A Big Ask You Need to Answer

Before I was PAT President, I taught 7th grade Math and Science at Peninsula, back when it was a K-8. Despite being a Title 1 school, we didn’t have a counselor. 

When we finally got a part-time one, he came for a visit to my class and talked to my students about drugs and alcohol. His message was that it’s important to find ways to get “naturally high.” After he left, my students were full of questions. I remember one in particular, a young woman with a poor attendance record and on an IEP for behavior, asked me, “Ms Cohen, what’s your natural high?” 

I told her and the rest of the class that now I enjoy hiking and kayaking, but that when I was in middle school it was Drama.  She squinted at me and asked, “Drama? What’s Drama?”

Every seventh-grader in Portland should have the chance to explore Drama, along with so many other so-called “extras” that spark creativity and a love of learning.

That’s why we’re asking you to do a lot in the next 40 days. We need you to phone bank and canvass for Measure 97 because no middle school student should be denied the opportunity to discover their natural high.

Measure 97 will also help us address our District’s class size crisis. One of my first calls this year was from Mt. Tabor middle school, where teachers were grappling with huge classes. One teacher had 47 students! Working with the District we dealt with the worst cases and now educators only have 38 students in class. But is that acceptable? Is that good enough?

At one elementary school, first grade classes have 31 students. The District’s proposal is to create a 4/5 blend and move an educator to 1st grade or keep the large classes. Is that a real solution?

Your class sizes and caseloads are huge. Curriculum is lacking and outdated. You’re spending your own money on your students and working evenings and weekends. No wonder it feels like a big ask to come to the PAT office and phone bank or go out canvassing on the weekend. 

You’ve got good reasons to say no, but even better reasons to say yes.

We all have an example of our students getting short-changed. If we don’t pass Measure 97, we’ll have many more, since the District has made it clear that without it we’ll be facing more cuts next year.

I know you can find 2 hours in the next month to pitch in, and do your part. Together, we can reverse a generation of cuts and start building the schools our students truly deserve.

Answer that call. Say yes.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Cohen
PAT President