Bargaining Brief, August 27th, 2020

Dear PAT Colleagues:

 

Today, the PPS bargaining team refused to put in writing their verbal agreement that educators should get an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes per day of teacher-directed time for planning, communicating with students and families, and providing meaningful feedback to student work. Instead, the District proposed that we all trust that principals at every school will give all educators the time they need based on the proposed sample schedules provided in bargaining.  

While PPS management insisted that their schedules were clear, we repeatedly reminded them that principals were mis-interpreting Shawn Bird’s directives. As it stands, educators are being forced to educate their administrators about how to interpret work schedules, which is not appropriate.  We know that yellow highlighting on a few example schedules is not sufficient protection for educator workload. To see our precise proposal on the workday, see #6 under Section II of our current MOA

In addition, we still have differences around DLI workload and Special Education Educator workload. While PPS conceded that there is an overwhelming amount of backlogged work, and in response offered to allow all Special Education educators 8 hours to perform “catch up work” without prior approval.  However, PPS would not guarantee that Special Education educators would qualify for additional payment, even if they can demonstrate that they have a legitimate backlog which exceeds the hours in Article 6.5.4.  When we voiced serious concerns with this, management said this was a cost savings measure and they claimed that not all Special Education educators had the same backlog.  

PPS would not agree to pay for DLI educators to translate even core related materials when those materials are not provided by the District.  We were again asked to trust that the District will develop the curriculum needed for all DLI educators.  Amazingly, they seem content to force DLI instructors to create the curriculum that should be provided by the District, without additional pay, apparently because they are concerned that it might be too costly to compensate DLI educators for the work required to do their jobs.

We also proposed that part-time educators should have educator-directed time that is proportional to that of full-time educators. Again, while this sounds like mere logic, the District would not agree.

Here is what PPS has agreed to:

  • All educators have access to their buildings during comprehensive distance learning. 
  • No educator can be required to report to a building to do their work.  
  • Educator-directed time can be flexed so that PAT members could take care of their family members or demands of homelife.  

Despite these areas of agreement, the District’s unwillingness to commit to a firm number of minutes per week of planning time is leaving us frustrated that, as the school year starts for educators, they have not taken seriously our shared interest in an enforceable agreement upon which schedules can be built.  

The District would not commit to another official meeting until September 9th; however, we hope to push the District to move toward agreement in the interim.  

You can watch today’s bargaining session here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

 

In Solidarity,

 

Your PAT Bargaining Team-

Steve Lancaster, Chair

Emy Markewitz

Francisca Alvarez

Charity Powell

Andre Hawkins

Chelyn Joseph

Bargaining Brief- August 21, 2020

Dear PAT Colleagues,

 

Your PAT Team met with PPS again yesterday (Friday, August 21) from 9am - 1pm, and we are happy to report that we have common understandings that will become signed Tentative Agreements (TAs) regarding the amount of educator-directed time in a workday.  The proposed schedules allow for a greater amount of flexibility in the schedule so that PAT educators can care for their families.  Additionally, educators will be allowed to work from their classrooms at school to ensure adequate access to the internet and materials; however, no member will be required to work on-site.  

 

In terms of the amount of educator-directed time, professional educators will have approximately three hours and 15 minutes a day to plan lessons, assess student work and provide feedback, and support and connect with families and students.  Although the amount of time varies on some days, and varies from elementary to secondary settings, the three hour and 15 minute average is very close to our original proposal of three hours and thirty minutes, and far exceeds the original district proposal.  

 

Of equal importance is the agreement that when an educator has scheduled “educator-directed time” the educator may flex that schedule so that they can address their family’s needs.  Having this flexibility should go a long way to making teaching under a Comprehensive Distance Learning Model possible for the approximately 42 percent of PAT membership who have children at home.  It also recognizes that many students and families will likewise require flexibility to be successful under distance learning.   

 

Finally, we agreed to exchange proposals on what should be part of PLCs (regardless of grade level) so that the time spent in those meetings becomes as meaningful as possible.  

 

The subjects of support for DLI and Special Education educators is still being discussed.  The two teams agreed to exchange counter proposals prior to our next negotiation session on August 27th.  

