BY Morgan Montalvo
The San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, one of the unions that represents San Antonio ISD teachers and staff, says it will file a class-action grievance to challenge implementation of a new policy that allows campus principals, not central office or trustees, to determine the length of teacher's work days, WOAI News reports.
Class-action grievances are filed on behalf of large numbers of employees with a superintendent and school board and, if not resolved locally, may require action from a state education agency or the courts.
SAISD says campus safety and flexibility prompted this week’s 6-1 board vote to allow campus administrators to decide faculty work hours.
The Alliance says the policy adopted at Tuesday’s trustee meeting differs from an earlier agreement cobbled together by union representatives and a district committee, and accuses Superintendent Pedro Martinez of bait-and-switch tactics.
Alliance President Shelley Potter says with no written procedures to accompany the change, principals can set teachers’ work hours and change them as often as administrators deem necessary – or on a whim.
Until the change, SAISD teachers worked a 7 ½-hour workday, with the maximum guaranteed according to their employment contracts.
The new policy lets principals set the length of each teacher’s workday without the change reflected in teachers' employment agreements, many of which were signed last school year or earlier this summer.
Martinez this week said while no formal guidelines accompany the policy change, written procedures could be in place by the end of the school year.
“In the meantime, it appears to be the wild, wild west,” Potter says. Potter says implementing the workday-length change less than one week before SAISD teachers return to work will force many educators to make major life changes, ranging from day care and elder care to dropping evening classes needed for career advancement each time their workday hours change.
Union members, Potter says, fear that Martinez is slowly modeling the district after charter schools.
During the 2017-18 school year Martinez assigned a low-performing elementary school to a charter school company. The union says Martinez convinced the board to approve the charter school contract without consulting the school’s faculty or parents.
The district also implemented a controversial reduction-in-force late in the 2017-18 school year, citing shrinking enrollment and a budget deficit of more than $30 million.
“Our superintendent has shown that he wants to have a district that’s very much ‘charter-like,’ and one of our huge concerns with that is, if you look at charter schools what you see at most of them is a very high teacher turnover rate,” Potter says, “and it’s because they burn their teachers out. “
And we don’t want to see that happen. We think our SAISD kids and families deserve to have teachers who come, and who stay, and build relationships with them."
Burbank High School Principal Miguel Elizondo, one of three SAISD administrators chosen to speak on behalf of the district, defends the policy, but concedes the lack of on-paper procedures will leave principals with little to go on as they exercise their new power over employee work hours.
“Some of the practices that will come from discussions and collaboration can maybe spread out if they’re good practices that I might not be thinking about, or my colleagues, my teachers, are not thinking about, somebody else may be doing.” Elizondo says
.Several teachers attending the Alliance's Wednesday afternoon news conference outside SAISD headquarters say they fear retribution from administrators if they question the policy.