Dear PAT Colleagues,
Your PAT Bargaining Team met with PPS yesterday (Part 1, Part 2) to negotiate terms for a safe, stable, and equitable return to in-person education. The session resulted in frank discussions which resulted in one key victory.
PAT finally moved PPS to agree that simulcast is no longer a plan the District is intending to use for in-person education. Instead, simulcast is a plan that will be used only if educators select it as the best option for their school. The hundreds of PAT member emails sent to district leaders telling them why simulcast/concurrent learning is a bad educational model made a difference, and the issue now appears to be settled. We would love to see the District return the cameras that they spent $1.5 million on, and instead use that money to truly modernize our classrooms and make sure our facilities are ready to provide greater indoor and outdoor in-person opportunities for students.
Although this win was significant, PAT did not receive substantive responses to any of the new proposals presented to the District related to quality education and safe working conditions.
To begin with, your Team proposed a Safety Committee for each building, “to ensure that all of the provisions pertaining to health and safety in this agreement are in place.” That committee would be made up of building administrators and PAT members approved by the Association who would evaluate all spaces and certify that the terms of the agreement were met.
We also made a proposal which would guarantee that educator voice would be part of approving any in-person educational model. Our proposed language states (among other things), “Professional educators and building administrators will select the instructional model for in-person instruction that best meets the student and family needs of their school community. The selection within the building will be approved after a building vote.” We believe that this language meets the District’s stated position that the models used in April will be building specific. By having an equal professional educator and administrator voice in making that decision, we believe that the needs of families and students will actually be the guides for building plans, rather than purely PPS-institutional needs.
The other proposal of major significance is that your PAT Team totally rejected the district proposal that educators and students would be required to clean high-touch surfaces between cohorts of students. While PAT does not represent custodial staff, we have a difficult time understanding how the cleaning that is necessary to maintain a safe environment for students and educators can be done without hiring additional custodial staff. Requiring educators and students to clean is not a solution.
Your PAT Team believes that through the use of building Safety Committees, professional educator voice in selecting the instructional model that is right for their school community, and common-sense protocols on cleaning in classrooms, we will be able to create a workable set of conditions to return to in-person instruction. Those ideas, combined with earlier proposals for alternate assignments for educators with medical/family needs, paid leaves for those educators that are not able to return to any form of in-person instruction, access to childcare, adequate educator-directed time in the week, and all of the other safety and workload provisions we have proposed, will produce a fourth quarter where PAT members can truly meet student and educator needs for safe, stable, and equitable school communities.
Today, February 25, 2021, was a date your PAT Team had agreed would be an extended bargaining session with PPS. Yesterday we realized that continuing to meet with PPS while it actively ignored PAT member positions was a futile endeavor, and therefore we canceled the bargaining session.
In bargaining on the 22nd, PPS continued to suggest that the “simulcast/concurrent learning” instructional model was only one option for K-5 instruction this spring, and was simply being presented to show one idea. Unfortunately, at the PPS School Board Meeting, the tone and comments during the presentation of the simulcast/concurrent learning model did not indicate that it was simply an idea. The District’s $1.5 million purchase of camera equipment, completed before ever mentioning the concept of a simulcast hybrid model to PAT, appears to be another strong indication of their intentions to act unilaterally. In addition, based on the data presented to our Team on Monday, PAT believes that the District’s highly flawed family interest survey data, as presented to the School Board on Tuesday, was a less than fully honest portrayal of the results.
Your PAT Bargaining Team has been absolutely direct with PPS on multiple occasions, that 93% of the PAT membership believes the simulcast/concurrent learning model is terrible, and that the PAT Team would never accept such an approach. In spite of this, PPS is pushing that exact plan without offering any alternatives. We canceled today’s bargaining session because your Team will not allow PPS to ignore the clearly stated beliefs of the overwhelming majority of PAT professional educators.
This afternoon, PAT Organizers, the PAT Bargaining Team, and PAT Leadership are meeting to plan our next steps. Very soon you will receive a survey which we hope to have everyone complete, and your Building Organizer will reach out for other forms of member feedback related to the return to in-person instruction.
Your PAT Bargaining Team follows the will of our members, and we will only take a position when we know what the majority of our members believe. We look forward to hearing from all of you through our survey and the Building Organizers.
As always, we succeed in moving your interests forward when all of us stand together.
Your PAT Bargaining Team met with PPS in bargaining negotiations on Thursday, February 18th (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), and on Monday, February 22nd (Part 1). The primary focus of both sessions was the District’s announced plan to begin a Hybrid instructional model in April this year.
