Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Brooks Puts APS Official on Leave
By Hailey Heinz
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
An associate superintendent in Albuquerque Public Schools was put on leave and banned from APS property Friday after an e-mail exchange in which she accused Superintendent Winston Brooks of "harassment, yelling, belittling" and creating a "hostile work environment."
Ruby Ethridge, APS superintendent for middle schools who earned about $117,000 last year, was placed on leave about 15 minutes after leveling the accusations against Brooks in an e-mail — which she copied to board members and top district officials.
The e-mails followed a meeting in Brooks' office.
Brooks denied the accusations in an interview Monday, although he added that "yelling" was a subjective term.
Ethridge remained on paid administrative leave Monday and according to the e-mails will remain on leave until a scheduled meeting between Brooks and Ethridge.
Because the incident deals with personnel, APS would not provide details about what led to the exchange. What is clear from the e-mails is that Brooks directed Ethridge to hold off evaluating a middle school principal, pending a meeting about Ethridge's performance.
Ethridge replied that any future meetings about her performance would take place with an attorney. The e-mail went on to say: "Your actions of harassment, yelling, belittling me will not occur in the future. I have never seen such wantless (sic) disregard for kindness and civility and creating a hostile work environment."
Her e-mail, and the rest of the thread, was sent to most members of the school board and other APS employees.
Board President Martin Esquivel said the incident was magnified by Ethridge's decision to include the board and APS staffers on her e-mail.
"My take is that tempers flared when Ms. Ethridge disagreed with a personnel decision by Mr. Brooks," Esquivel said. "Copying board members and others on the aftermath was impetuous and caused this to be more dramatic than it should be. We'll address it in the normal, private personnel way."
Brooks said Monday he could not have yelled at Ethridge without being heard by APS staffers who sit near his office.
"This is a very unfortunate set of circumstances, and I will tell you this," Brooks said. "I met with Ruby the day she's claiming I yelled at her, in my office with the doors open."
He went on to say that "yelling" can be a subjective term.
"I guess a person's definition of yelling maybe even varies from person to person," he said. "Was I pretty direct with her? Absolutely. Do I believe I yelled at her? Absolutely not."
Brooks would not say what the meeting was about.
The e-mails began at 6 a.m. Friday, and Ethridge had been placed on leave by 8 a.m.
Within 15 minutes of Ethridge's e-mail that accused Brooks of harassment and yelling at her, Brooks sent a reply that placed her on leave until a meeting could be scheduled.
"You are not to step foot on any APS property until the referenced meeting occurs," Brooks wrote. "I find your behavior to be insubordinate and your personal attacks against me both personally and professionally astonishing."
The e-mail went on to say Ethridge may no longer be part of the APS leadership structure.
"I see no way that you will be able to continue working on the District Leadership Team," he wrote. "I have little time for this kind of behavior and certainly do not want to place my complete trust and confidence in a person who (has) made these types of allegations."
Ethridge's duties, which include evaluating middle school principals, are currently being done by Eddie Soto, the associate superintendent for high schools.
Ethridge has been a middle school teacher and principal, and she has an educational specialist degree in administration. She also has degrees in vocal performance.