Central Consolidated Education Association, or CCEA, would like to thank The Daily Times for the opportunity to present our point of view on the recent developments in the contract negotiations with Central Consolidated School District, or CCSD.

CCEA is certainly not in the habit of "turning down" or "rejecting" raises for our members. The New Mexico Legislature allocated a 3-percent raise for ALL public school employees. Throughout the bargaining process, CCEA has consistently supported raises for all employees, as the legislature intended. The district chose to deny this raise to the support staff. Specifically, CCSD held hostage raises granted by the state for transportation, custodians, food service and maintenance employees and to date, CCSD continues to deny the 3-percent raise to the above employees even though CCSD has indicated that the funds are available.

To be clear, the district's July 16 "offer" was neither accepted nor rejected by CCEA. CCEA never rejected CCSD's offer. We requested twice to meet with the district to discuss this "offer" in mediation, prior to the District's imposed deadline, but the District refused to meet and withdrew the "offer".

This "offer" would require us to turn our backs on our most experienced and valued educators and abandon our joint process of realigning the teacher salary schedule. For the past three years, CCEA and CCSD have worked collaboratively to create a sensible, equitable and competitive salary schedule with the intent that as funds became available, all certified employees would move to this schedule. This year we had hoped to complete this process. The District unilaterally decided to break that promise to those teachers.

Although the salary schedule and raises are important to everyone, the other component of these negotiations is teacher evaluation. There were several issues in the district's evaluation proposal that would be detrimental to a teacher's evaluation and negatively impact the quality of education our students would receive.

From our perspective, the District is actively engaging in union-busting practices in an attempt to impose their will upon all employees of CCSD. These practices have resulted in strained relationships among employees, community and CCSD administrators that will negatively impact the future of CCSD.

For the last three years, CCEA and CCSD have worked collaboratively under the Interest Based Bargaining negotiations method and have experienced great success with little to no cost for the district or taxpayers. Why the sudden shift? When the dust settles, everyone will pay for the District's choice of traditional bargaining.

After all is said and done, and we look back on all the rancor that has developed between the two parties, the CCEA bargaining team believes we will be able to say we did what was best for all stakeholders. We encourage the CCSD administration to work with, not against, its outstanding employees for the educational success of our district.


Mel Sharp is a member of the Central Consolidated Education Association.