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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Bargaining Brief - January 16, 2018

After five days of continuous negotiations, this morning at 3:00 AM your PAT bargaining team agreed on a settlement framework with our District counterparts.

Significant details remain to be formalized, but we hope to finalize a tentative agreement by Thursday afternoon.

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Bargaining Brief, January 11, 2018

Your bargaining team met with their District counterparts until 8:00 this evening. We informed the District that we were prepared to work over the next five days in order to reach an agreement, and to stick with the mediation process, no matter where it takes us over the weekend.

We were pleased to receive a similar commitment from the District team.

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A Message From your PAT Bargaining Chair

Your PAT Bargaining team has blocked off five days over the next week in the hopes of reaching a settlement with the District. In addition to meeting all day Thursday and Friday, we’re prepared to meet every day over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.

We will do everything we can to facilitate a fair contract settlement this weekend.

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Bargaining Fact Sheet - Safety

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We Want Safe and Supportive Schools

As educators, we believe a safe and supportive learning environment is one of the cornerstones for creating great public schools.

We want PPS to be a place where students can make mistakes and be welcomed back into their classroom communities.

But we know that interventions are needed for this to work, and many students will require ongoing support. Indeed, the entire District needs reliable, consistent systems in place if we want to foster safer schools.

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Bargaining Brief, December 5, 2017

Your PAT bargaining team met with the District until close to 8:00 PM last night.

We presented a mini-package of issues to the District in the morning, and after an exchange of proposals we were able to settle on language for several smaller articles where we’ve been previously close to agreement.

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Thankful for Solidarity

This week your PAT bargaining team is THANKFUL for all the work you and your colleagues have done to settle our contract. From wearing blue on Tuesdays to attending school board meetings, your collective efforts are having an impact!

Last week we had two days of mediation with the District and it feels like bargaining has finally begun. Although we have had substantive discussions, and were even able to exchange proposals back and forth, no new agreements were reached.

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Bargaining Brief, November 16th

Your PAT bargaining team met with the District until 8:00 PM tonight. 

We spent the bulk of our time reviewing each side’s proposals around workload, workday, and work year. We also touched on several other key issues such as salary, special education supports, and professional development.

Thanks to your organizing efforts, it felt like bargaining finally began today.

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