Get Involved: Join us at the OEA PAC Convention

Registration for the OEA-PAC Convention is still open. Register Now!

This year’s OEAC-PAC Convention will be held virtually, February 18th and 19th.  Educators from around the state will vote to determine which candidates OEA-PAC will support.

Candidates for the following offices will be seeking our endorsement at the convention:

  • All six US Congressional Districts
  • US Senator
  • Oregon Governor
  • Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner

Anyone who contributes to OEA-PAC is welcome to attend the convention; if you are not a current donor and wish to attend, make a contribution today at:Join the PAC !

Congratulations Promising Practices Grant Recipients

Each Year OEA awards Promising Practices Grants to members to support student learning or professional development. This year’s recipients are:

Sarah Parker:  Sarah is a special education elementary teacher at Parry Center Edwards. Sarah’s $600 grant will be used to buy iPads to personalize student learning with math problem solving games, puzzles, and phonemic awareness.

Heather Noble: Heather is a music teacher at Sitton Elementary school. Heather’s $800 grant will be used to purchase Ukuleles for her elementary students. Ukuleles are one of the best stringed instruments for beginners. She will teach them how to play and write songs.

Steven Geiszler: Steven is a multiple pathways teacher at Rosemary Anderson High School.  Steven’s $600 grant will be used to teach a unit on healthy nutrition. The grant will purchase food and journals. Using the students' cultures, this unit will teach students about healthy food options to share with their own families.

Congratulations to all grant recipients and the students they are reaching through these grants. Look for the Promising Practices Grant application next year and consider applying yourself.

Rethinking Schools- Climate Justice Workshop

Teaching Climate Disobedience: A Workshop Featuring the New Documentary, Necessity: Climate Justice & the Thin Green Line

  • February 24, 2022, 4:30 PM – 6:00 PM (via Zoom)

This workshop is built around the new film, Necessity: Climate Justice & the Thin Green Line, which examines stories of climate resistance in the Pacific Northwest. Tribal leaders, Indigenous activists, and their non-Indigenous allies, resist oil trains and trucks and, in one key case, are arrested for a direct action at Zenith Energy in Portland. Those arrested — including long-time PPS teacher and activist, Jan Zuckerman — mobilize the “necessity defense” to argue their actions were justified to stop an immediate and grave danger. Workshop participants will engage with short excerpts of the film, writing activities, and structured conversations to think together about how we might bring the film — and the larger theme of climate disobedience — into our classrooms, curricula, and communities. Register here for a Zoom link. 

Workshop leaders: Tim Swinehart, Lincoln High School; and Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project. Sponsored by the PPS Climate Justice Committee and the Portland Association of Teachers.

Saturday, February 19th: Thurgood Production: Affinity Night for Educators of Color

PAT’s Social Justice and Community Outreach Committee invites BIPOC educators this Saturday, to Portland Playhouse's BIPOC Affinity Night production of Thurgood.

Please register here to secure your PAT-sponsored ticket for the in-person Affinity Night production Saturday, February 19th, 7:30pm.

Portland Playhouse is dedicating performances to patrons who identify as BIPOC to, “be in a space that centers the experience of a person from the Global Majority in our theatre which, like much of American theatre, has been mostly occupied by white people.” 

This is an in-person production. Please click here for a description of the show. Portland Playhouse is located at 602 NE Prescott Street.

(For any PPS educator: please register here for a shared PAT-sponsored Zoom viewing of “Thurgood”, date to be announced.)

February 22nd and 23rd: OEA Federal Student Loan Forgiveness Webinars

OEA is holding two webinars this month to share information about the new reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. If you have been told you weren’t eligible for loan forgiveness in the past, it’s possible that your eligibility has changed under these reforms. Some topics to be covered are:

  • What changes to the PSLF Program mean to you
  • How to access the Student Debt Navigator tool to automatically connect all your loans to the repayment program in one place. This tool is FREE to members. Through the tool you can: 
    • Check your eligibility for PSLF
    • Get personalized repayment and forgiveness options
    • Sign and submit paperwork for loan forgiveness
    • Get one-on-one support from student loan experts

Tuesday, February 22nd at 4:30 PM OR Wednesday, February 23rd at 4:30 PM Register today!

