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APS settles suit with ex-assistant principal

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools has reached a settlement with former Sandia High School assistant principal Susan Stanojevic, who sued the district claiming then-superintendent Winston Brooks demoted her because she complained about a sexist remark he made.

APS would not say how much money it paid.

“The terms of the settlement are confidential,” APS spokesman Rigo Chavez told the Journal on Tuesday.

APS school board member Marty Esquivel, an attorney, said he doesn’t believe the school district can have a confidential settlement. Esquivel said APS will reconsider making the settlement amount public once all the paperwork is finalized. Federal court documents filed Friday note both parties are still finalizing the settlement documentation.

The civil lawsuit continues as the other plaintiff in the case – former Sandia principal Michael Bachicha – has not settled with the district. A jury trial has been scheduled for Oct. 27.

Neither the attorney for Stanojevic nor Bachicha could be reached for comment Tuesday.

In the suit, Stanojevic and Bachicha argued that Brooks demoted them after Stanojevic filed a complaint with the district’s Office of Equal Opportunity after Brooks said she’d “slept her way to the top.”

The district argued in court documents the demotions were made over performance issues.

In May 2009, Brooks, then-Assistant Superintendent Eddie Soto and Sandia principal Bachicha met to discuss complaints made against Bachicha and Stanojevic, according to court documents.

Brooks repeated a rumor during the meeting that Stanojevic had an affair with former APS Superintendent Brad Allison and then made the “slept her way to the top” comment. Brooks later said in a deposition that his comments were “inappropriate.”

After the meeting, Bachicha relayed the comment to Stanojevic who filed the in-house complaint, which was later dismissed.

In June 2009, Bachicha was moved to principal of Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School, a position that came with a lower salary. He still holds that position.

And in August 2009, Stanojevic was transferred to Eldorado High School as an assistant principal for buildings and grounds where she kept her salary – although she had been a curriculum official. She is now principal in the Los Lunas School District.

APS conducted an investigation of Bachicha’s performance at Sandia, which the district argues was the basis for his demotion. As for Stanojevic, APS said she failed to get along with Sandia’s new principal.

U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo in March dismissed a motion for summary judgment that would have ended the suit in APS’s favor.

Armijo did grant summary judgment on one claim in the suit, in which Stanojevic argued it was retaliation when she was denied promotions to open principal positions in APS. Armijo wrote Stanojevic didn’t have enough evidence to make that claim.

In other cases involving Brooks, a judge in 2013 dismissed a suit made by three APS principals who claimed they were unfairly demoted.

There also is the ongoing case involving Ruby Ethridge, a former APS associate superintendent. Ethridge filed a civil rights suit against APS and Brooks arguing she was demoted after complaining that Brooks “treated woman with disdain.”

The APS board fired Brooks for undisclosed reasons in August after buying out his contract.