San Antonio Alliance Sues SAISD To Block Democracy Prep Partnership

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SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez (left) speaks with school board trustees.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

The San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel have filed a lawsuit against SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez (left) and each of the district's trustees.

The San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel filed a lawsuit Friday against San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez and district trustees seeking to halt an agreement with a charter school operator.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary injunction against what it calls “the takeover” of Stewart Elementary School by New York-based charter school operator Democracy Prep, according to a press release from the Texas State Teachers Association.

The lawsuit alleges that SAISD violated state law by entering into a contract with Democracy Prep “without consulting with the campus staff about the provisions of the contract.”

“We have not seen the lawsuit,” SAISD spokeswoman Leslie Price said Friday afternoon. “We believe that the process the District followed in entering into the agreement with Democracy Prep was in accordance with Texas law.”

In March, SAISD trustees approved a partnership with Democracy Prep to operate Stewart in order to delay the threat of campus closure. When it was approved, SAISD began to plan for Democracy Prep to take over operations at Stewart starting in the 2018-19 school year.

The state’s accountability system mandates that at the end of 2017-18, if a campus has received five or more consecutive failing or “improvement required” grades, the Texas Education Agency must either close the campus or install a board of managers to govern a district.

The partnership with Stewart allows SAISD to pause the accountability timeline for two years while Democracy Prep attempts to obtain a passing “met standard” grade from the state.

“It is regrettable that adult concerns are getting in the way of the best interest of students,” Trustee Steve Lecholop (D1) said of the lawsuit.

The Alliance has been critical of the partnership, especially the part of the agreement that allows Democracy Prep to make all hiring decisions about campus staff. SAISD teachers who want to continue to work at Stewart must reapply to become a Democracy Prep employee. Martinez said any teachers not re-hired at Stewart or who wish to remain SAISD employees would be placed elsewhere in the district.

This lawsuit is the Alliance’s latest move against the Democracy Prep partnership. In early March, the Alliance filed a formal complaint with the district.

Early last week, posters began appearing around the district, questioning Martinez’s work experience and the district’s decision to hand over operations to Democracy Prep.

“School superintendents and school boards are not above the law, which is designed to protect the best interests of school employees as well as students and parents,” Alliance President Shelley Potter said in a prepared statement. “School teachers, staff, our students’ parents and the community were ignored in the district’s haste to turn over a neighborhood campus to a New York charter company with no ties to our community.”

Board President Patti Radle said SAISD is in a “very awkward position” and that the district had limited options to begin with when thinking about how to save Stewart from campus closure.

Radle said she was disappointed to see the Alliance didn’t understand the district tried to made the best of the situation at Stewart. Going forward, she said the district will try to leave the door open to the Alliance to work together in other ways, but maintaining a good relationship with the teacher’s group might be difficult.

Radle said the board and district have publicly acknowledged it could have done better communicating prior to the Stewart partnership deal, but that acknowledgement doesn’t seem to have made a difference.

“If [the Alliance] can’t hear us say, ‘yes, we should have done better,’ then they can’t hear us say anything,” she said. “It makes it difficult to work together.”

20 thoughts on “San Antonio Alliance Sues SAISD To Block Democracy Prep Partnership

  1. Make the kids stay in a failing school. Don’t let the School Board try to improve their education!!!!! Teachers – even ones that don’t teach or care about kids- need JOB SECURITY. So let’s fight to keep the kids from getting a better school. Let’s sue the district for trying to put the students education first.
    Go Teachers Union. Boo Kids.

    • Oh please! What the hell would you know about school accountability or the metrics even used to determine a failing school! Either you’re a charter shill or a nitwit or both either way I’ll be willing to bet you’ve never set foot in Stewart nor in the Stewart community. So what if the union is advocating for the teachers that SERVE the community what do you do? Are you in the classroom, do you teach or are you trying to act like you know Jack about education?

    • What an ignorant comment. You obviously know very little about education. Teacher’s really do love secretly hating their job and teaching students to failure year after year. They live for the pressure and stress of teaching at a failing school. It really gets them off! I could keep laying the scarasm on very thick, but I’ve wasted enough of my life responding to idiocracy.

    • Your sarcasm is negated by your ignorance. Clearly the article was not read thoroughly. It is already states that the teachers will continue to be employed even if they choose not to stay at Stewart via Democracy Prep. The teachers and families are resistant to a stranger in their midst who sees fit to exclude them in decisions that affect their children and has no knowledge of their neighboorhood culture, nor do they show any signs of being interested in learning. Condescension and a profound lack of faith or transparency is what brought this about. If the board had listened when the community spoke, as they have in previous years, we could have settled this with collaboration.