PPS has been involved in a no-holds-barred approach to negotiations regarding moving to Hybrid education since its first announcement. In spite of the District’s claims of “we hope for collaboration,” it is clear that the District was planning on a PAT-capitulation approach. Nonetheless, PAT has forced the District to address two of PAT members’ major concerns, regarding ventilation and cohort size:
1. PAT has been able to move the District to recognize that the ventilation systems in PPS buildings do not provide for educator or student safety during a pandemic. Originally, PPS informed PAT that it was doing a “what the building can accommodate” method of providing for indoor air quality. When your PAT Team pushed back, PPS agreed that it would review the issue. The next PPS negotiations statement was that the District was working to replace all filters and repair dampers to increase outdoor air supply to rooms, and having done so, had met all their regulatory requirements for air quality. Your PAT Team again pushed back showing the District that its second shot at addressing this issue didn’t match reasonable safety guidelines.
Yesterday, PPS informed PAT that it was/is purchasing a HEPA-certified, appropriately sized air purification device for each student-occupied building space. So far, PPS already has 500 filters on hand, and the District is awaiting more than 1,000 more. In addition, there are over 1,000 additional filters that have been ordered and will be in-district prior to the opening of in-person activities. HEPA-certified filtration meets or exceeds MERV 16 filters, and that means that indoor air quality, when combined with distancing, masking, and the other HVAC improvements described by the District, will make for a safe classroom environment.
2. Not only has PPS recognized its responsibility to provide safety with air purification, but yesterday PPS accepted the PAT proposal that student cohorts should be determined not by a “one-size-fits-all” approach, but by safe social distancing standards determined by each room.
The social distancing and air quality victories means that your Team may, for the first time, begin to see a way to move towards a vision of some form of Hybrid instruction becoming a reality. We have always known that members long to work with their students in person, but that many members were rightfully concerned about personal, family, student, and student-family safety. Yesterday’s successes, combined with the improving public health metrics, mean that we may have a way to reach those goals.
We know from our surveys that the vast majority of PAT members are opposed to the “simulcast” model of instruction. Your Team does not plan to propose what model in-person education should take, and we don’t know what model our professional educators believe is best.
At the same time, we know that there are some demands for working conditions that are set in stone, regardless of the Hybrid model:
- We know that educators need significant individual-planning time.
- We know that educators need to have time to function as teachers and not as cleaning crew or IT/Tech support.
- We know that the District must make accommodations for individuals who have personal or family health issues.
- We know that there are significant logistical and practical issues to consider in making a transition to partial in-person teaching.
- Finally, we know that many members have their own children who may not be returning to in-person school and will therefore need supports.
For all these issues, your Bargaining Team will continue to set guardrails to ensure that any model the District selects will address what we need to be able to do our jobs.
We will be reaching out to you in the coming weeks to learn more about your priorities for the spring. Once we have that information, we will present new proposals to the District.
It is through your insight and solidarity that your Team is able to move all of our needs forward. Your Team is grateful for the support expressed to us and we count on that support moving forward. Together we will fight for an educational model that works for students and educators in PPS in spite of COVID-19.
Last week, we surveyed all members to find out your positions in regard to the District’s plan to begin Hybrid instruction in April. Our response at the bargaining table and in our advocacy is driven by our members' priorities, so it is crucial that we hear from all our members. We again had a huge response to this survey; by the time the survey closed, we heard from 2,818 members, or about 80% of our membership.
One thing that is crystal clear is that our members do NOT support a Simulcast Hybrid model. When asked which option would best meet your students’ educational needs for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year, only 7.5% chose the Simulcast model for Hybrid instruction.
In another question, 77% of educators responded that student needs would be better met by putting resources into improving CDL and meeting student needs through LIPI, than by shifting resources toward implementing a Hybrid model. When disaggregated by race, that number rose to 83% of educators of color.
We asked educators to identify MAJOR CONCERNS with shifting to a Hybrid model for 4th quarter, assuming educators have been fully vaccinated, and following all required ODE RSSL guidelines. Educators’ top concerns continue to be about safety. These are the top 3 responses:
- Risk of students spreading Covid-19 to non-vaccinated family members (87%)
- Lack of adequate ventilation and sanitation in your school (78%)
- Risk of teachers spreading Covid-19 to non-vaccinated family members (78%)
We realize that there are different considerations in implementing Hybrid instruction for different grade levels, so we asked members to what degree you support the goal of beginning Hybrid instruction at four different grade bands:
- For PK-2, only 25% of all members responded that they support shifting to Hybrid; this percentage was almost the same when we looked at the responses of just PK-2 educators (26%). The results for 3rd-5th grade were similar, with 23% of all members supporting Hybrid for these grades, and 25% of 3rd-5th grade educators supporting it.
