SHIPROCK — Central Consolidated School District staff are complaining that protocol is not being followed in the discipline of employees. However, the district assures that it is.
The Northwest New Mexico branch of the National Education Association, a labor union representing employees of public education institutions, has been receiving complaints from school district staff.
Union representatives say those staff members who have been placed on leave, terminated or not had their contracts renewed are not being given fair chances. Additionally, some staff members who have resigned have only done so because they were asked to, they said.
“We're now fighting a couple of terminations, but they are in the hands of the lawyers, and that takes time,” said Ewa Krakowska, a local union representative.
Since Jan. 1, the office has seen 10 new cases where people were terminated, placed on leave.
Others' contracts were not renewed.
During this school year, they had seen only one other person prior.
“This is the first year I have seen so many,” said Krakowska, who worked in the district for about 20 years before working with the labor union.
School district officials, however, said the numbers were nothing out of the ordinary, given that the district employs 1,065 people.
Though more than 10 percent of its employees have either resigned, retired or been terminated since August 2012, the year has been fairly standard, according to district spokesman James Preminger.
“I would think it's pretty normal,” Preminger said.
Still, union representatives said that the district is not painting an accurate picture of what it is and is not doing.
“I think some of it is to get rid of people,” Krakowska said, noting that many of the staff she has talked to have complained of receiving notices suddenly and without ever having been evaluated.
The district should be using a progressive process to inform employees that they are in danger of being terminated or not having their contract renewed, Krakowska said.
“None of this process has been utilized,” she said. “You're supposed to at least be informed.”
The district is required to follow both state and federal statute in its employment processes.
So far, the district has abided by all of the rules, Preminger said, though he admitted that sometimes the district must make decisions quickly. “There are situations where things happen very fast,” he said.
Most months since August 2012, between five and 10 staff members have resigned. In August 2012, 20 employees resigned, and in May 2013, 17 employees resigned.
Preminger noted that last August, many resigned because they had taken positions elsewhere, though he did not elaborate on why this month has seen so many employees depart.
Union representatives, however, and many employees have vocalized their discontent with the political environment of the district, admitted by Preminger and other district representatives.
In meetings this month, district school board member Hoskie Benally clearly stated his disapproval of the general feeling of fear among employees.
He noted that many employees feared disciplinary action for speaking their personal opinions about district policies and decisions.
The audience, largely made of district employees, applauded Benally's statements.
The district's next meeting is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Phil Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock.
The meeting is a special board meeting and serves as a public hearing to discuss the district's budget for next school year.
Jenny Kane covers Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @Jenny_Kane on Twitter.