As the president of Rio Rancho School Employees Union, it is my job to advocate for our staff and to speak up about issues of concern. Most recently, there has been quite a stir about “Safe Zones” in our schools.
I would like to offer a point of clarity about our union’s role with “Safe Zones”.
Our union, as I have said before, exists to advocate for fair wages, reasonable working hours, workplace safety measures, and equitable treatment. We negotiate with the district to secure better benefits and protections, ensuring that employees can enjoy a safer and more comfortable work environment while also promoting their overall well-being. As such, we will always advocate for our staff. By doing so, we also ensure the best possible learning environment for students. Our hope is that every staff member feels safe to be an advocate for their students, and to be a safe zone for every student in our district, especially our most vulnerable populations.
Our union does not negotiate on behalf of students, and therefore, the district may institute any policy regarding student well-being they feel is appropriate — as long as it doesn’t violate the rights we have established for staff. Chief among those are their rights to employment “…without regard to race, color, religion, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, national origin, and disability or any other prohibited basis, in conformity with the laws of the United States and the State of New Mexico.” (Negotiated Agreement between RRPS and RRSEU, dated June 5, 2023)
Additionally, the union has negotiated language around academic freedom. The staff have an obligation to provide students with an unbiased study of academic issues, and they are also limited by the rules and requirements set out by the state and the district’s Board of Education. If issues arise with the presentation of academic material by a teacher, then there is a procedure the district must follow as set out in the Negotiated Agreement.
RRPS staff deserve the highest respect, and our union works every day to ensure that they are treated well. If a staff member faces bigoted, retaliatory, or disparaging treatment for any reason, then we will be there to support them and to fight for their rights. By doing so, we ensure that the staff feel safer, more secure, and more able to, in turn, support students no matter where they come from. Our union is here to serve the staff within RRPS, and will always stand by the rights they are guaranteed through our negotiated agreement.
Billie Helean

Rio Rancho