Upcoming Events

  • February 16th, 4:30-6:30 PM: PAT Rep Assembly

PAT Committee Meetings- Join the committee mailing list to receive a Zoom Link.

  • February 23rd, 4:30-6:30 PM: IPD Committee Meeting
  • March 2nd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Legislative Committee Meeting
  • March 2nd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Membership Committee Meeting
  • March 2nd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Racial Equity Committee Meeting
  • March 9th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Social Justice/Community Outreach Committee Meeting
  • March 9th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Substitute Committee Meeting

**Unless otherwise noted, all PAT committee meetings will be held virtually on Zoom for the time being

Upcoming OEA Training and Events:

For all upcoming events, please see the PAT calendar and OEA calendar.

Mask Mandate Changes

Dear Educator,

Yesterday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that, effective March 31st, the state of Oregon will be lifting the mask mandate for schools. 

We all hope that by the end of March, COVID rates will have dropped significantly and our communities will feel safe being in closed spaces with one another or with a classroom of students. However, we have seen time and time again how uncertain predictions about COVID can be.

We started this school year negotiating our Covid Safety Letter of Agreement with the District. That agreement is for the entire 2021-22 school year. Among other mitigations, our agreement states that  students are required to wear masks (sections 3, 11.j, and 13.e). Our LOA remains in full effect unless we jointly agree otherwise. If any state agency orders a change that impacts our agreement, we would meet with the District to discuss the impact. 

In the coming weeks, we plan to survey members, so that any potential changes to our agreement are driven by member voice. We will always advocate that school safety standards are driven by science.

I also wanted to share this statement from the Oregon Department of Education, sent yesterday. It clarifies that schools and school districts “may continue to require students, staff, volunteers, and/or visitors to wear face coverings during indoor or outdoor activities, similar to other COVID-19 mitigation protocols such as physical distancing, and airflow/ventilation.”

It also clarifies that if schools do not ensure universal masking, other protocols meant to keep students and staff in-person will no longer apply: 

  • Without universal masking, schools will return to using the general exposure definition: Having been within 6 feet of a confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 case for 15 minutes or more within one day.
  • Without universal masking, schools will not be able to use the Test to Stay Protocol to allow students and staff to attend school during a quarantine period. Universal use of face coverings remains a prerequisite for the Test to Stay Protocol.
  • Without universal masking, schools will be required to do contact tracing for all school settings.

Please be on the lookout for a short survey in the coming weeks. Thank you for all you do everyday to keep your students, your colleagues, and our community safe.

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President

President's Message: Stabilize Our Schools by Supporting Educators

One mark of a successful school is stability. When faculty and staff in a school feel supported and valued, they stick around, often for decades. That stability allows a school to create a positive climate, clear expectations, and unique traditions. Students, staff, and families feel like they belong. 

Because COVID-19 has destabilized so many facets of life, it’s crucial that District leaders concentrate on creating stability as they begin planning for next year. We must start by retaining the staff we have, and attracting new educators into our District. 

All year, we have been sounding the alarm because so many educators are reaching a breaking point and they are seriously questioning whether they can continue with the way things are. We are not alone-- OEA recently published this report on the education workload crisis across the state. 

This fall, as part of our campaign for the Time to Get It Right, we asked the District to address the crushing workload and impossible demands of this school year. We pushed for adjustments that would give educators the support we need to make it through this school year, and provide more time to meet the needs of students. 

While we were unable to reach a formal agreement with the District before winter break, as a result of our campaign, the District did end up creating a day for school climate work and planning on January 31st, delaying evaluations for educators who are not probationary, and adding more flex-time in our high schools. These adjustments are a step in the right direction.