 

Next Steps:

  • Both sides plan to coordinate between now and our next negotiation session on August 27 to sign Tentative Agreements (TAs) on the issues that we agreed to yesterday pertaining to the workday and educator directed time.
  • After that, PPS can move forward with building schedules, which must comply with these workday agreements.
  • The bargaining team will continue meeting to come to agreement on the rest of the proposals, including Professional Development, Special Education, and Supports for families and students.

 

You can watch yesterday’s session online here: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3. Our next bargaining session will be Thursday, August 27, and we will live-stream the session again.  

 

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Bargaining Brief -- August 17, 2020

Dear PAT Colleagues,

Today, your PAT Bargaining Team met with PPS once again.  We began by reasserting that specific safety and equity language are essential to any agreement on returning to school, to which the District maintained the position that they believe that discussing these matters with PAT is largely a waste of time.  After this unfortunate opening of the session, we remained hopeful that we would find common ground with the District on several important return to work clauses from our proposal, where we envisioned tentatively agreeing to several items. 

However, our efforts were thwarted, when management came to negotiations asserting their right to dictate the work week schedule without genuinely consulting professional educators in general education, SpEd educators, teacher librarians, and other “specials.”  As it stands today, the amount of planning time being proposed by the district is essentially the same amount of time as professional educators had between March and June of last school year.  As virtually all of you know from personal experience, that is not enough time to address student needs or educator workload.  We continue to push District leaders to understand how their scheduling models will negatively impact the planning and preparation necessary for educators to effectively connect with and support students in a Distance Learning environment. 

With regard to Special Education, our educators remain disheartened by the overwhelming backlog of evaluations that they must complete, in addition to the crushing workload they will encounter when we return to school this fall.  The District did make a proposal that was intended to address the workload created by the backlog, but their proposal of three evaluation teams is insufficient to address the backlog in a timely fashion. With only three evaluation teams, it would take until at least December to get through the backlog. Evaluating special needs students is time sensitive and is not something that can wait until winter break. 

If you missed it live, the full session (Part 1Part 2, and Part 3) is viewable online. Our next bargaining session will be Friday, August 21st, 9 am to 1 pm. We will live-stream the session again.  

It is crucial that we get to an agreement about our workday by Friday. Stay tuned for next steps if that does not happen. 

 

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Bargaining Brief- August 10, 2020

Dear PAT Colleagues,

Today, your PAT Bargaining team met with the District again to negotiate an agreement on a safe and equitable return to school. If you missed it live, the full session (Part 1 and Part 2) is viewable online. 

We started by discussing the district’s concepts for the educator work day and the student day. The district presented schedules for Elementary, Middle, and High School to discuss. The PAT team is holding tight to our requirement that at least half the educator work day be dedicated to teacher-directed time for planning, contacting families, and supporting students. While the district’s concept for the elementary schedule came much closer to what PAT is asking for, it was not clear that the high school or middle school schedules would provide enough teacher-directed planning and communication time to allow educators to meet the demands of on-line learning.  

We recognize that the district is obliged to follow ODE Guidelines on instruction time for students under distance learning (see ODE Guidelines and sample schedules for grades K-5 and 6-12). We believe that it is possible to do so while preserving educator planning time, and without asking children to be in front of a screen for most of the day.

The district shared the PPS counterproposal to the PAT proposal from last week. The PPS counterproposal stripped all the language that PAT proposed on equity and support to students and families.  In spite of the difficulties Portland families face during the epidemic, PPS does

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Bargaining Brief, August 3rd, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

Today, your PAT Bargaining Team met with the District in our 3rd bargaining session to negotiate an agreement on a safe and equitable return to school. Thank you to the 100+ members who tuned in live to watch. If you missed it, the full session is viewable online. 

During today’s bargain, we presented the District with a comprehensive “Re-opening School Proposal,” which included elements of the workday for professional educators in general education, Special Education & related student services, and Dual Language Instruction. In addition, PAT specifically identified and proposed supports for PPS families, including child care needs while schools remain closed so that no student in the district is excluded from the educational experience. We also proposed that the District provide high quality training and live tech support for parents (in families’ home languages) once distance learning begins.   

The District made a presentation that included some partially developed schedules for high school and middle school, as well as an outline of a student day for elementary school.  Unfortunately, the amount of time in the day for planning, assessment of student work, data tracking/grade entry, and family/student contact was significantly less than what PAT has proposed.  Our goal remains the creation of a meaningful educational experience for students and sustainable educator workload and workday.  

Our next bargaining session will be Monday, August 10th from 1:00 to 5:00pm. We will live-stream the session again-- please tune in!

