Across the country, school districts of every size are grappling with the question of how to best educate students at this stage of the pandemic. In recent weeks there has been a lot of media coverage and public debate on the issue of opening school buildings for in-person instruction, and the role of teachers’ unions in the process.
I’m always struck by how often reporters, or members of the community, talk about teachers’ unions as if they are completely separate from the teachers themselves. As PAT members, WE ARE THE UNION, and one of the things that defines our union is our commitment to democracy. Ensuring every member has a voice in PAT is one of our fundamental values.
When we have major decisions to make, like what to prioritize at the bargaining table or how to respond to the District’s plan to reopen school buildings, we provide members with the best information we have, and engage our entire membership to determine our collective priorities, through surveys, forums, building meetings, and one-on-one organizing.
Our bargaining team and our union leaders are committed to representing the priorities of all our members, and we rely on member input, as well as the feedback from the elected building reps at all our school sites, to make sure that we are representing you all. Democracy can take time, but it’s the only way we can truly be inclusive, and synthesize the nuance and multiple perspectives that are inherent in any complex issue.
This is also the only way to build unity, which is critical if we want to ensure educators have a real voice in shaping the future of public schools, and address the longstanding needs of our students and the communities we serve.
Across the country, educators have demonstrated that when we’re united, real change is within our reach.
And you have made it clear that what unites PAT members right now is a commitment to protecting the lives of educators, students, and their families.
We know reopening school buildings safely requires, first and foremost, containing the community spread of COVID, as well as proper ventilation and social distancing in our buildings, and a plan for protecting the families of our students. Until school buildings can be opened safely, we can best serve our students by putting our resources and creativity into improving Comprehensive Distance Learning, while adding Limited-In-Person supports to address academic and social-emotional needs which cannot be met through CDL.
By standing together, we can continue to ensure that educators and our school communities are protected.
Now more than ever, we need the input of every PAT member to guide our decision-making. The survey we sent out last Friday on the District’s hybrid plan, is one example. Thank you for taking the time to respond, and for continuing to share your perspective as the conditions of the pandemic continue to evolve. We will look closely at the results, including disaggregating the data, to determine how we will move forward.
Guided by solidarity, and grounded in our commitment to or students and our profession, we truly are a powerful force.