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Union clarifies teacher transfer issue

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As I read the editorial on July 8 on the teacher transfer issue, I was astonished at the “revisionist history,” either rendered by Albuquerque Public Schools or invented by the Journal. The editorial board’s conclusions are based on accounts and premises that are faulty at best and disingenuous at worst.

As a participant in every negotiations session and each informal conversation with APS, allow me to set the record straight on the myths contained in the APS/Journal messaging about teachers’ transfer rights.

Myth 1: (from the editorial) “… the district and the teachers’ union officially hit an impasse over teacher transfers.”

Fact: While teacher transfers were one of many negotiations topics – one which was still being discussed at the onset of the impasse – it was not the reason we stopped talking. Superintendent Winston Brooks declared impasse on May 9 in response to a letter from me in which I protested the public statements made by APS, which broke long-standing, agreed-upon bargaining protocols and undermined contract negotiations.

Myth 2: “… with few exceptions (up/down enrollment the most cited) teachers cannot be moved unless they want to be moved.”

Fact: The APS/ATF Negotiated Agreement contains four different provisions for transfers, including: enrollment, program need; disciplinary actions; and incompatibility. The district should review this document to refresh its memory or the Journal should just read it for the first time.

Myth 3: “…the latest offer from APS would seem to give them a voice and preclude random/punitive transfers. It would allow teachers to have their transfers reviewed by a panel made up of a district and a union representative.”

Fact: The district’s latest offer was a recreation of the process currently in place with one crucial exception. They left out the principal’s obligation to talk with employee first. Some might consider this common courtesy. I consider it the minimal duty of any boss. The current negotiated agreement provides a complete, open and fair process to address concerns with employees.

Myth 4: “At its core that apparent deal-breaker values dues-paying members over students and prevents the district from managing its resources in the best way possible.”

Fact: While many agree that the district does not manage its resources in the best possible way, APS could not produce one shred of data to support the claim that teachers’ transfer rights are in the way of staffing their schools. The truth about APS’s most valuable resource – its human resource – is this: The real evidence universally concludes that when teachers are connected and committed to their school, student outcomes are better.

Teachers love their jobs but feel undervalued, unsupported and unrecognized. At a time when unprecedented numbers of teachers are leaving the profession and many don’t see the career as a viable option, Brooks can better manage his human resources by supporting his teachers.

The superintendent tells a story that some schools have a hard time attracting teachers. Everyone knows, and the research confirms, teachers go where there is strong support, excellent leadership, the opportunity to have an influence over the course of their career and the ability to use their professional expertise.

If the superintendent unilaterally and forcibly transfers teachers, they will leave the district – if not the profession altogether!

The most alarming trend in the teacher turnover studies is the data suggesting that the most intelligent and effective teachers – educators that policymakers are most interested in retaining – leave the profession at the highest rates.

Let’s address the real problem. Let’s work together to make every school a place where teachers want to teach. That is a much better course of action than joining the long line of politicians and bureaucrats blaming teachers for everything.

Instead of siding with politicians pushing false reforms, trust us. Respect us. Support us to do our jobs. Do those simple things and you’ll have no shortage of dedicated teachers at every school.

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