West union upset with school chief

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Says contract not followed

By Mercy Lopez

The union that represents teachers at West Las Vegas School District is concerned about the process used in the shifting of several key administrators.

The school board promoted Gene Parson  to the superintendent post earlier this year after the abrupt resignation of Ruben Cordova. That created a vacancy in the associate superintendent position that Parson had previously held, and it set off a series of administrative shifts at the district.

Former West Middle School principal Darice Balizan was promoted to associate superintendent; Julianna Trujillo was promoted to West Middle School principal from Valley Elementary and Middle School principal; Cathy Lucero, who had been the district’s special education director, was moved to Valley Elementary and Middle School, where she is now  principal; and former district diagnostician Jeannie Rubin was made interim special education director.

Tony Massar, an official with National Education Association-New Mexico, said the union is questioning whether the collective bargaining agreement was adhered to in the shifting of administrators.

Specifically, the union contends that when there is a job vacancy in the district, the district must post the job opening at every school site if it happens during the school year. The union alleges that the vacancies didn’t get posted at every site.

According to the union, the only position exempted from the posting requirement is the superintendent post, which is filled by the school board.

“We believe the language is clear and unambiguous,” Massar said in a recent interview.

Parson wasn’t sure whether the administrative positions were posted at every school site. However, everyone agrees that staff were made aware of the open associate superintendent position through email. The email requested letters of interest for that position.

Regardless, Parson said that under state law, the superintendent has the authority to move administrative staff around at his discretion.

He said the reorganization created only one vacancy, the special education director. Parson said Cordova had initiated some of the administrative changes prior to his resignation.

“The superintendent does have the right to shift administrators around as he or she wishes to fill the district’s needs,” Parson said in a telephone interview. “As soon as that happens when you have a vacancy as we had in this case, the special education position, we posted that vacancy in the buildings as well as via Internet for every employee.”

The school district and the union signed their agreement in 2008, and there have been only minimal changes to it since then.

Massar said school officials reaffirmed to the union that the district plans to adhere to the agreed terms. But he said the union is concerned that the district isn’t following the portion of the contract that deals with promotions.

Massar said the posting requirement is in the contract to ensure that staff members are given the opportunity to apply for positions they feel they’re qualified for.

“We are trying to operate on an even scale where everybody has an opportunity to apply,” Massar said. “They have to meet the qualifications. There is nothing on this contract that says just because you apply from the bargaining unit that you are going to get the position.”

NEA President Michael Perea said “the contract clearly states it has to be a posting at each individual school site, not an email.”
Massar said that posting of positions is a standing procedure within the district.

“The contract grievance procedure does allow for informal meetings to help resolve the matter without having to go through the formal stages,“ Massar said.

“Make no mistake about it, while this association clearly wants to have a great working relationship with the district — which means to try to resolve things before they have to go formal — if they can’t be resolved then this association wants to be clear on the record with the administration that they will file formal grievances and then even go up to arbitration to be certain that this contract is followed by the administration,” Massar said.