Yesterday, your bargaining team met with the District for our final session focused solely on student support, discipline and safety (contained in Article 9 of the PAT-PPS contract). You can watch the bargaining session on the PAT YouTube channel. Later this month we will start bargaining over changes to our entire contract.
In yesterday’s session, PAT bargaining members finished presenting our key questions for the District, including:
Causing Harm or Threat of Harm to an Educator: While the District continues to criticize our current contract language that requires a 5 day suspension when a student harms or threatens to harm an educator, they have yet to provide an alternative. How will the district ensure that we have the time and staffing to support students who have threatened or caused harm to educators? Right now, the District’s answer: “It will be at the Administrator’s discretion”.
Appropriate Duty Schedule: How can we make sure our Mental Health support teams are not the sole or primary staff on duty? More duty ensures they will write a disproportionate level of disciplinary referrals, which can negatively impact their relationships with the students they counsel. How can we ensure we have enough staff on duty to keep students and staff safe? How can we keep the relationship between students and our Mental Health support team members supportive and therapeutic?
Environmental Safety: PPS rejected our language around basic building cleanliness, along with specific temperature and safety standards. PPS’ lawyer made it clear: The District is only interested in addressing environmental issues in our buildings if they are an “immediate danger created by an unsafe working condition when such danger threatens substantial bodily injury or would be a significant health hazard” (current contract language). Otherwise, educators could consider a “dusty room” or a room at “59 degrees” a hazard under our proposal and will “routinely” close classrooms.
It’s interesting that the District’s own recently concluded Facilities Report found that we are operating with less than half of the maintenance staff required to manage the number of buildings in PPS (see pp 15-18) so it’s no wonder we consistently have school temperature and so many other issues across the District! How many leaks in our classrooms until it is seen as a hazard? How many mornings of cleaning rat feces from student desks? How many days of freezing classrooms? How many sick days taken due to mold will be enough? How many more threats? How many more excuses?
Basic Classroom Safety: We need working phones at all times in every location an educator may be asked to work. When the electricity and internet is out, we need alternative communication options. We need doors that lock from the inside. We need basic safety standards across our sites, but the District has not yet agreed to add most of these common sense measures to their language.
Accountability and Support for Special Education: Educators shared how often we’ve been told by administrators that students cannot be held accountable for their behaviors if they have an IEP. When pushed to explain where in the law that is stated, Mr. Buno, the former Head of Special Education and current Head of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support at PPS, was unable to provide any clarification. Our students with IEPs should not be held to a higher standard or be excused from disciplinary processes. Just like all of our students, they deserve accountability and support.
At the end of the day, we know that our students and our communities deserve better. They deserve spaces that are clean and safe. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They deserve to be believed when they share that their spaces are not a safe place to teach and learn.
This is why we will be broadening our bargaining later this month to address not just the unresolved issues around student support, discipline and safety, but ALL the critical issues facing our schools.
PAT Bargaining Team
Steve Lancaster, Chair
Portland Association of Teachers