Through our campaign, PAT emerged as a leading voice in the national conversation about the crisis conditions educators are facing, and the fact that we are on the brink of a disastrous shortage of educators thanks to skyrocketing workloads and continued demoralization. 

The workload crisis and worker shortage we are facing in our schools is not new, but it has been amplified by the pandemic. For decades educators have been bridging a widening gap between what our students need, and the resources available. The gap is especially wide for our students with IEPs and our English Language Learners. 

As professional educators, we never want to see our students go without the support and resources they need. So, we frequently spend evenings and weekends making up for what is not provided. We fundraise for school supplies that should be provided freely, we create curriculum from scratch that should already be available, and we stand in for unfunded mental and behavioral health supports. We are exhausted from having to beg and plead to get the basics of what we NEED to do our jobs, and then having to buy or make it ourselves anyway.

When this gap gets too wide for us to bridge, we lose dedicated and beloved educators. One of the most common reasons I hear of teachers leaving the profession is the sustained moral injury of seeing our students going without what they need, no matter how many extra hours we work each week.

Rather than hiding the gaps and covering up the cracks in the system, we need our community to see them, so that we work together to fix them.

We need a school system that is DESIGNED to meet students’ needs, and that means providing educators with the time it takes to meet those needs.

  • Students deserve learning activities that fit their unique learning profile; Educators need time every week to adjust lessons and create meaningful learning activities for diverse learners.
  • Students learn best when their caregivers and their teachers are working together; Educators need time to communicate regularly with families.
  • Students with identified needs deserve consistency and coordinated support; Educators need time to collaborate with SpEd, ELL, Social Workers, and content teams.
  • Students deserve schools that are safe, positive learning environments; Educators need time to work together to establish common expectations, supports, and consistent responses to behavior issues.
  • Students learn best when they have a positive and personal relationship with their teacher; We need smaller class sizes so that educators can know and connect with each student.

When educators are NOT given the time and support to meet our students’ needs, it goes without saying that those needs will not be met consistently.

Above all, for our school system to function, we need diverse, talented educators and school staff to CHOOSE to work in our schools, year after year after year. As our school district leaders plan for next year, we call on them to prioritize making PPS that kind of workplace. 

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President

PAT Elections- Ballots Go Out on February 7th

PAT elections will be held this month, for terms that begin July 1, 2022.

On February 7th, an email will be sent to PAT members’ PPS email accounts, which will include a link to their ballot, candidate statements, photos, and videos of candidate speeches.

The following are the candidates for the major offices in this election:

President:

  • Angela Bonilla

Vice-President:

  • Jacque Dixon
  • Gwen Sullivan

Secretary:

  • Emily Markewitz

Treasurer:

  • Tina Lamanna

Executive Board (Vote for 5):

  • Aurelian Boudreaux
  • Greg Burrill
  • Vincent Chirimwami
  • Amanda-Jane Elliott
  • Emily Golden-Fields
  • Joanne Shepard

The ballot will also include candidates for OEA RA Delegate positions and for NEA RA Delegate positions.

Please make sure to vote by Thursday, February 24, 2022, by 5:00 PM, outside of your work hours.

If you do not receive a ballot on February 7th (sent to your PPS email address), or if you are not a member and would like to join so that you may vote, please contact [email protected].

Need a Contract Exception at Your Site? Learn More Here!

What is a Contract Exception: A Contract Exception is a process that allows a worksite to apply for an exception to the terms and conditions of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). While creating exceptions to our contract language is not encouraged, we recognize that specific worksites may have a specific need for a given year. This process allows for that need to be considered. Contract Exceptions must be approved by the PAT Advocacy Committee and the District prior to implementation. A contract exception is valid only for the school year for which it was approved. 

Who decides if my school should submit an exception for approval: Contract Exceptions are member driven, so should be initiated by educators. 

