School Workers May Be Disciplined
Feb 02, 2013 (Albuquerque Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Two Rio Rancho school employees could face disciplinary action for using district email to campaign for union backed-school board candidates.
At the request of the Journal, the Rio Rancho Public Schools District released the emails sent this week by union representatives at Cyber Academy and Mountain View Middle School.
The district also released an unrelated email sent by school board District 1 candidate Mario X. Martinez on Dec. 20. Martinez's message went to all Rio Rancho High staff, asking for their support.
Martinez was a teacher at the time, but retired days later. In the email Martinez states "Many of you have expressed support of my effort -- I will need all the help I can get..."
Martinez said Friday he was not aware of the district policy regarding prohibited email practices.
"Yes, I admit that I wrote this 'farewell' email mostly to inform my colleagues of my future plans since we had broached the topic of my possible retirement numerous times in informal personal conversations," he said. "I also provided my personal email for anyone who wished to stay in touch as had another one of my colleagues who had left RRHS a month earlier for a new employment opportunity."
Superintendent Sue Cleveland told district employees in a letter Thursday that the emails violate "the ethical responsibility of all public employees to refrain from using public resources for conducting campaign activities."
The two current employees, who have not been identified, forwarded to all staff at their schools this week an email from Peggy Stielow, president of the Rio Rancho School Employees' Union. Vesely said the district redacted the employee names from the emails because it's a "pending personnel matter."
The email provided background for candidates in each district and included the union's endorsements. At the end of the email, Stielow asked recipients to call and schedule time to help with the campaigns.
Stielow did not respond to a call Friday.
RRPS spokeswoman Kim Vesely said the matter is being investigated, and those who violate district policy could face disciplinary consequences, including "reprimand, suspension, and in some cases, termination."
"The use of employee resources or facilities, including email, for the purpose of supporting or opposing political candidates violates district policy, the district's Negotiated Agreement with the (union) and the NM Public Education Department's code of ethical Responsibility for the Education Profession," Vesely said in an email to the Journal.
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