I was given a clean bill of health and returned to work yesterday.”
He then goes on to thank the “professionals at Presbyterian Hospital, my wife, family and friends for all the support the last few days.”
Asked about the incident at Brooks’ home, Armenta would say only that she is “not at liberty” to discuss Brooks’ personal health issues or his private life, and it was her understanding that the statement he released earlier in the day was “all he was going to say on the matter.”
APS, PED meeting
Meanwhile, APS on Friday continued to try to tamp down the often heated rhetoric in the debate over the state’s school reform efforts.
A Nov. 13 letter from the state legislative leadership sent to Esquivel called Brooks’ tweets about Skandera “inappropriate and unprofessional” and thanked the board for the “swift and appropriate disciplinary action.”
The bipartisan letter was signed by state House Speaker Ken Martinez,; Rep. Donald E. Bratton,, House minority leader; Senate President Pro Tem Mary K. Papen; and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle,.
The leaders also expressed appreciation for Esquivel, who met with Skandera and the governor in Santa Fe to talk about PED reforms in the wake of the tweet episode.
The meeting was held while Brooks was on suspension for his tweets; acting superintendent Brad Winter attended instead. Both sides said they wanted to move forward and improve communication.
Tension between the Education Department and APS has been building for months, fueled by disagreement over PED mandated reforms, in particular teacher evaluations, grade level proficiency testing and high school graduation requirements.
Esquivel along with other board members and APS officials on Friday afternoon met with Skandera and senior PED members in Albuquerque to talk about the reforms.
“The session was tremendously productive in terms of them clarifying issues for us and hearing some of our genuine concerns,” Esquivel said. “We should have had this meeting long ago, but we had it today and we’re moving forward.”
Brooks was present for the meeting. If the PED members knew of the most recent incident regarding Brooks, “they didn’t say anything,” Esquivel said.