Deadline: The deadline this year is Friday, May 13th, 2022 (for Contract Exceptions for next academic year). Contract Exceptions are welcomed prior to this date. When Contract Exceptions are received before the deadline, it provides more time for documents to be reviewed and questions to be answered. At times, the Advocacy Committee needs additional information prior to making a decision. Find the Contract Exception form here

If referencing a previous year’s form, double check that you have the correct article number. Here is the current contract.

Some key things to remember:

  • The article number needs to be specific (eg 7.7.1) to the requested exception.
  • Double check your math.
  • You MUST include copies of schedules or calendars that reflect the current and proposed changes. Identify changes to teacher hours, student hours, planning time, etc. 
  • Consider and address the impact on Specialists vs. Gen Ed teachers.
  • Required: What is the option for members who oppose the exception?
  • Review the FAQ’s here.

Role of the Committee when reviewing:

  • Protect member rights
  • Support member needs
  • Ensure the integrity of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) 
  • Do no harm to the bargaining process and/or open grievances

Need Help? Come to Advocacy Cadre on April 4th and/or April 25th at 5pm 

If you are reading this, please click this link to receive a small gift from your PAT Membership Committee, and to be entered in a raffle to win a gift card (1 in 30 chance of winning)!

Black Lives Matter At School Week of Action (BLMWOA) February 7th-11th

Are you planning a special event in your classroom or school for Black History Month? Please reach out to Alisha Chavez-Downing or Julie Whitaker so we can highlight your efforts in our next communication! 

PAT’S Black Lives Matter At School Week of Action (BLMWOA) has been pushed to February 7-11 to allow our committee more time for more planning. We will update everyone as soon as possible! In the meantime, we encourage everyone to Pledge to Participate. Please visit https://www.pdxteachers.org/blmwoa for inspirational resources to support your pledge to show solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. Here are a few resources specific to Black Joy: 

PAT Stands with Portland City Workers

Unless an agreement is reached, over 1,200 Portland city workers represented by AFSCME and the District Council of Trade Unions will be hitting the picket lines starting at 9am on February 10th. Rob Marineau, President of the DCTU got to the heart of why these workers are going on strike when he told reporters that, "The city’s proposal drastically undervalues the work city employees are doing, providing essential services, to keep our communities healthy and safe." 

Show solidarity by joining a picket line at lunch or after school (and wearing your PAT blue) and by letting City Management & Council hear your voice for a fair contract now! And please consider giving even a small amount to their Go Fund Me account to show the city council that the city workers are supported by our community. Check the AFSCM website for picket locations and updates.

Upcoming Events

PAT Committee Meetings- Join the committee mailing list to receive a Zoom Link.

  • February 2nd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Social Justice/Community Outreach Committee Meeting
  • February 2nd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Substitute Committee Meeting

**All PAT committee meetings will be held virtually on Zoom for the time being

  • February 16th, 4:30-6:30 PM: PAT Rep Assembly

Upcoming OEA Training and Events:

For all upcoming events, please see the PAT calendar and OEA calendar

COVID Safety Update: Defending Our Agreements

Dear Members,

In the last week, your PAT staff and officers have been busy responding to numerous changes in COVID guidance and PPS protocols, and the resulting concerns from members. Here are updates on several pandemic-related issues that we are working on.

As things come up, thank you for going to your Building Reps first, so we can solve problems on the ground whenever possible. When things can’t be resolved at the building level, our reps will reach out to PAT UniServ for support with next steps.

Table of Contents

  • Can I Be Directed to Substitute During My Planning Time?
  • Informing Members of Positive Cases
  • Using Quarantine Leave
  • New Protocols on Contact Tracing, Exposures, and Quarantine

Can I Be Directed to Substitute During My Planning Time?

On Friday we learned that a District Administrator wrote the following message to building administrators: 

We recognize the additional strain that unfilled sub jobs create for your school and appreciate all that you are doing to cover openings. It is our priority to support the schools that are most in need. Please reach out to your ASD and Regional Superintendent to problem solve issues when there is not a central office person to support. 

