Hello PAT Educators,
We met with District management for our 7th Bargaining Session today.
We had a guest School Psychologist, Emilee Refvem and a guest Counselor, Amy Henry join Bargaining Team member and Counselor Samara Bockelman to discuss the crushing workloads that have been created by the mental and behavioral health crisis that our students are facing (Check out their testimony HERE). Hearing them discuss the challenges that they and their students face on a daily basis was difficult and emotionally draining. They made it perfectly clear that our students are best served with a full team of student services educators, including Social Workers and Qualified Mental Healthcare Professionals.
They also helped all of us to understand how negatively an entire school community is impacted when a full team of mental and behavioral health professionals are not available to students. This leads to our current reality; Dysregulated students, room clears, students at risk of hurting others or themselves. We heard testimony about hundreds of suicide evaluations being performed just this year so far. This is why our proposals calls for a Counselor, School Psychologist, Social Worker, and Qualified Mental Healthcare Professional to be available for every student. But its not enough to claim you have these supports in place, you must ensure that caseloads are kept within a range that makes it possible to serve the needs of students. This is why our proposal not only mandates student support teams but places caseload caps on their workloads to ensure that when a student is in crisis there is a caring and qualified person who can help.
Both teams continued to exchange proposals on less central articles, and we tentatively on Article 5- Grievance Procedure, preserving some of our rights that are unique to our contract. We continue to be concerned that the District is proposing to remove Just Cause rights from our contract, a standard contract clause that requires the District actually have a valid reason to discipline Educators.
We are scheduled to meet with Management again on April 27th. It is our hope that District Management will be ready to engage with us on mental health supports, and some of the other critical issues such as class size/caseload caps for all, more planning time, compensation that keeps up with inflation and the many other pressing needs of students and educator that are a part of our bargaining platform (link to platform here).
We are going to be escalating our organizing in the field around our Contract Campaign. We will win the best contract we have ever had by organizing ourselves internally and allying with our community. Please watch for upcoming contract actions and see your Building Reps and Internal Organizers for more information.
Your PAT Bargaining Team
Steve Lancaster, Chair
Portland Association of Teachers