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APS’ Armenta accuses Korte of bullying her

Copyright © 2015 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Public Schools Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta said school board member Kathy Korte “threatened and intimidated” her in an email after Korte took issue with questions Armenta asked an employee in the communications department, which she oversees, according to emails obtained by the Journal.

ARMENTA: Korte says she was out of line

ARMENTA: Korte says she was out of line

On Wednesday, Korte told the Journal she did nothing wrong when asked about the disagreement, but rather that she was sticking up for a district employee.

The spat appears to stem from a discussion Armenta had with Maralyn Beck, a member of the APS communications staff who helps with social media.

Armenta had no comment Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Armenta sent an email to school board members and several members of the administration about Korte’s email to her, saying that “Korte’s abuse has greatly compromised my ability to manage an employee and has disrupted the daily operations of the Communications Office.”

Although the emails don’t specify exactly what Armenta’s discussion with Beck was about, Korte wrote in her email to Armenta that she had no right to ask Beck whether she or a member of her family worked for Stand4Kids – an educational advocacy group Korte helps run – or Korte’s election campaign.

Korte is seeking re-election in the District 2 school board race on Feb. 3. She is running against Peggy Muller-Aragón.

KORTE: Running for re-election to school board

KORTE: Running for re-election to school board

“You nor anyone on your staff should be asking anyone else in APS – employed within your office or outside of your office – if they or their family members have affiliations with Stand4Kids, my campaign or me,” Korte wrote in an email to Armenta. “You nor anyone in your staff should be trying to figure out who is behind the S4K twitter feed. It is not an APS employee, I can tell you that. And it’s none of anyone’s business what we are doing with S4K.”

Stand4Kids has been outspoken against educational reforms pushed by Gov. Susana Martinez, and Korte has posted controversial messages on the organization’s Facebook page and through Twitter.

Also in the email, Korte told Armenta that she advised Beck to seek “legal counsel.” She pointed out that she, herself, has filed a lawsuit against the UNM Hospital and has “no problem helping APS employees file EEOC complaints against APS administration officials.”

In a different email, Korte said if she wins her election she wants to discuss “the fact that Monica appears to be taking orders from (school board president) Analee Maestas.” In that email, Korte said Armenta has been too beholden to Maestas and the former board president Marty Esquivel.

In her Wednesday email to board members, Armenta said she asked to meet and speak with Korte about the issue, but Korte said she would only do so after the election.

“To be clear, I still have no idea what Kathy Korte is accusing me of. What I can tell you is she didn’t think this was important enough to talk with me, ask questions or get any information beyond her wild cryptic allegations,” Armenta wrote.

Armenta goes on to say she had hoped Korte would have raised the issue with the board, but when that didn’t happen Armenta felt she should share her feelings with other board members.

“We’ve done a lot of work around cultural proficiency, respect and bullying. We lead by example. I refuse to be bullied any longer,” Armenta wrote.

Interim Superintendent Brad Winter has been aware of the issue, Armenta said in her Wednesday email. A call made to Winter on Wednesday evening was not returned.

In her email, Korte said if an employee was promoting an outside cause on APS computers or during work, then Armenta would be in her rights to address that issue and punish the employee.

When asked about the disagreement after Wednesday’s school board meeting, Korte became angry and was upset about being questioned about the topic.

Korte also said she thought the leaking of documents to the Journal was part of a larger effort by the newspaper and the Governor’s Office to smear her while she is running for school board.

In one of the emails, Korte said she was “compiling a list of grievances and I will take action against anyone on the APS payroll who dares make life miserable for other APS employees who dare to be supportive of me and the grass-roots efforts of Stand4KidsNM.”

She also said she planned to address her concerns about some fellow board members with the Attorney General’s Office.

Beck, who did not return phone calls Wednesday, was involved in controversy surrounding then-APS superintendent Winston Brooks after he tweeted derogatory remarks about Education Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera. After Brooks likened Skandera to barnyard animals, Beck joined in the exchange by tweeting cartoon pictures of a pig, cow, boar, sheep, penguin and a frog.