As we are considering this an emergency, building leaders can direct staff to cover unfilled sub jobs per Contract Section 8.7 (pg. 28).

If you have questions about the contract language or wish to discuss it further, please reach out to your Employee and Labor Relations contact.

We recognize that many central office administrators are new to the District, but the summary of Article 8 Section 7 is incorrect. PAT officially informed the District of the error, and asked the District to correct the misstatement immediately.  

The language in our contract states that "except in true emergency situations… professional educators shall not be required to substitute for other professional educators." PAT and PPS have a shared definition of “True emergency” based on multiple years of Contract Administration meetings. A “true emergency” is a circumstance such as an educator having a slip and fall accident or medical emergency requiring them to leave school mid-day. PAT and PPS also have a multi-year common understanding that if a true emergency does come up, administrators must cover unfilled classes before directing an educator to cover.

In other words, if all administrators in a building are covering classes all day (except during their lunch), a PAT member may be directed to cover for an unfilled substitute job. If that is not happening, it is not a “true emergency”, and the member is not required to cover a class. To be clear, an educator can volunteer to cover a class when asked, and most do because they want to help.  

If you are asked to cover a class, and you are willing to volunteer, that is fine. However, you must be paid for lost planning time if you do. If you do not want to cover the class, then you do not have to volunteer. Students must have a licensed adult directing a class, but that can be the building administrator. 

If you are directed to cover the class when building administrators are not filling in for missing substitute educators, comply with the directive, and inform your building rep and PAT will evaluate the situation to determine if a grievance should be filed.

Next Steps

PAT asked PPS to send a clarification to building administration, but so far we have no response from them. In the meantime, we recommend sharing this email with your building administration so that they can have the information they need to follow our agreements in good faith.

What about TOSAs and Mentors?

PAT members who are TOSAs and Mentors (and others who are assigned to the Central Office) have been directed to substitute teach, on a regular basis, in unfilled positions since at least December. While PPS has asserted its right to do so, we had previously reached a settlement agreement in June 2020 that clearly curtails their ability to do this practice. 

The agreement states that PPS will, “not assign TOSAs to substitute for other bargaining unit members (except in true emergency situations) and will not assign TOSAs to cover vacancies created by leaves or mid-year resignations of other bargaining unit members, except pursuant to the CBA’s transfer process.” The agreement goes on to clarify that an example of a “true emergency situation,” as referenced in Article 8.7.1 that would permit PPS to require a TOSA to substitute for another educator could be if another educator suffers a medical emergency and no substitute is available. Yet, even in this example of a “true emergency situation,” the TOSA cannot be assigned to substitute for the absent educator for more than a single work day. 

We are currently pursuing a grievance on behalf of central-office-assigned PAT members, as well as an additional grievance on behalf of our Mentors. It is not an emergency when the District has the opportunity to plan and adjust ahead of time.  Grievances take time, but we are pursuing these on an expedited timeline. 

In the spirit of our long standing agreement, we would expect to see all central office administrators substituting in classrooms before declaring a “true emergency” as grounds to deny educators their much-needed planning time, or their ability to do the crucial work of the job they accepted.

Informing Members of Positive Cases

We heard from members at a few schools that administrators stated that PPS would no longer be informing the community or educators of positive cases of COVID-19.

This would be a direct violation of our LOA on COVID-19 Safety agreement, which states, “The District shall…Notify professional educators, as well as the wider school community, of any incident of COVID-19 infection/outbreak within that building within 24 hours of a confirmed case. Notification shall be by email.” (11.f)

We brought this to the attention of PPS on Friday, and received confirmation that PPS intends to continue to send notices of positive cases. Please remind your principal that this is still the agreement and the protocol. 

Using Quarantine Leave

We are receiving many questions about how and when to use Quarantine Leave. Please review the language in our agreements, and let your building rep know if it is not being followed.

