PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- A charter school based out of Pueblo and known for online learning is currently facing discrimination claims after a lawsuit was filed in federal court earlier this month.
Three former employees at GOAL Academy claim their former employer discriminated against them because they are Hispanic. The three say the charter school’s Chief Executive Officer retaliated against them by firing them after they brought their concerns to GOAL Academy’s school board prompting an investigation.
As of Oct. 2020, around 5300 students were enrolled at GOAL Academy, which is a charter school under contract with School District 49 in El Paso County.
One of the former GOAL Academy employees suing the charter school is Duane Nava, the current President of Pueblo’s Chamber of Commerce. The lawsuit has nothing to do with his current position.
Nava, the former Chief Business Operations officer for GOAL Academy, claimed the charter school and its CEO, Dr. Constance Jones, fired him for pointing out urgent financial concerns for the charter school. According to the complaint, he believed Dr. Jones would bankrupt the school within five years.
Former Goal Academy Kim Nava, Duane’s wife, alleged GOAL Academy CEO treated her less favorably than her white counterparts employed at the charter school.
Both Nava’s brought their concerns to GOAL Academy’s School Board during a closed-door board meeting in Nov. 2020. Afterward, the GOAL Academy School Board directed their attorney to hire a third-party investigator to look into the claims.
While the investigation did not substantiate claims of discrimination, the federal lawsuit states that investigators did not conclude that Kim Nava made allegations of discrimination in bad faith nor did she fabricate the claims.
The lawsuit calls the investigation a “sham.”
Rather than characterize the complaint as being about discrimination, the lawsuit alleges that the law firm hired on to conduct the third-party investigation, Telios Law, only considered Nava’s complaint to be criticism about personal slights.
According to the federal lawsuit, two days after the completion of the investigation, both Nava’s and a third GOAL Academy employee, Mindy Pacheco, were placed on administrative leave pending another investigation into allegations of misconduct.
Nearly two weeks later, all three were fired by the CEO. The suit says no investigation into allegations of misconduct took place.
Duane Nava declined to speak with 13 Investigates while court proceedings are ongoing.
13 Investigates also reached out to GOAL Academy and Jones for comment on the allegations in the lawsuit.
Mr. Nava, Mrs. Nava, and Ms. Pacheco were placed on leave on January 8, 2021, pending the results of an independent third-party investigation. Based on the results of that investigation the three above named employees were terminated on January 21, 2021. GOAL Academy received a notice of complaint, from the EEOC on, or around, March 20, 2022. GOAL Academy timely responded with supporting documentation and as far as today’s check, this matter is still pending with the EEOC, and no action is required by GOAL Academy at this time. GOAL Academy has not been notified or served with any additional filings. The unstamped, undated, and unsigned cover sheet you sent over has not been served on GOAL and as far as I am aware no one at GOAL has seen it.Amber DeCarli, GOAL Academy Attorney
According to the complaint, the three former employees also filed charges of discrimination through the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against GOAL Academy.