Rio Rancho Public Schools and union reach agreement on benefits, raises

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. – The end of the legislative session in January sparked the beginning of negotiations between Rio Rancho Public Schools and the Rio Rancho School Employees Union. 

After just three months, union reps said they came to an agreement almost everyone was on board with.

“We’ve worked really hard to make sure that we’re collaborating with the district rather than coming to the table, you know, dukes up ready to fight,” Union President Billie Helean said. “The union actually brought to the district, the desire to really focus on our lower paid employees, when it came to salaries, and they did that.”

“There are two things that I’m most excited about,” Michael Chavez, the executive director of HR for RRPS said.

First, the ability for employees to buy back some of their sick leave.

“They can sell back to the district up to three days of sick leave and two days of their personal leave at a rate of $300 per day,” Chavez explained. “That is going to allow those employees to receive an amount of about $1,500.”

He went on to say the second exciting change is a 10% pay increase for classified staff—including custodians, maintenance workers, bus drivers and attendants—also a 6% raise for licensed teachers and professional staff.

“The state proposed a $25,000 minimum for educational assistants, and the district decided to match that for the secretarial staff as well,” Chavez added.

Better pay for school staff means a better environment for students, which reps said motivated these changes.

“That all flows right down to those classrooms and those kids,” Chavez said. “So that’s what we’re here for.”

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District and union officials also hope the changes will attract more applicants, especially for its five open bus driver positions, 23 open educational assistant positions and more than 20 special education teaching positions.

“To give those teachers that 6% raise on top of what they received last year, is going to continue to allow us to recruit highly qualified teachers for those classrooms,” Chavez said. “We’ve seen a lot of people return to New Mexico, because our salaries have increased so significantly.”

Helean said negotiating on behalf of deserving staff and considering the money the school district receives from the state every year, is a balancing act.

“I think we’ve balanced it really well this time, and I’m hoping that we’ll do that again next time,” she said. “There are some things that we still want to work on, but that’s—you know, a negotiated agreement is a living document. It’s something that should be worked on continuously.”

The terms in the agreement take effect July 1, about a month before the start of the next school year.

For more information on job opportunities with Rio Rancho Public Schools, click here.

Click here for the full negotiated agreement announcement.