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Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Back issues
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Teacher’s Union & Superintendent Go to War

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (CN) — A teacher's union sued the Corpus Christi school superintendent, claiming he banned a union president from campus with a criminal trespass notice because the union roasted six principals with "Bad Apple" awards.

The Corpus Christi American Federation of Teachers Local 3456 represents 1,860 of the Corpus Christi Independent School District's 5,000 employees. It sued the district and Superintendent Roland Hernandez, who took office in 2014, on Oct. 14 in Federal Court.

The union says Hernandez introduced a new curriculum "right before" the 2015-2016 school year, which left faculty scrambling to work the new material into their lesson plans.

"The abrupt and disorganized manner in which the curriculum was implemented caused havoc for teachers and students," the complaint states. "Problems included many teachers not receiving all the materials and resources associated with the new curriculum, receiving the wrong materials and resources, or not having sufficient time to construct lessons around the new curriculum."

Hernandez's changes drew immediate backlash from employees. The union says it surveyed 388 teachers about the new curriculum, 85 percent of whom said they didn't have enough time to study it before the first day of school, and its president Nancy Vera aired the issues in October 2015 interviews with local TV stations.

Hernandez pushed back, the union says, threatening to scrap a consultation committee of 12 elected employees, most whom have been American Federation of Teachers members since the committee was formed in 1979.

The committee includes employees who represent elementary school teachers, special education teachers, office workers and counselors, and meets with school administrators.

"Elected consultation has served the district well for over 30 years, and has provided a forum through which elected representatives of faculty and staff can communicate on an equal footing with the administration about matters that are of importance to educators, staff and children," the union's attorney Martha Owen said in an email.

The union says Hernandez's penchant for payback became evident after it posted its "Apple Awards" on Facebook in March and the Corpus Christi Caller-Times ran a story about the awards.

The union announced the awards during the district's open-transfer period, in which dissatisfied staff members can seek transfers to other campuses in the district.

"The Apple Awards were based on input about principals that CCAFT had received from members pertaining to the principals' professionalism, respect, flexibility, understanding, support and kindness. ... Four principals received Golden Apples for creating a positive work environment and six principals received Rotten Apples for a negative environment," the complaint states.

Hernandez denounced the awards in a robocall to the families of every student in the district, and sent letters to the staff of the six campuses run by the "Bad Apple" principals, criticizing the awards and urging them not to transfer, according to the complaint.

Hernandez also retained an attorney for the district who issued Vera, the union president, a "Criminal Trespass Notice," banning her from three campuses. He even sent a letter to the union's national president, demanding that Vera be removed from office, the union says.

Two of the principals also reacted harshly, the union says.

"The principals at Yeager and Meadowbrook told their employees that if they were not supportive of their leadership, they should get off the campus," the complaint states.

Hernandez also made good on his threats about the consultation committee. The policy governing the committee "disappeared" after Hernandez persuaded the school board in August to put him in charge of it instead of the board, the union says.

The union's attorney called that "just another attempt by the administration to silence the messenger because it doesn't like the message."

The union seeks declaratory judgment that Hernandez and the school district violated their constitutional rights, nominal damages, exemplary damages against Hernandez "for his willful and wanton acts," and an injunction protecting them from retaliation, plus costs of suit.

Attorney Owen is with Deats, Durst and Owen in Austin.

Hernandez did not respond to a request for comment.

A school district spokeswoman said the district doesn't comment on pending litigation.

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