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