Appeals court upholds grievance decision
FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Court of Appeals has upheld previous rulings that the Central Consolidated School District Board of Education must consider grievances filed by employees.
On Nov. 30, the appellate court upheld a 2015 ruling by Bernalillo District Judge Alan Malott that affirmed a 2013 decision by the New Mexico Public Employee Labor Relations Board.
In January 2013, the Central Consolidated Education Association, which is the employee union, filed a complaint against the school district for refusing to review employee grievances appealed to the five-member school board.
In the district's defense, it maintained changes to the Public School Code in 2003 transferred such oversight to the superintendent, and the school board had no authority to hear and decide grievances.
But the state labor board determined in October 2013 the school district violated the employee union's collective bargaining agreement, which outlines the grievance process, and the New Mexico Public Employee Bargaining Act.
After the district court action in January 2015, CCSD filed a petition a month later to the appellate court for review of the lower court decision and sought reversal of the state labor board ruling.
The Nov. 30 opinion by the court of appeals also examined a petition filed by the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education and the superintendent there regarding the amendment to the Public School Code.
In both cases, the school boards asserted that changes to the Public School Code stripped boards of all authority to act on any personnel matters and gave that authority to superintendents.
The appellate court determined school boards do carry authorities to consider such proceedings.
Ewa Krakowska, director of the National Education Association of Northwest New Mexico, said Thursday the union is pleased with the decision by the court of appeals.
She added the union continues to believe the school board has the authority to hear grievances because it manages policies and procedures for the district.
"We believe it's for the benefit of transparency, and provides for checks and balances in districts," Krakowska said.
During a regular meeting in Newcomb on Tuesday, the school board met in executive session to discuss the litigation.
CCSD spokeswoman Renee Lucero said in an email Thursday the executive session lasted approximately two hours, and board members did not take any action after resuming the meeting in open session.
"No official decision has been made regarding the future of this matter. Therefore, we believe commenting on the ruling would be premature," Lucero said.
The school district has up to 30 days after the Nov. 30 decision by the court of appeals to file an appeal with the New Mexico Supreme Court, according to the Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at email@example.com.