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Discussing Personnel Issues

As a public institution, APS must balance a student’s right to feel safe with the public’s right to know and an employee’s right to fairness.

“The Albuquerque Public School District does not discuss personnel matters.”

You often read or hear that sentence when the school district is approached by a media outlet regarding an event involving a staff member. No doubt, that response is frustrating when you and others want and need more information in order to understand the whole story.

We understand. When we don’t elaborate on a personnel matter, it can lead community members to potentially speculate on the reasons why or can fuel a belief that important information is being hidden. At times, it would seem easier to release all the facts of an employee-related situation.

While student safety and well-being is our priority, and we know how important it is to be transparent with our many stakeholders, there are at least three reasons why information on personnel issues cannot be shared at times.

1) Fairness

APS takes seriously its responsibility to treat all employees fairly. This becomes critical in cases of alleged wrongdoing when employees must be afforded the right to have their individual situations reviewed in a fair, professional and private manner. Those rights are not only spelled out in New Mexico state law but also supported by APS Board practice. All employees deserve dignity, respect and to not have the details of their employment record discussed by their employer in a public forum.

2) The Need for a Thorough Review

Matters involving employees, especially those involving discipline or accusations of wrongdoing, are rarely simple. In order to discern the truth and ensure a fair outcome for students, the district and the employee, a thorough review should take place every time. The timelines for those reviews don’t always mesh with those of media outlets. However, it would not be appropriate to release partial information that violates an employee’s due process or presents an incomplete picture. The school district, like any good employer, should be judicious in performing a fair and professional review and not release incomplete information while that process is underway.

3) Legal Matters

 APS employees are afforded specific rights as defined by state law. Additionally, the district is often faced with legal action as the result of a discharge or other employee discipline. If APS does not follow the law regarding employee discipline, it may be subject to litigation that could be costly for taxpayers, as well as our schools. APS is committed to ensuring an employee’s rights are respected so that our resources are best directed toward educating students.

Our job is to create a learning space where all students feel free to explore and express who they are.  At the same time, we believe in treating our employees with respect and by the rules. And, as a public institution, APS must be as transparent as possible. It is a tricky balance, and no two situations are the same. When we can provide information, we will, but there will be times when all we can say is that APS cannot discuss a personnel matter.