      • Connie
        No, this is NOT what the article said. It says that SAISD teacher may APPLY for a job at Democracy. There is no guarantee they would be hired. My reading of their application process and research into their job requirements tells me that SAID teachers would be overqualified for Democracy Prep (indicates far less requirements for teaching and pay scale based on teaching experience). My guess they would hire far less qualified teachers will far less experience. This is quite in line with charter schools generally. (I do teach, but in higher-ed. )

  2. It always boggles the mind that many of the comments on the articles regarding SAISD focus on who is yelling “stop!” and not why. I’d love for just once, the opposition take responsibility for their lack of cooperation, for them not coming to the table with a mindset of inclusion for the people they serve. Too bad it took all their dirty laundry being aired out in public before they came out screaming foul. It is foul play, on the districts part. How many of them would accept dictatorial actions from their student’s school districts.

  3. Pedro Martinez has been the superintendent of SAISD since 2015. Aside from Board Member Christina Martinez, the remainder of the school board has been with Pedro since his start. Together, they have ignored the voices of their constituents, the employees, the students, and the community. They believe they should make decisions for us, instead of with us. They believe they know best. There is no collaboration. SAISD belongs to the public, not to Pedro and his board members. The community is angry. We are not going anywhere. We will continue pushing for transparency and a collaborative process for decision making. No more closed door decisions, SAISD. As a tax payer in District 1, I will not stand for this. I will continue fighting and I suggest the rest of you do the same. Come out to the SAISD school board meeting on May 14th. Let’s show Pedro and his board what solidarity and power looks like.

  4. Saw the actual suit on another media site. The law evidently says that a district has to consult with the staff at the school about the contract provisions before entering into the contract. Is there any evidence that occurred? My guess is no. And if that didn’t happen, the law was not followed.

    • Evidence accessible to any citizen CLEARLY indicates that Mr. Martinez and associates, reached out, and finalized their contracts with the Democracy Prep BEFORE being presented to the SAISD for a rubber stamp approval. (no dissension among board members on this…very suspicious) The RR is, as usual, is subtly, but distinctly biased in their presentation of the issue here.

      EX: This statement is presented as fact when is is simply NOT the trajectory that was taken. “When it was approved, SAISD began to plan for Democracy Prep to take over operations at Stewart starting in the 2018-19 school year.” There is a lot the public does not know..(and are not being informed by RR investigative skills apparently)

      As well, it is important to note the purpose of a teachers union is to protect they can protect and educate students. That is their job. It seems they, at least, are taking their job seriously. My grave concern here is that the superintendent and the SAID board has not been forthcoming in regard to fulfilling their obligation to the public. If this was all legal and above board, then Mr. Martinez, et. all…Dem. Prep and District (Trustee Lechelop quoted above) should embrace the suit so that they do not begin a venture that is under a cloud of suspicion and mistrust.
      (Full disclosure: I am a citizen who is simply very concerned with where my taxes go, and with progressive education. I am NOT a teacher or employee at SAISD. I am also hopeless at making things like posters..too much walking!)

  5. I wonder how many members of the Alliance are thinking about what happens if no other partner for the school is found. Ultimately, it is very unlikely that Stewart will be able to get out of IR this year, and if there is no partner to take on the work of the school, then a board of conservators must be appointed or the school closed. Since turning the leadership of the whole district over to an appointed set of individuals based on one campus’s performance seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, the school would likely be forced to close. I wonder how the Alliance’s rhetoric holds up when presented with the alternative of displacing students and families. This animus has NEVER been about students. It’s always been about the adults, their contracts and entrenched mindsets that resist change at the expense of student learning.

    • Very well said. I am also an SAISD parent. Our children at Stewart deserve a chance at a good education and I am so grateful to Pedro Martinez and the board for standing up for our children. And so sad by the angry, bullying tactics used by members of The Alliance. I thought teachers union were supposed to stop bullying. In this case The Alliance sure is bullying all of us. 🙁

      • Can you be more detailed here? You are making a set of generalized accusations without any details to support what you are saying. I sincerely would like to know what you actually mean by hot the teachers union is bullying anyone. Keep in mind, a form of bullying is making unsubstantiated derogatory statements in order to demean a person or organizational entity. It would be ironic indeed if that were the case here. So details please?

