Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

State workers have shown they can telework

So let me get this straight: The New Mexico State Personnel Office, acting on guidance from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, wants the state’s workforce to live within a 100-mile radius of Santa Fe so state employees can work in the capital city, even if it means a harrowing hour or more commute each way.

Is this the way to expand the talent pool and preserve New Mexico’s human capital?

Many employees in state government are like me – approaching 60 years of age, nearing retirement and were commuting to work in Santa Fe for 10 years or more before the pandemic and the initiation of telework agreements. When we retire, or leave state government, who takes over?

Apparently not anyone who works in Las Cruces, Deming, Ruidoso, Farmington, Clovis, Zuni, Questa or any number of New Mexico towns and cities outside the arbitrary 100-mile radius.

Some government offices operate satellite offices around the state, such as Veterans Affairs, Children, Youth and Families and the Department of Transportation. Satellite offices provide services and support statewide and are located statewide. Why does it stop there?

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The Public Education Department, where I work, serves 89 school districts, more than 100 state charter schools and provides programs and support statewide – Aztec to Santa Teresa and all points in between. Most of our constituents don’t stand at the doors in the Jerry Apodaca Building in Santa Fe waiting for us to get to our desks to help them. We Zoom meet with you. We visit them on their turf.

Three things for SPO and the governor to consider:

• The governor put in place a plan: “A New Direction for New Mexico Schools” that focuses on implementing the community schools model. It involves removing barriers to learning and to support whole-child teaching with collaborative community partners. This isn’t done from an office in Santa Fe, but in the communities we serve.

• The Safe and Health Schools Bureau at the PED is ramping up to provide support to school districts statewide with the Attendance Success Act implementation to re-engage students. This isn’t done from an office in Santa Fe, but in the communities we serve.

• There are plans to increase legislative funding to support career technical education statewide in school districts by improving work-based learning, pre-apprenticeships, student certifications and professional development for CTE teachers. This isn’t done from an office in Santa Fe, but in the communities we serve.

State workers should not have to agree to reasonable telework agreements. Over the last two years, we have earned the trust of our supervisors, of our constituents, and we deserve the trust of State Personnel Office Director, L. Teresa Padilla, and – more importantly – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who supported many of us during her reelection bid.

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