In short:

  • You may use Quarantine Leave for your absence if you have tested positive or otherwise been told by a health professional to isolate or quarantine. 
  • You may use Quarantine Leave if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and have been advised by a licensed health care provider to get tested for COVID-19 and refrain from working within a reasonable timeframe.

Below is the relevant language in our agreements, and a chart to describe common scenarios.

Quarantine Leave Language in our Agreements

Our LOA on COVID-19 Safety (8/2021) states that “There is a protocol for educators, without loss of pay, to self-isolate as a way to respond to local school-based outbreaks or their own COVID symptoms.” (4)  This protocol is quarantine leave

Per our MOA Vaccine Mandate Effects between the Coalition of Unions and Portland Public Schools  you may use “quarantine leave” if any of the following are true: (8 and 10)

  • you are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; 
  • you have been advised by a public health official to self-quarantine or isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; 
  • you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and have been advised by a licensed health care provider to get tested for COVID-19 and refrain from working within a reasonable timeframe;
  • you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You may also use your quarantine leave for up to 3 days of missed work due to side effects of receiving a booster shot.

COVID-19 Quarantine Leave: Common Scenarios

When a PAT Member Has COVID Symptoms or Tests Positive:

Should I stay home? 

Did you get tested for COVID?

Do I use Quarantine Leave or sick leave?

How long should I stay home? 

YES. 


OHA and CDC recommend that people with COVID-19 symptoms stay home. 

NO.

 

Get tested as soon as you can.

Use Quarantine Leave while you await your test and results.

Stay home if you are sick. 

YES


Tested Negative

Use Quarantine Leave until confirmed NEGATIVE.


Use Sick Leave after that. 

Stay home if you are sick. 


After you are confirmed negative for COVID-19, use sick leave

YES:

 

Tested Positive

Use Quarantine Leave until a medical provider states you can return to work.



According to most recent guidance: 

If asymptomatic, 5 days from date of positive test; 

if symptomatic, 5 days from onset of symptoms; or longer if you continue to have symptoms.

The CDC lists the following as symptoms of COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

New Protocols on Contact Tracing, Exposures, and Quarantine

PPS sent out a message yesterday listing changes to PPS’s COVID-19 Response Protocols

We have many questions about how these changes will work, how they will keep students and educators safe, and how they line up with our COVID-19 safety agreements. We have requested a meeting with PPS leaders, Labor Relations, and representatives of other school staff unions, to review the plans together. We are awaiting a response. 

 

In Solidarity,

Portland Association of Teachers

January 27th at Portland City Hall: PAT Stands in Solidarity with DCTU - Portland Association of Teachers

Our Union siblings, the Portland city trade workers represented by DCTU, have voted to authorize their Bargaining Team to call a strike. They are asking for our support as fellow union members. Please come in your PAT Blue to show your support!

  • DCTU Rally
  • 5pm, Thursday, January 27th at Portland City Hall 
  • Come with your signs and wearing your PAT Union attire
  • RSVP and Share here

Let City Management & Council hear your voice for a fair contract now! And please consider giving even a small amount to their Go Fund Me account to show the city council that the city workers are supported by our community.

From the DCTU on what they are fighting for: 

The District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) is a coalition of workers that bargains a contract together at the City of Portland, Oregon.

We are your families, neighbors, friends, and fellow community members. We work hard for Portland, ensuring that you have clean drinking water, habitable buildings, safe bridges and streets and many other essential services.

  • Our needs are simple: a living wage, and the ability to live in the city that we serve. 
  • Negotiations with City Management for our current contract have stalled. The process, which should have taken half a year, has been going on since 2020. It is now 2022. 
  • The City has denied our repeated requests for wages that keep pace with inflation. 

Since negotiations have reached impasse, we have two choices as workers:

Either accept the City’s final offer of wages that pay for less this year than they did last year, or go on strike.

Thank you for your amazing Solidarity and Support, and keep spreading the word!