- There was even less support for the goal of offering Hybrid for 6th-8th grade or 9th-12th grade, with 18% of middle school educators supporting a middle school Hybrid, and 19% of high school educators supporting high school Hybrid.
While educators’ top concerns continue to be the safety and well-being of our students, these results make it clear that educators do not believe that implementing a Hybrid model this spring, particularly one built around Simulcast, would best serve our students’ educational needs.
Given these results, our bargaining team will continue to fight for safe working conditions for when we do return to in-person learning. However, educators’ responses also make it clear that the priority is not getting as many students as possible into physical classrooms during this pandemic, but rather identifying student needs, and determining how we can best safely address those needs by improving Comprehensive Distance Learning and CDL supports, and increasing Limited In-Person Instruction options to meet needs that cannot be addressed remotely.
Portland Association of Teachers
In order to best represent all our members, we again need to hear from you. Please read the information below, and then take the short bargaining survey that was sent to your PPS email inbox around 2:35pm today.
The survey will close at 12:00pm next Wednesday, February 10. Only PAT members may take the survey. If you are not a member of PAT, but would like to join so you can take the bargaining survey, please respond to this email.
Last week, at the January 26th PPS School Board Meeting and in an email to PPS staff and families, the District announced its intention to begin Hybrid instruction for families that choose it. PPS informed everyone that it was beginning Hybrid instruction in April. At the end of our bargaining session on February 4th, the District announced their intention to pursue a “simulcast” version of hybrid instruction. (Please read the February 4th Bargaining Brief for more information.)
Hybrid Instruction is different than LIPI (Limited-in-Person-Instruction). In LIPI, students receive their general instruction through CDL, but may have the opportunity for additional in-person support. “Hybrid” instruction means students receive some of their general instruction in-person, but in smaller groups to accommodate for Covid-19 safety protocols. In most Hybrid models, students attend class in-person for half-days or for 2 days per week, and participate in distance learning the rest of the time.
A Simulcast Hybrid would mean that educators would hold in-person instruction for the portion of their students who have opted to attend in person, and simultaneously instruct the remainder of their students who have opted to remain in CDL online via a live video feed.
The District’s plan is still in the initial stages of development and there is much that we do not know about how their plan will be operationalized, so we ask to hear your thoughts based on the limited information that we DO have.
Hybrid Instruction in PPS: What we know-
- PPS has indicated a plan to begin in April using a “simulcast” model.
- They indicated an intention to start with the youngest students at some schools, and to scale up to include all elementary school grades and potentially middle grades.
- Students and families would be given a choice to remain in CDL (through simulcast) or to participate in Hybrid learning.
- Schools would follow all of the required safety guidelines in the ODE RSSL, including 35 square feet per person and the requirement for most students to wear masks. However, the safety protocols listed as “recommended” may or may not be followed.
- Educators in grade levels or programs that implement hybrid instruction would be required to teach in-person.
- Our MOU proposals state that educators shall not teach CDL and Hybrid at the same time. This would require separate staffing of CDL and Hybrid.
- PPS is required to bargain around our safety and working conditions.
- PPS plans to survey families next week to find out how many students want to participate in a Hybrid learning model.
Hybrid Instruction in PPS: What we DON’T know-
- How many families, and which families, would choose Hybrid over CDL.
- How the District would accommodate educators who are unable to be vaccinated.
- How the transition from CDL to Hybrid would occur.
- Any of the details for how a simulcast hybrid would work in practice.
Portland Association of Teachers
Your PAT Bargaining Team met with PPS on Thursday, February 4th (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4) to review the District’s response to the PAT “Community Support” proposals, to listen to a report from PPS regarding the current state of ventilation and indoor air quality in PPS buildings, and to begin a discussion of the PPS plan for a return to in-person instruction.
Your Team is pleased to announce that the District has finally agreed to the PAT proposal regarding substitute educator support for students who are facing difficulties fully engaging in Comprehensive Distance Learning. The finalized language gives PAT professional educators the ability to work with building administration to assign a fully trained and licensed substitute educator to work with particular students. It has taken since August of 2020 to get PPS to agree to such a commonsense and needed proposal, but on Thursday we finally broke through. If you believe that one or more of your students would benefit from additional support beyond what is available in your school, please email your building administrator with a request for the support of a substitute educator.
