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Teachers union sues SAISD to block takeover of low-performing Stewart Elementary

Contract with charter school company will make teachers 'at-will' employees

SAN ANTONIO – The Texas State Teachers Association filed a lawsuit against the San Antonio Independent School District on Friday in hopes of blocking the outside takeover of one of the district's low-performing elementary schools.

On March 19, the SAISD board voted to have Democracy Prep, a New York-based charter school company, take over Stewart Elementary School, which has not met performance standards for five consecutive years.

RELATED: SAISD votes to allow NY charter school network to operate one of its lowest-performing schools 

The TSTA alleges that "San Antonio ISD violated state law by entering into the contract 'without consulting with the campus staff about the provisions of the contract.'"

The union claims that the superintendent, Pedro Martinez, met with faculty and staff for an hour and a half to discuss potential sanctions that could be brought against the school for not meeting state standards but, "never consulted with the staff regarding the provisions to be included in the contract with Democracy Prep, asked for their input, or sought their ideas about the contractual provisions."

The group said SAISD violated a section of the Texas Education Code that states:

“Before entering into a contract (with the charter operator) as provided by this section, a school district must consult with campus personnel regarding the provisions to be included in the contract between the school district and the open-enrollment charter school.”

The contract with Democracy Prep states that teachers at the elementary school will no longer be district employees with employment contracts. Instead, they will be "at-will" employees that will be employed and supervised by Democracy Prep, according to TSTA.

“At no time before March 19, 2018, when the contract was approved for execution, did the (district) administration or the board consult with the Stewart campus personnel regarding the provisions to be included in the contract,” the lawsuit states.

Martinez told KSAT in March that when a school fails to meet standards for several consecutive years, under state regulations, the Texas Education Agency commissioner is required to either close the school or appoint a board of managers to take it over.

Martinez also said the district believes Democracy Prep is the district's best option because it has a good track record of helping schools in a similar situation.

"Parents expect us as the experts, and that's what they consider us -- the experts -- to intervene when we need to," Martinez said. "What they want to know is, 'Can my child still go that school? Is it going to be a safe and high-quality program?' That's what they want to know."

A spokesperson for SAISD said that the district has not yet seen the lawsuit, but believes the process that the district followed entering into the agreement with Democracy Prep was in accordance with Texas law.

The San Antonio Alliance, a group of educators, told KSAT in March that they felt the process wasn't transparent.

"We're worried about what this contract actually says," said Luke Amphlett, of San Antonio Alliance. "It doesn't just hand over Stewart Elementary, it hands over K through high school -- 2,400 students --
to a charter company from New York. That's far more than what is necessary."

READ THE LAWSUIT