 

 

Portland Association of Teachers
http://www.pdxteachers.org/

Continue reading

Standing Up for Educators

Dear PAT Members,

We’ve received an overwhelming number of inquiries about yesterday’s message from the District, accusing educators of misusing sick leave.

Rather than recognizing our extraordinary efforts to support our students in the face of untenable conditions, or acknowledging their own failures to prepare for this latest COVID surge, District leaders are now accusing PAT members of engaging in illegal activity. Their message appears to be an attempt to intimidate anyone organizing to assert their rights under Oregon law and our union contract, following the guidelines of OHA to stay home when they are sick or have symptoms of COVID, or shouldering the responsibility to care for their own family members who are sick or who need to quarantine. 

This response demonstrates how out of touch PPS administration is with what’s happening in our schools, and lands as an attempt to blame educators for the District’s own failure to honestly and proactively address the current staffing crisis and public health emergency.

This message from PPS is off-base, demoralizing to all educators, and an insult to our profession. 

We are nearly two years into this pandemic, and in the face of the Omicron surge, PPS leaders still have no plan to provide sufficient testing, or maintain the staffing levels needed to follow COVID-19 safety protocols. They have no plan to mitigate the enormous burden that educators are carrying as they show up every day to fill the gap between what our students need and deserve, and the egregious lack of staff and resources that the state and the District are providing. 

Educators have gone above and beyond this year, doing everything possible to create a positive and supportive learning environment for students in this year of chaos. Educators continue to grade student work, plan lessons, and communicate with parents while out on sick leave. Educators are substituting in other classrooms during their planning periods, or in addition to their crucial duties as counselors, TOSAs, mentors, social workers, ELL teachers, specialists, and instructional coaches. Educators are taking on the duties of paraeducators, education assistants, and custodians, to keep students and classrooms safe when schools are short critical staff.

Our schools are operating right now only because educators are going above and beyond every single day, and often into the night and over the weekend. 

Rest assured, PAT will aggressively push back on any attempt by the District to intimidate or harass educators from using their own sick time to deal with COVID infection or other illness.

We have been raising the red flag all year about dangerously low staffing levels in so many of our schools, and that the shortage would likely get worse if the District refused to address the underlying reason that educators are leaving the profession. The latest COVID surge has pushed a precarious situation over the edge.  

With Omicron raging in our community, it is predictable that so many staff and students will need to stay home. In the longer run, we know the staffing shortage will only get better if we address the crushing and impossible workload driving educators out of the profession, and build a culture of respect for the professional educators and staff who work every day to support and inspire students. We will continue to press the District for much-needed workload relief, both for this year, and for the years to come. The future of our profession depends on it.

 

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel, PAT President                       

Gwen Sullivan, PAT Vice President

 

Portland Association of Teachers

President's Message: We’re All In This Together

Dear Educator,

PAT members continue to do everything we can to make each day safe, meaningful, and responsive for our students, whether we are serving them in person or virtually. 

In these first weeks of this new year, the omicron variant is once again upending our assumptions and presenting enormous challenges to families, educators, and schools.

Omicron by the Numbers (and the numbers we don’t have)

The omicron variant has brought COVID transmission to new levels in our community and around the world. And, while being fully vaccinated and boosted remains important protection from a severe case of COVID, it no longer makes a person unlikely to test positive or transmit the virus.

This has resulted in enormous disruption in our schools: 

  • In the last 10 days, at least 290 PPS staff have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • An additional 113 have been officially advised to quarantine. 
  • In that same period of time, at least 2,438 students have begun quarantine or isolation. 

*as of 10:00am on 1/12, according to the PPS Dashboard, for January  2 -January  12, 2022. 

