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