EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated with quotes from school board member Courtney Jackson
Six days after tabling a proposed new collective bargaining agreement between Albuquerque Public Schools and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, the APS board Wednesday ratified the agreement on a 6-1 vote.
The vote came after a two-hour executive session, meaning it was legally closed to the public.
Shortly after a vote on the agreement was tabled last week, the ATF declared an impasse in negotiations. Whether and how that led to the school board’s about face was unclear Wednesday night.
Board President Yolanda Montoya-Cordova read a statement before the vote, which was the board’s only collective public comment on the matter.
“Board members requested additional time to help us clarify concerns regarding the policies and resolutions guiding the agreement, the negotiation process, and the role and responsibilities of the board,” Montoya-Cordova read.
“Moving forward, the board will be working closely with the chief negotiator to set clear priorities. The board agrees with the collaborative process, knowing it will not always be easy and at times messy. The Board of Education is charged with setting educational strategy for the district in order to bring about the progress we all want and need. The board of education supports our educators and staff who are the foundation of our school community and always fully supported the historical wage increases. As elected officials we are willing to put in the hard work for the district.”
Only board member Peggy Muller-Aragón spoke for herself. She said she was voting no because “I won’t be threatened, intimidated, lied to or coerced to force my vote and I’m not going to let the voters voice be silenced by one entity (presumably the ATF). We are a democratic republic.”
After the meeting, board member Danielle Gonzales tweeted: “Tonight I voted to approve the @ABQschools negotiated agreement. I have always supported raises for teachers & other staff & at no point were they at risk. I look forward to continuing to ask tough questions & work together to build an education system that enables all to thrive.”
Last week, board members said that a host of memoranda of understanding attached to the contract dictated policy to an unprecedented degree, stripping the board of its authority to set and approve district policy.
MOUs attached to the contract – taking it to 170 densely packed pages – include school start times, student loan repayment assistance, snow closures of the district’s three mountain campuses, and several more.
Gonzales said last week that the purpose of the agreement is to address hours, salaries, wages, and working conditions. She said she could support an agreement that “touches on those issues and those issues only.”
The ratified agreement, however, was unchanged from what the board tabled last week.
Update: In an interview Thursday morning, board member Courtney Jackson said she and her colleagues learned from a statutory legal review she requested last week that they had no choice but to ratify the agreement. That’s because a December 2020 resolution passed by the previous board superseded an old district policy that limited the bargaining agreement to issues of hours, salaries, wages, and working conditions.
Jackson said she had no idea that resolution existed, and had she known what she knows now, she would have voted last week, reluctantly to ratify the agreement. She said communication from the administration of Superintendent Scott Elder to the current board has been poor. And after eight months, the district leadership operates differently than previous boards, she said.
“The cynical part of me would say, why didn’t you give us all of this information? Did you really expect that this board was just going say, ‘Okay, sounds good?’ Because we haven’t done that at any point, leading up to this. They bring stuff to us expecting a rubber stamp, and it has not once happened. So why in the world that they think it was going to happen this time?”
Moving forward, Jackson said, the board will demand detailed monthly updates on negotiations with the teachers union.