In Solidarity,

Your PAT Bargaining Team-

Steve Lancaster, Chair

Emy Markewitz

Francisca Alvarez

Charity Powell

Andre Hawkins

Chelyn Joseph 

Portland Association of Teachers
http://www.pdxteachers.org/

Bargaining Brief- July 30, 2020

Dear PAT Educator,

Today, your PAT Bargaining Team met with the District for the second time. The main topic of discussion was the educator work day under Comprehensive Distance Learning. While the District team was not yet ready to share a proposal with us, your PAT team proposed that professional educators will need to have at least half of the day in teacher directed time to perform the tasks necessary to make Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) possible for students in the 2020-21 school year. You can read more about our proposal here.

We also brought forward concerns about workload of Special Education educators. We made clear that the work required of Special Education educators in the March to June initial closure exceeded the number of hours in a contractual workweek. We stressed that PPS must come up with a reasonable plan for Special Education workload, and informed the District that our survey of Special Education members would guide our proposals on this issue.  

Finally, we stressed that our DLI teachers would need specific and meaningful assistance in producing materials for instruction under Comprehensive Distance Learning. 

We apologize for the technical difficulties that did not allow us to live stream our negotiation session today. You can watch recordings of this bargaining session at these two links: Part 1 and Part 2.

Next Steps

 

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Bargaining Brief, July 23, 2020

PAT Colleagues:

Today, your PAT Bargaining Team met with the District to begin bargaining our Memorandum of  Agreement on safely returning to work.

At this initial meeting, we discussed bargaining ground rules, and our PAT Bargaining Chair, Steve Lancaster, shared this preamble to make PAT’s priorities clear. We exchanged topics, with both sides agreeing that crucial issues to resolve include workday, leaves of absence, building access, and Special Education. Your PAT team also stressed throughout the meeting the importance of better supporting our students and families, including with nutrition, technology, mentoring, engagement, and communications and support in the family’s preferred language.

Notably, both sides agreed to start our negotiation sessions with a focus on Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL), acknowledging that returning to live instruction is not viable under current conditions.

We made clear that the current level of planning/preparation time is woefully inadequate under normal circumstances, and will need to be dramatically expanded for Distance Learning to be effective. We intend to stress the need for embedded time in every work-day for lesson planning, assessment, student feedback, outreach/communication to families, as well as instruction. 

Finally, we indicated that our colleagues in Special Education, School Psychologist, and SLP positions (to name a few) have a “backlog” of work from last year as well as the upcoming year’s new tasks, and that the return to work must take into account those demands.

You can watch recordings of this bargaining session at these two links: Part 1 and Part 2.

Next Steps

We are scheduled to meet with the District team again on July 30th where we expect to address what an educator’s day looks like in a CDL model.  

Thank you for your support as we advocate for the needs of our learning community during this ongoing health crisis.

Your PAT Bargaining Team-

Steve Lancaster, Chair

Emy Markewitz

Francisca Alvarez

Charity Powell

Andre Hawkins

Chelyn Joseph

 Meet Your Bargaining Team:

 

Bargaining Brief: Re-Opening Schools

PAT Colleagues:

Your bargaining team wants to thank everyone who responded to the recent survey about the return to school.  We know how busy you all are, and we appreciate and value your input.  

Here's what we've learned from PAT members when it comes to a safe return to school.  The overwhelming majority of PAT members (72%) want to work under a Comprehensive Distance Learning model.  Not surprisingly, only 4% of the PAT membership wanted to return to a full On-Site-For-Students model of instruction.

Through unofficial discussions with PPS leadership over the last few days, we've let them know how PAT members feel about what would make a safe reopening. At this time, we believe that PPS agrees with the clear demand of PAT members, that prioritizing the safety of students and educators requires that schools reopen with the online-only model.  We expect PPS to make an official communication about that in a week or so, but the Bargaining Team and PAT Leadership want you to know that your survey responses, emails, and calls made this possible. 

On Thursday, the PAT Bargaining Team and PPS representatives will begin formal discussions to craft a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) about working conditions under an Online Distance Learning model and the eventual return to a traditional school experience. The extraordinary nature of this pandemic means that our contract does not address many of the issues educators face in a Distance-Learning scenario. The MOA will only cover a relatively brief period of time and address a specific set of conditions. 

