Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Las Cruces Public Schools employees advocate higher wages, the district emphasizes sustainability

LAS CRUCES – Both the National Education Association Las Cruces and the Classified School Employees Council of Las Cruces – the unions, the area educators and

NEA-LC declared a dead end in mid-October. CSEC-LC declared a dead end on November 10th. Both unions are trying to negotiate higher wages.

Gabe Jacquez, Assistant Superintendent and Chief Negotiation Officer of the LCPS, briefed members of the district school board during the regular school board meeting on Tuesday.

“The Las Cruces Public Schools negotiating teams were surprised and disappointed with the explanation, as we felt that despite the unique challenges we faced this year, good progress was being made at the negotiating table,” said Jacquez. “We recognize that salaries offered to employees in a school system will never compensate them for work.

“Our employees are exceptional and always do more than is required and required,” he said.

NEA-LC President Denise Sheehan presented data to the board of directors in support of the educators’ union stance that LCPS is not raising employee salaries enough compared to other New Mexico counties.

The latest offers

Jacquez said LCPS is leaving its final best offer on the table and will not be offering any more at this time.

Continue reading:The Las Cruces teachers’ union advocates higher wages, suggesting data showing LCPS is lagging behind other New Mexico counties

In June, state lawmakers approved a 1.5 percent pay increase for all civil servants, which would include public school district employees. This 1.5 percent increase comes from the state and was implemented for the 2022 financial year that began in July.

LCPS gives NEA-LC teachers an additional 1.25 percent increase and CSEC employees an additional 1.5 percent increase.

Both groups are calling for an increase of 2.75 percent.

“I think the county can do more to recognize and appreciate the service of these employees,” said Valdespino, who was an LCPS-classified employee for 37 years. Classified employees include cooks, janitors, technical support, and other school district employees who are not teachers.

“During the pandemic, many schools were closed, many of the classified employees continued to go to their workplaces. For example, the supervisors had to start disinfecting the spatial planning department, they went on and maintained the facilities, our campus.” Safety, they went ahead making sure the schools were safe and secure, our food workers were still going and preparing meals for the children that the parents could pick up for their children. “

Valdespino said that LCPS always orally recognizes classified employees, but they must be recognized through compensation.

Jacquez said LCPS has asked the state for more funding to help employees get sustained pay increases.

“The district’s goal is to implement long-term solutions that will enable the district to get the most benefit from a new funding formula being implemented by the Public Education Department,” said Jacquez.

Employee voices

During the public comment of the school committee meeting, several LCPS employees spoke about their working conditions and urged the board and administration to push for higher wages.

LCPS news:Las Cruces Public Schools Adopts New COVID-19 Protocols As District Exceeds 1,500 Cases

Daniel Salazar, vice president of custodians at LCPS who works at Las Cruces High, said he couldn’t afford drugs to treat his type 2 diabetes.

Salazar said his wife had emergency surgery in July, which put the family under financial pressure. He said his wife will have to go back to work in September before her internal wounds are fully healed to pay off her debt.

“All we get is a ‘thank you for what you did,'” said Salazar. “You say you take care of your secret co-workers and teachers. I do not see it. Either way, and I’m not the only one in this boat. It’s embarrassing to work for a district that says they are the best district to work for, that they are a family … I don’t see you care about us. “

Salazar added that he had to go to work himself last Saturday because his school has five supervisors.

“Appreciation doesn’t put food on the table, it doesn’t help us pay our bills, and it doesn’t help us with medical bills.”

Erin Taylor, a science teacher at Mayfield High, said the pandemic created new struggles and needed better compensation to support educators.

She has been a teacher for 23 years, but said her previous experience has not prepared her for new protocols, online learning, and everything else that came with teaching through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re being led by people who have no idea what it’s like to teach in a pandemic,” said Taylor. “I can’t say that enough. And they refuse to acknowledge that their lack of understanding makes any difference to how we are treated.”

Superintendent Ralph Ramos spoke later at the meeting and said he hoped to go hand in hand with the unions to work together in the future.

“I think all of our employees deserve big increases, but for now sustainability is my goal again,” said Ramos. “I don’t want to have to fire teachers or employees.”

Jacquez said reserve funds should not be used for recurring expenses such as salaries, which means that if a major raise is made, the district may not be able to pay employees the same pay in the future.

CSEC President Valdespino countered that there was no one who would be fired from the classified workforce, which she described as “very mobile”.

“There are so many vacancies,” said Valdespino. “I don’t see that ever happening.”

A Las Cruces High School student is given lunch in the cafeteria on the first day of school, Monday, August 9, 2021.  All students receive a free take-away lunch for the entire school year, regardless of family income.

Of the 1,200 classified employees in LCPS, there are 19 vacancies as custodian, four vacancies in maintenance and six vacancies as secretary.

In addition, there are 26.5 vacancies for teachers and 47 vacancies for educational assistants.

Miguel Serrano, Chief Human Relations Officer, introduced the job postings. He noted that they recently hired about 20 nutritionists, but did not say how many positions were vacant.

What happens next?

After both unions have declared a dead end, a 30-day mediation period must follow.

Jacquez said an operator will be contacted.

“I am confident that this process will result in an agreement with CSEC and NEA-Las Cruces,” he said.

Valdespino said she hopes the LCPS and the unions can come to an agreement, but she is not ready to give in. She said she hoped the negotiations would be completed by the end of the semester, December 17th.

Miranda Cyr, a member of the Report for America Corps, can be reached at [email protected] or @mirandabcyr on Twitter. Show your support for the Report for America program at https://bit.ly/LCSNRFA.

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