SAISD Teachers Challenge New Classroom Regulations

BY Morgan Montalvo

WOAI News 

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.


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