AFT President Randi Weingarten
…Petitioners Seek District Compliance with NM Public Education Department Order
ALBUQUERQUE– American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly, and McKinley County Federation of United School Employees (MCFUSE) President Patrice Carpenter and Executive Vice President Brian Bernard released the following statement:
“McKinley County Federation of United School Employees, Local #3313, AFT-NM (the “Union”), has filed an action today seeking injunctive relief to prevent the Gallup-McKinley County School District from actively and willfully violating the school reopening procedures identified by the New Mexico Public Education Department.
“The suit, filed in State District Court, seeks an order compelling the School District to comply with an Order issued by New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary, Ryan Stewart, Ed.L.D. Secretary Stewart issued an order on August 4, 2020, requiring all districts to allow employees to perform work from home, where possible. Secretary Stewart’s Order explicitly directed districts that:
No staff member that has the technological capacity to teach or perform their job remotely shall be required to physically report to the building for the purpose of delivering online instruction or other job-related activity that can be performed remotely.
“On August 6, 2020, and in explicit violation of Secretary Stewart’s order, the School District’s Superintendent Mike Hyatt, ordered all District staff to perform all work from their worksites and prohibited employees from performing work at home, even if the work in question can as easily be performed from home.
“In what appears as an open act of provocation, Superintendent Hyatt has actually ordered employees to congregate together in large groups at work sites in order to perform online work that could be performed just as easily from home or from individual classrooms. Superintendent Hyatt’s actions are reckless; for no educational reason he has endangered the interests of the students, the educators and the community. There is no operational reason to force educators to participate in computer exercises together in large groups when they could do so just as easily from their homes.
“The hardworking District employees are literally risking their lives for no reason and may suffer irreparable harm if they are forced to come to work, possibly exposing themselves to COVID-19. According to the New Mexico Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, McKinley County has the second-highest number of cases in New Mexico (4,033), and the highest number of COVID-19 related deaths (222). It is quite literally the last place in New Mexico where staff should be compelled to come on site to perform work that can be accomplished at home.
“In addition to displaying an appalling lack of leadership, Superintendent Hyatt has deliberately violated the PED’s directive. The Union has asked for an emergency hearing to bring Superintendent Hyatt’s actions within the limitations of the law, safe pandemic work practices and simple common sense.”