Our bargaining team will be asking for agreements in 2 areas, to address educator-specific needs and workload under distance learning, as well as the needs of our students and families. Here are some of the things we are asking for:

1.  Community and Student Needs

  • Reliable access to online learning for every student who needs it (wi-fi and a device), plus technology support for families in their home language.
  • Dedicated staff teams to consistently support  students who are not engaging in online learning.
  • Physical materials and supplies to support students with limited access to technology, made available at school-based food distribution sites, and/or delivered directly to students’ homes.
  • Plans that mitigate risks for immigrant students and families who may be undocumented.
  • Uniform processes at each school site to engage students and families directly about what they need, as well as communication in all school community languages.
  • Support for educators to implement affinity groups that build on student strengths ( eg. MEChA, Black Student Unions, and LGBTQ2SIA+ groups). 
  • Professional Development for all educators around Racial Equity, Restorative Practices, and Anti-Racist teaching
  • Low-cost or no-cost child care for all PPS employees who need the support.
  • Utilization of substitute teachers for daily academic support

2. Workload for Successful Comprehensive Distance Learning or Hybrid models

  • Educators should not be REQUIRED to work in classrooms/offices, but have FULL ACCESS to classrooms for conducting online instruction/student support.  
  • Professional Development on opportunities on best practices for distance instruction; addressing students in crisis-situations; supporting students with special education needs in a virtual setting; providing mental health support remotely.
  • Access to trained substitute educators for excess caseload circumstances. 
  • “PD” for families, including to help them better assist their students in the educational processes.
  • Increased embedded daily planning time to produce Distance Learning lessons
  • Time embedded daily for student connections/family communication
  • Time embedded daily for the assessing student work and providing feedback.
  • Release from workload for special education providers completing backlogged evaluations (e.g. SIT, testing coordination, mentoring, committees).

Next Steps:

We will use Zoom to hold the MOA discussion on Thursday, and we will record the meeting so that PAT members can listen to what happened in the meeting.  In the future meetings, we will look into a live stream version if we can arrange a method that is not disruptive to the process. 

Once we have the MOA completed, the PAT will begin bargaining the successor Collective Bargaining Agreement.  That document will contain changes that will be in place for the length of the agreement, and therefore will address many of the demands not addressed in the MOA agreement. 

In the next few days and weeks we will keep you up to date on progress as we negotiate our return-to-work MOA. Just as you did with the bargaining survey, we count on your solidarity to allow us accomplish the bargaining goals that will lift students and educators. 

Now more than ever before our collective voice is essential as we advocate for our colleagues, students and communities.

In solidarity,

Steve Lancaster, PAT Bargaining Chair

Elizabeth Thiel, PAT President

Bargaining in the Time of COVID-19

A Message from Steve Lancaster, PAT Bargaining Team Chair

Hello Colleagues!

I want to share with you where we are right now with bargaining, and offer a few thoughts and analysis from our “Return to School” survey. As you know, our plans for bargaining significant improvements to our contract have been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now facing budget shortfalls rather than the infusion of new monies that we had all been anticipating. Concurrently, we are navigating truly unprecedented working conditions as we prepare to return to work in August. As a result, PAT will be moving forward on two fronts simultaneously.

Bargaining Our Successor Agreement
We will be bargaining a successor agreement to our current contract with a limited number of issues on the table including workplace safety, equity issues including restorative practices, compensation, and benefits. All of the hard work that has been done on contract improvements will not be lost. Some of the proposals that were developed will fall within the scope of the limited bargain. We will bring the remainder of the improvements to the table in the next bargaining cycle when (hopefully) the effects of the pandemic are no longer driving our decisions.

Negotiating an MOA for the Fall
We will be aggressively negotiating a Memorandum of Agreement (which has the force of our contract but does not become a permanent part of our contract language) regarding the terms of our return to work in
August. There are a truly mind-boggling number of issues to work through to determine what our teaching and learning conditions will be for this next school year. With only seven weeks before we are expected to report for work, and the district’s August 15th deadline to publish a plan, we have an incredibly short window of time to get contractual protections in place. As we negotiate through the summer (starting the week of July 20th), we may call upon you to provide your insights if you are willing to do so during your summer break.

