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Lawsuit against Española charter school alleges discrimination

September 1, 2018

A former administrator at an Española charter school has filed a discrimination complaint, alleging the school’s governing board fired her because she is not Hispanic.

The lawsuit, filed last week in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, says the governing board of McCurdy Charter School first placed former director Michele Lucci on administrative leave in March and then terminated her employment in July “because of her race.”

Lucci, described in the complaint as a “non-Hispanic female,” said one member of the board, who is not named in the document, told her that her hire “was opposed by that member and the community because of her race and her lack of ties to the community,” and that her continued employment would not be supported.

Then, the complaint says, she endured derogatory comments by members of the governance board as well as staff and teachers at the school because of her “outsider” status.

Lucci, 48, also filed a complaint in March with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions alleging racial discrimination. In that complaint, attached to the lawsuit, Lucci says governing board member Beaulah Sandoval said to her, “You are the white momma … a product of reverse discrimination.”

The complaint also says governing board members were unhappy with Lucci’s communication with the state Public Education Department about a number of special education compliance issues at the school.

The board met in March to consider renewing Lucci’s contract, the complaint says, and later that month tried to force her to resign. When she refused, according to the suit, the board placed her on administrative leave through June 30, the end of her contract period.

The board had hired Lucci to run the school, which serves more than 500 students, in May 2017. She replaced former director Janette Archuleta, who retired in June of that year. Archuleta had served as the school’s director since it transitioned from a private school to a public charter school in 2012.

Efforts to reach Lucci for comment were unsuccessful. Her attorney, E. Justin Pennington of Albuquerque, was out of the office this week and could not comment, a woman in his office said.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Deborah Anderson, head of the McCurdy Charter School governing board, said she could not comment on litigation.

Efforts to reach Sandoval by phone were unsuccessful. She did not respond to a query seeking comment by email.

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