Although the final community support language is not what we all know PPS should and could be doing to help the students and families we serve, the language does create joint agreements that will assist Portland families get the services they deserve.
The District’s presentation regarding indoor air quality safeguards and ventilation capacity was vague at best. At this time we are reviewing district documents and statements to get a better picture about the health of the approximately 80 PPS school buildings.
After the ventilation discussion was finished and agreements for community support were reached, PAT directly asked the PPS team to explain its plan to transition into an in-person educational model. The resulting discussion was distressing. PPS announced that it intends PAT members to provide both in-person and distance learning simultaneously, in a plan it calls a “Simulcast” model. PPS intends this “Simulcast” model to begin around the start of the fourth quarter. When asked what districts they are drawing their inspiration from or where such a model is working well to serve students, no one on the District’s bargaining team could reference a single example.
PPS intends PAT members to make sure that students are engaged in in-person instruction, while at the same time making sure students watching the lessons via video are also fully engaged. No details were provided as to how precisely students viewing instruction remotely would participate beyond being passive observers of instruction. The district plan is currently set to begin some time in April, when there will only be a few weeks of the school year remaining. What isn’t clear is how PPS believes it’s plan will actually be successful for students.
The “Simulcast” plan will give parents the choice to have their elementary school students attend school in a hybrid model or to attend school in a fully CDL model. The hybrid plan contends that some students will attend school four days a week for core subjects and then attend online classes for science, social studies, and electives. While that hybrid model is in place the plan also enables some students to remain in a fully CDL model. Those students will receive all of their instruction online, half of the day watching classes in which some of their peers are actually in an in-person model. From district official’s comments, it seems that educators will need to stay in front of a camera to meet the needs of the students in CDL, but also manage a class of online students. Educators will need to be focused on CDL students AND in-person students at the same time.
Your PAT Team is concerned that the District’s plan creates an instant opportunity gap. It appears that students who are in a CDL model will not receive an education equal to those in the District’s version of a Hybrid model of instruction. At this time, we are unsure how PAT members will have the time or ability to create lessons that work equally well in an online format and in an in-person class. We are unsure how an educator can meet the needs of students watching a class while also keeping students socially distant and on-task in an in-person model. Finally, we are unsure how an educator can spend time creating in-person pandemic-classroom norms and provide continuous instruction, while also keeping an online relationship with students who attend a fully CDL school model.
What is abundantly clear is that PPS is also unsure how these things will happen. The District appears to desperately want to be able to claim that it has “reopened” school buildings, regardless of the potential harm to students, their families, or the professional educators who serve them.
We know that PAT members also want schools to reopen for in-person instruction, and we know that all of you have worked all year to create a Comprehensive Distance Learning experience for students that works, even if that version of “works” is imperfect. Your Team believes that the LIPI agreement that was reached just a few weeks ago will give the District the ability to further enhance the CDL experience for students. It seems that rather than enter a program that is so fundamentally flawed, the District should help educators make the CDL model as successful as it possibly can be. Although your Team holds those ideas at this time, we know that we need to hear from all of you before we make final proposals around this issue.
The PAT is sending a survey to all PAT members asking for member reaction to the District’s plan for a “Simulcast” model of Hybrid instruction.
We ask that each member take the survey as soon as they receive it. We want to represent our members at the bargaining table, and we can’t do that without each of you providing responses. As in all things, our ability to move your issues forward in bargaining is a direct result of our unity.
Your PAT Bargaining Team met with PPS on January 26th (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to discuss the PAT’s proposals regarding support for students and families during COVID Comprehensive Distance Learning. This was our third full session negotiating on the community proposals.
PAT initially proposed this language in August of 2020. For months, the PPS bargaining team refused to recognize the importance of making agreements to address community needs that impact our students’ access to learning. The PAT bargaining team was forced to say that we would find it difficult to reach final agreement on other topics if the PPS team would not meaningfully address our community proposals.
Once they finally recognized that support for students and families is of the deepest importance to educators, the PPS team begrudgingly agreed to talk about language to shape a PAT and PPS partnership in these areas.
While the District has agreed to support families with technology, basic needs, and some educational supplies, they are unwilling to honor the work of our members supporting students through affinity groups and other programs meant to build student voice, strength, and identity. They are also unwilling to provide additional resources needed to better support students’ academic needs during distance learning.
For example, PPS refuses to accept language that would enable PAT members and PPS building administrators to work together to access substitute educators for the purpose of supporting students who need extra adult support in CDL.
