An Española School District administrator has alleged that multiple members of the Española School Board have made sexist comments about her, creating a hostile working environment for her.
Española Middle School Dean of Students Veronica War-Montoya sent a letter to Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez Feb. 7 alleging mistreatment by Board Vice President Ruben Archuleta and Board Member Gilbert Serrano.
War-Montoya states in the letter that Middle School Vice Principal Randall Houk told her Archuleta was making disparaging comments about her.
“On November 7, 2019, Mr. Randy Houk advised me that Mr. Ruben Archuleta told him, ‘Watch it with Veronica, she’s a backstabbing b----.’” she wrote.
War-Montoya declined to comment for this story.
In a March 4 phone conversation, Houk said Archuleta did use that exact phrasing when talking about War-Montoya.
“It was at a McDonald’s one morning,” he said. “I didn’t know who he was and he introduced himself as the Board President. He did make that statement.”
Archuleta first said he had never met Houk, but then said they had one conversation about War-Montoya. He said they never talked at McDonald’s.
“I never talked to (Houk),” he said. “I’ve never seen him. I talked to him one time and I said, ‘The discipline seems really good over here,’ and he said, ‘Oh, Veronica does an excellent job.’”
When asked why Houk would make up the statement, Archuleta said there was a “witch hunt” and a large group of people trying to destroy his reputation.
“Maybe they’re all buddies,” he said. “Maybe he doesn’t like me.”
This is Houk’s first year working in the District.
Archuleta also told the Rio Grande SUN reporter to “be careful” when writing an article about War-Montoya’s letter.
“Be a little careful about reporting, because this is probably gonna—the attorneys have it, my attorneys have it,” he said. “So, be very careful because this might go—because I’ve heard some stuff and I’ve shared it with my attorney.”
He did not explain why the reporter had to be careful, but said that War-Montoya’s allegations were slanderous.
War-Montoya also said Serrano told her in February 2019 that she did not belong in an administrative position at Española Valley High School because she was a woman.
“I was told that I did not belong at EVHS by School Board Member Gilbert Serrano because I was not a man and students needed to see a strong man there,” she wrote. “I immediately knew that I was being discriminated against because I am a woman.”
Serrano did not return requests for comment.
War-Montoya was the assistant principal at the High School during the 2018-2019 school year, but was then moved to her current position at the Middle School.
She also wrote that she and High School Principal Victoria Gonzales submitted a gender discrimination complaint to the Public Education Department (PED) on Feb. 13, 2019.
Department Spokesperson Nancy Martira wrote in a statement that the Department usually investigates school board members only when they have an educator’s license and a complaint is made against their license. She said the Department has not received any complaints concerning Serrano, since he does not have an educator license.
Archuleta said he had heard about Serrano’s alleged statement.
“She reported Gilbert Serrano to the PED, because Gilbert Serrano said they should hire a male and female principal at the High School,” he said.
He said he heard that from “someone else” and therefore doesn’t know the whole story.
“He just said something about you should have a male and a female somewhere, that’s what I heard,” he said.
War-Montoya wrote in her letter that she is considering retaining legal counsel to “protect myself from continued retaliation and harassment by Mr. Archuleta.”
“I am fearful for my 20-year-long career with the Española Public School District, losing my job and overall wellbeing,” she wrote.
As of Tuesday, no complaints or torts had been filed in court against Archuleta or Serrano.