We know that these numbers are a huge undercount of the impact of COVID-19 on our schools this month. They do not include:

  • Students or staff who are staying home with symptoms, as is required by OHA and CDC guidelines, as they wait as long as a week to access a COVID test.
  • The staff who must stay home with young children who are in isolation or quarantine. 
  • Students who used at-home test kits and whose cases are therefore uncounted.
  • The many students whose families are choosing to keep them home from school during the surge as a precaution.

We have been calling attention to the dangerously low staffing levels in our District since the fall, and Omicron has only made the problem worse. 

According to PPS data, every day last week PPS had between 175 and 282 unfilled absences in classrooms. 

The unwelcome fact is that with so many educators, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, and support staff out for any of these COVID-related reasons, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain even the minimum staffing levels to run our schools safely. 

We all want to be in-person safely with students. While PPS has not partnered with us in determining how to respond to these extreme staffing shortages, we know that we can not ask parents to send their students into schools if we can not guarantee a minimum level of staffing to run schools safely. 

Setting Priorities Together

Throughout this unprecedented school year, our union has tackled so many urgent issues. We fought for a renewed COVID-19 safety agreement for in-person instruction, and brought national attention to the urgent workload concerns in PPS with our Time to Get it Right campaign. 

In addition to these Omicron-induced staffing shortages, we are still facing an increasingly untenable workload, the need to enforce our COVID-Safety agreement from the fall, and the opportunity to secure lasting improvement to our teaching and student learning conditions as we bargain a new contract with the District. 

With so much going on, including new COVID-19 uncertainties, it is crucial that we invest our energy and organize around solutions that unify us. 

Thank you for answering our recent survey. We will be sharing initial results with the PAT Representative Assembly tonight, and will use this information to focus our collective power on what is most important to our 4,000 members. 

Whatever we do, we must do it together. There are no easy answers to the challenges we are facing, which is why it is more important than ever that we listen to all our colleagues, and organize for solutions that bring us together. If we are strategic, and stick together, what we do over the next six months will undoubtedly bring us closer to our long-term vision for the Schools Portland Students Deserve.

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President

Know Your Contract: COVID-19 Safety Agreements

Monday we sent some reminders about our COVID-19 Safety Agreements.  Click here to see the message. 

COVID-19 Screening Testing for Oregon Educators

Oregon Health Authority offers free COVID-19 testing for K-12 staff in order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools. This project offers free weekly screening testing by mail to any public or private K-12 staff. 

Sign up here for this OHA program.

Know Your Contract: Study Leave and Unpaid Leave-- Deadlines to Apply

If you are considering taking a Study Leave or Unpaid Leave next year, please review the deadlines listed below. (Additional information regarding these unpaid leaves can be found on the PPS website.)

Type of Leave

Due Date

Article

Details

Study Leave – Full Year

2ND Monday in February

17.4.6

Completed applications with all necessary information for fall semester for full year study leaves must be filed with the Study Leave committee by the second Monday in February preceding the year of study leave.

Full-Year Unpaid Leave

March 1st

17.4.1

Requests for a full year unpaid Personal, Exchange, or Career Development leave of absence (whether part-time or full-time) for the next school year must be submitted to Human Resources prior to March 1 or the leave will not be approved, except in extenuating circumstances where such leave requests will not be unreasonably denied.

Know Your Contract: Retirement Deadline is Approaching

The early notice deadline for resignation or retirement is fast approaching. If you submit a written notice of resignation or retirement no later than January 15th, you will receive $1,250. See Article 18.2.1 of the PAT-PPS Collective Bargaining Agreement. Please keep in mind that once you submit your resignation, you are still required to complete the full academic year.

OEA-PAC Convention February 18-19th

Registration is now live for the OEA-PAC Convention! PAC members may sign up using this link! We hope you can join us virtually in February! Register Now!

Candidates for the following offices will be seeking our endorsement at the convention!

  • All six US Congressional Districts
  • US Senator
  • Oregon Governor
  • Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner

Anyone who contributes to OEA-PAC is welcome to attend the convention; if you are not a current donor and wish to attend, make a contribution today at: Join the PAC !