As for our Return to Work Survey, first some data points:

43% of members indicated that they either have or live with someone who is high risk
32% of members said that they would be unlikely to return if they could not be certain of a sanitary work space while 80% expressed very low confidence that proper sanitation could be provided by the District
60% of members believe that their work space lacks adequate ventilation
15% (1 in 6) members indicated that they were unlikely to return to work if it involved any level of face-to-face instruction

Second, as far as we know, the District does not yet have answers to key liability questions such as: What happens if a teacher becomes ill? Is this a Worker’s Compensation issue or personal health insurance? What happens if a child becomes ill and is hospitalized or dies – can the family sue the school district? If it could be shown that even one required element of the ODE’s reopening plan had not been implemented with fidelity, wouldn’t the District be considered legally negligent? If an administrator knew (or should have known) of an area of safety non-compliance but failed to act to correct it, could they be held criminally or civilly liable? Given the size of our district and the decrepitude of many of our physical sites, it seems that there is a huge and unknown financial liability to reopening with face to face instruction.

Third, given that COVID-19 is far from under control, there is a statistical certainty that cases will break out in schools and be transmitted to educators, educator families, and student families. The opening of schools almost guarantees the acceleration of community spread of COVID at a time when we are still far from effective treatments or a vaccine and the health system is very vulnerable to becoming quickly overwhelmed. This ensures that, statistically speaking, the opening of schools will result in sickness and death that would otherwise not occur. While it might be legal, and there may be public pressure to open schools, to engage in a policy that you can be reasonably confident will cause suffering and death is immoral.

Fourth, even if a successful hybrid model could be designed that somehow negated all of the issues above, as soon as you have an outbreak in a building, students and teachers will be placed into quarantine and have no other option than a fully on-line model. Eventually, you will have 88 schools that are all in a chaotic cycle of opening and closing which would be much more disruptive to teachers, students and families than a fully on-line model that would remain consistent through the school year.

These points alone lead to the conclusion that large scale in-person teaching is not feasible. When you add to this the numerous impracticalities, logistical impossibilities, and technical barriers to complying with just the required elements of the ODE reopening plan, and the fact that there will not be sufficient resources available even if none of those problems existed, I see no viable path to a safe and functional hybrid model that could serve most students.

We know that on-line teaching will be featured prominently even in a hybrid model. We should be focusing our time and resources on providing the best possible virtual learning experience that we can. This will take an enormous amount of planning to accomplish and we have very little time. If we spend what little time is available to us in a vain attempt to offer some minimal face-to-face instruction, then we are likely to get to the start of the school year without having an adequate virtual school plan in place. Educators and students will find themselves in a situation that is much like what we experienced in March and April. This would be a disaster! We are pushing for PPS to first develop a workable on-line instruction plan. Once such plans are well developed, and with safety measures that would prevent the spread of disease, then we will diligently explore what it might look like to get students and educators safely back into buildings.

Thanks so much for your steadfast partnership in this work!

Steve Lancaster

PAT Bargaining Chair

Portland Association of Teachers

Bargaining Update, July 2020

Hello Colleagues! 

I want to share with you where we are right now with bargaining, and offer a few thoughts and analysis from our “Return to School” survey. As you know, our plans for bargaining significant improvements to our contract have been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are now facing budget shortfalls rather than the infusion of new monies that we had all been anticipating. Concurrently, we are navigating truly unprecedented working conditions as we prepare to return to work in August. As a result, PAT will be moving forward on two fronts simultaneously. 

Bargaining Our Successor Agreement

We will be bargaining a successor agreement to our current contract with a limited number of issues on the table including workplace safety, equity issues including restorative practices, compensation, and benefits. All of the hard work that has been done on contract improvements will not be lost. Some of the proposals that were developed will fall within the scope of the limited bargain. We will bring the remainder of the improvements to the table in the next bargaining cycle when (hopefully) the effects of the pandemic are no longer driving our decisions.

Negotiating an MOA for the Fall

We will be aggressively negotiating a Memorandum of Agreement (which has the force of our contract but does not become a permanent part of our contract language) regarding the terms of our return to work in August. There are a truly mind-boggling number of issues to work through to determine what our teaching and learning conditions will be for this next school year. With only seven weeks before we are expected to report for work, and the district’s August 15th deadline to publish a plan, we have an incredibly short window of time to get contractual protections in place. As we negotiate through the summer (starting the week of July 20th), we may call upon you to provide your insights if you are willing to do so during your summer break.

As for our Return to Work Survey, first some data points:

 

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