Specifically, PAT proposed:
A professional educator may request the assistance of, and a building administrator may approve, fully trained substitute teachers for daily support for students who have shown the need for additional academic instruction or social/emotional support. A minimum of two substitute educators per building shall be identified as resources for this purpose.
PPS rejected the proposal. It is increasingly hard to understand why these common sense, collaborative commitments to meet the academic, social/emotional, and basic physical needs of traditionally underserved students would be rejected by Portland Public Schools.
We will continue to push this issue. Although no bargaining team believes that it will achieve all the language it has proposed, we are unwilling to give up on contract language that PAT members believe will make an immediate impact on the lives of students.
We would prefer to move on to addressing other elements in bargaining, such as finalizing the safety language and working conditions for Hybrid instruction, but we will not be partners in ignoring our students’ needs.
Your PAT Bargaining Team was able to reach final agreement on language regarding work under Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI) conditions. As we will mention in the Advocate later today, we did all we could to find a way to protect the safety of PAT members who volunteer to serve students in a LIPI setting, and to enable PAT members to serve distinct groups of students who have specific needs.
The ten-point Agreement for LIPI Safety Conditions (view here) contains significant guarantees for PAT members. The agreement requires the District to provide professional development on safety protocols prior to the start of LIPI, and that “only professional educators who volunteer will provide LIPI.” Those two elements mean that no PAT member can be forced to provide LIPI or be punished/discriminated against for not being willing to provide LIPI. In addition, the agreement holds that an educator must be able to review the workspace that will be used for LIPI, and that once LIPI begins, an educator can essentially ‘un-volunteer’ if they do not feel safe or if safety conditions change.
The agreement also specifically states that even if a room can accommodate twenty students, an educator, in consultation with their building administrator, may divide the group into “sub cohorts.” This means that an educator can evaluate and determine the best way to serve the students, and the building administrator and educator can collaborate on how to make the educator’s ideas work.
Finally, if an educator who volunteers to provide LIPI is working with a student(s) who cannot wear a mask, the educator can request and receive KN95 (or equivalent) masks, face shields, protective garments, and gloves.
This agreement empowers educators to be in charge of their working conditions and provides some much needed support for students.
Your PAT Bargaining Team is happy to announce that on Friday, December 11, 2020 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), we made significant progress with PPS towards finalizing an agreement regarding Limited In-Person Instruction (LIPI). The Agreement guarantees that educators have autonomy in determining how to carry out Limited In-Person Instruction.
Though NOT in signed form, the discussion led to verbal agreements as follows:
1) Guaranteeing that LIPI instruction will be provided by educators on a voluntary basis. If the district cannot find a volunteer from the regularly employed PAT membership, PPS will open the positions to PAT substitute educators.
2) Recognizing the added workload on educators who do both LIPI and regular on-line instruction. Volunteers who agree to provide LIPI during teacher-directed time in their regular schedule will be paid at their individual per-diem hourly rate for all lost teacher-directed time plus for an additional hour per week for time spent planning LIPI sections.
3) Guaranteeing that educators who volunteer can rescind their volunteer offer if they do not feel safe once they inspect the space provided for LIPI, or if they feel that the time required or safety issues are too great to continue.
What helped the two teams make such quick progress was the presentation of the PAT’s COVID-19 LIPI Interests survey results. It was clear to both teams that most PAT members believe that the workload and safety concerns related to in-person instruction prohibit large-scale LIPI activities.
Your team and the PPS team agreed that the state’s cap of twenty students in a LIPI cohort could be divided up however the volunteer educator feels provides for safety, student needs, and pedagogical efficacy. For example, if a classroom has an in-person capacity of 14 students (35 square-feet per student), the professional educator could divide the two-hour time period of LIPI into two groups of 7 students, with one hour for each group.
The two bargaining teams are so close to agreement on language that they will exchange proposals via email in order to speed up the process.
Unfortunately, we did not have time to address the PAT proposals that would guarantee adequate support for families and communities. (View PAT’s Permissive Community Interest Proposal here.) While the PAT team originally put forward a version of these proposals back in August, we provided the District with a newer version of them the day before bargaining on December 11. Our proposals include adding dedicated staff teams to consistently support students whose needs are not being met by CDL, providing physical materials to students who need them, and providing communications and supports to families in their preferred language. PAT continues to believe that supporting our students and families is vital to making distance learning more successful. We will address those proposals when we return from winter break.
Brief sent to PAT membership, December 13, 2020
The PAT Bargaining Team will be meeting with the District again today to continue discussions from 12:15 to 4:15PM. Please tune in on the PAT YouTube channel to watch the live stream of this meeting.
Portland Association of Teachers