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Teachers Union Accuses SAISD Of Breaking Open Records Law

Members of San Antonio Alliance, which represents SAISD teachers, hold up signs protesting Democracy Prep's application to run Stewart Elementary during the Jan. 22, 2018  trustee meeting.
File Photo Camille Phillips
Texas Public Radio
Teachers and union members protest Democracy Prep's application to run Stewart Elementary during the Jan. 22, 2018 SAISD trustee meeting.

San Antonio Alliance, which represents teachers and support staff employed by the San Antonio Independent School District, says district officials broke the law when it authorized a charter school to run Stewart Elementary in January.

The teachers union made the accusation Monday in a letter sent to SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez as part of a formal employee grievance process.

In the letter, union attorney Russell Ramirez said the district’s trustees violated the Open Records Act at its Jan. 22 board meeting by asking the superintendent to draw up a contract with the charter school.

New York-based Democracy Prep’s application to run a charter school at Stewart Elementary was onthe board agenda, but directing Martinez to negotiate a contract was not.

Ramirez also said the district broke the Texas Education Code because it didn’t get a petition from parents and teachers to convert Stewart to a charter school.

“We believe that the superintendent knew for months that he wanted to bring in this charter company to run Stewart Elementary next year,” said Alliance President Shelley Potter. “It appears to us that he was in such a hurry that he not only ignored the community, parents and employees, but also the law.”

District spokeswoman Leslie Price said SAISD “denies that there was any violation to the Open Meetings Act” and used analternative method of authorizing charter schools that does not require a petition.

The union wants the board of trustees to respond to its grievance by revoking Democracy Prep’s charter application, and indicated that it might be willing to go to court to try to make that happen.

“We are also requesting that all contracts and rights of the employees who are currently at Stewart Elementary School are honored and remain unchanged,” Potter said.

  • READ | A letter from union attorney Russell Ramirez

Democracy Prep agreed to take over Stewarton the condition that the school’s teachers and staff would be employees of the charter organization instead of the district.

Potter said Stewart’s teachers want to stay, but if they are no longer district employees they could be fired at will and would lose their seniority.

Price said SAISD will place teachers at another school in the district if they don’t want to work for Democracy Prep.

“We really believe Democracy Prep is the best option for Stewart,” Price said. “They’re a nationally recognized network with proven success in turning around achievement in struggling schools.”

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter@cmpcamille

Camille Phillips can be reached at camille@tpr.org or on Instagram at camille.m.phillips. TPR was founded by and is supported by our community. If you value our commitment to the highest standards of responsible journalism and are able to do so, please consider making your gift of support today.