    • SAISD parent I agree completely. I wish the alliance fought for students as hard as they fight for teachers. I have taught in SAISD for 9 years and have never been a part of the Alliance. I know they do some good somewhere, but in the 9 years I have taught, I have never seen the Alliance help a kid pass a STAAR/EOC test or help a kid go to college. That’s what teachers do, and if I am bad at what I do, then I should get fired.

      I’ve never been to Stewart but the school I teach at faced the same ultimatum 9 years ago. Get scores up or get transformed into something else. We got the scores up but they had already set the wheels of school transformation in progress. Teachers had to reapply for jobs. I have had 8 different principals in 9 years. Enrollment shrank, there was fear of closure. It was hard and there were a lot of tough years I wasn’t sure I wanted to be here anymore. But now I feel like I teach at the best school in the city. I feel a sense of ownership to the school because I have seen it through such a tough process of change. There are lots of schools with similar stories and I sincerely hope and pray that Stewart’s story will be one of amazing change and transformation. And I hope that 9 years from now Stewart is one of the best elementary schools in the city.

      • As stated, the role of the Teachers Alliance is to protect teachers. It is the role of the school administrators and teachers to protect children! Don’t blame the union, blame the administration for not fighting to protect children. (But, maybe a union for children may be a timely idea???)

        There are quite a few alternatives to Democracy Prep, but I see no indication that these alternatives were ever considered by Martinez et. al. IF Mr. Martinez and the board had put as much energy, time, work into the SAID schools (especially Stewart) that they put into courting Democracy Prep, these school may be well on their way to flourishing in a positive new trajectory (with local partnerships)

  6. I am a teacher in SAISD, my son attends a SAISD school and I’m a former SAISD student. I also am an Alliance member. I know our union advocates not just for teachers but for ALL of SAISD. Our organization has provided books for SAISD students, promoted programs that are designed to help students in need and promote safety in the classroom and campus. I am fully invested in the future of SAISD because I want my son to graduate from an SAISD school. I whole heartedly believe that PUBLIC schools are the life blood of our democracy. I do not believe that a privately run, unelected organization like Democracy Prep will have the best interests of the students of Stewart at heart. I know that teaching is an art and science that takes time to develop. The charter model does not allow for this art to develop. How could it, when teachers at most charter schools do not stay at their campuses longer than 2 years. One of the posters stated that “They have never seen the Alliance help students pass STAAR or EOC” well my question to this anonymous poster is, who do you think makes up the Alliance? Well the answer is teachers, support staff such as educational assistants, librarians, custodial, clerical staff, food service staff, that is who makes up the Alliance. Of those members there are many like myself that have children in SAISD schools. We want our district to succeed however the decisions that have taken place over the last 3years are not helping us as educators they are hindering us. I have had the opportunity through my work with the Alliance to engage collaboratively with the administration, to meet with board members, yet in that time there has been one person who for some reason stayed away from the table, Pedro Martinez. I didn’t realize until recently why that was. I don’t think Pedro Martinez engaged with teachers in SAISD because he wants to bring in PRIVATE entities, a “great system of schools” in order to bolster his resume. I have doubts that Mr. Martinez is invested in SAISD for the long haul. I am because of my son and because SAISD serves the communities in and around San Antonio that I love. I know through my work with the Alliance that my fellow brothers and sisters are invested in the long term because we are made up of caring teachers that serve and have served SAISD for years. I really wish that was the case with the people that have been brought in the last 3years. That’s a shame too, because I had high hopes for Pedro Martinez. I as well as many of my colleagues and fellow community members feel let down.

  7. Well guess what people, Stewart is probaly going to meet state standard this year. The campus made marked gains with 5th grade scores already. Why has this not been mentioned? This is a testiment of what a good principal brings to a school. This is not rocket-science; good, strong leadership always makes a difference.

  8. I think the premise of the lawsuit will not work. It is predicated on the view point that, “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 district always had the right to assign and reassign personnel. If a SAISD employee doesn’t want to rehire/stay at Democracy Prep, the district can say (and I think I heard they would) simply reassign that teacher to another campus. A teacher’s employment is with the district, not a particular campus. So in the eyes of the law, their contract did not change, they are still employed (with the district, if not Democracy Prep).

    This lawsuit will fail.

  9. After years of failure by union teachers, I do not have a problem with it becoming a Charter. If teachers can’t produce, move over and try something new.

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