Congratulations on the completion of the 2019-2020 school year. Though it’s not the year we hoped to have, there is so much to be proud of and celebrate, while acknowledging the long road ahead.
We end the year in the midst of worldwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, and the institutional racism and white supremacy that enables police throughout the country to continue killing people of color.
This uprising has sparked long overdue changes, and a much needed conversation over what makes our communities safe and how our public budgets should reflect our values and meet community needs.
Night after night, tens of thousands of Portlanders have taken to the streets to protest police violence, demonstrating the power of collection action and why we must continue to organize for the world we want, for ourselves and our students.
We know the change we want does not come easily, but we must continue to stand up and speak out.
I’m proud of the work our Racial Equity and Social Justice committees have done to bring together educators of color and allies. As a union, PAT will continue to raise the bar, challenging us all to do better for our students and our colleagues. Our committees will continue to lead on this difficult work, and support us all in this journey. For now, we can celebrate the removal of police as a regular presence in our schools.
We should also be proud of the work we’ve done to secure more funding for schools--and our advocacy with PPS on directing how those dollars are spent. The District’s financial situation next year was a great unknown after the pandemic hit. We feared the worst, but once again, our collective action paid off.
We took the risk of agreeing to participate in the Work Share program, and delaying our full compensation, to save an estimated $10 million for the District. We fought the businesses who wanted to use the pandemic as an excuse not to pay their taxes. We lobbied Congress for added school funding.
And while Oregon hasn't achieved fully-funded schools yet, next year will still see an increase in our overall budget. We will have a total of 50 additional PAT members starting in the fall, and PPS is investing in the areas where we’ve highlighted our acute needs, like counselors, social workers, and special education supports.
If the pandemic had not happened, we would be seeing lower class sizes next year, along with many other supports. Even without realizing these gains yet, our work with students and families has paved the way for where to invest new resources as we emerge from this recession.
We know summer means very different things for educators, and this summer is totally different than anything we’ve ever experienced.
Many of us work second jobs, which may or may not exist because of COVID-19. And for those of us counting on that extra income, we’re figuring out what to do. Many of us use summer to pursue education credits or develop lesson plans. Now we must do this in the context of social distancing. Some of us are figuring out how to mark your children’s educational milestones without familiar traditions and ceremonies. While others of us are preparing our children for the next step in their education, whether it’s the first day of kindergarten or moving them into their college dorm room, there will be the added challenge of figuring out what will be open and when.
As you wrap up your year, please take a moment to acknowledge your colleagues who are retiring, switching schools, or leaving PPS. It isn’t easy to say goodbye virtually.
And as my term as PAT President ends, I’m not saying goodbye, just see you later. I look forward to continuing to serve my students and my union as a classroom educator. I’m excited for what our incoming President, Elizabeth Thiel, has planned for us moving forward, and am grateful for her leadership.
Whatever challenges and joys this summer brings you, take some time to celebrate the work we’ve done together.