In a legal battle that will have implications for teachers across the state, Santa Fe Public Schools is challenging a state Appeals Court ruling that sided with a former Carlos Gilbert Elementary School teacher in her lawsuit against the district. The lawsuit alleged SFPS terminated Rosa Weiss improperly by not giving her the right to appeal.
State law says that school districts “may not terminate an employee” who has been employed “for three consecutive years without just cause.”
Third-year public school teachers are awarded tenure rights that allow appeal of a termination before the school board. In May 2011, weeks before Weiss’ third year of teaching sixth graders was complete, the district handed Weiss a termination notice.
A First Judicial District Court judge ruled that tenure rights go into effect after a teacher enters into a third-year contract, not after the completion of that contract. SFPS argues that tenure rights go into effect upon completion of a teacher’s third-year contract. SFPS challenged that decision in the Court of Appeals, but it upheld the District Court decision on June 3.
The district is now asking the state Supreme Court to rule in its favor, according to a July 3 petition submitted by Albuquerque lawyers with the firm German & Associates LLC, which is representing SFPS. Weiss has been represented by the National Education Association-New Mexico, a teachers union, through Jerry Todd Wertheim, who works for the Santa Fe-based Jones Firm.