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



Study Leave – Full Year

2ND Monday in February


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


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 !

PAT Elections: Vote In February

PAT elections will be held this year in February, 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:


  • Angella Bonilla


  • Jacque Dixon
  • Gwen Sullivan


  • Emily Markewitz


  • 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.

PAT Elections: Submit Questions for Candidates

Pursuant to Section 2, subsection E of the PAT Nominations and Elections Handbook, members now have the opportunity to submit written questions for the Officer and Executive Board candidates who are currently running for office. The Nominations and Elections Committee will choose up to 4 member-generated questions to ask candidates to respond to via an optional, electronic questionnaire. PAT members will receive a copy of candidate responses along with the voter pamphlet on February 7, 2022. Please submit your questions via this electronic form by 5:00pm on Wednesday, January 19th, 2022. 

Black Lives Matter at School

Black Lives Matter At School Week of Action (January 31-February 4) and Black History Month (February) is fast approaching! The Social Justice and Community Outreach Committee would like to share a few vetted resources to support your efforts to connect students to the vast tapestry of resistance, power, knowledge, and joy of Black Americans from past to present. In this time of pandemic, exhaustion, and anxiety, we know that many members are spread incredibly thin, without much extra to give. We hope these resources will make it a little easier to provide the windows, mirrors, inspiration, and education our students deserve. 

If you would like to help plan PAT’s annual Black Lives Matter At School Week of Action or if you have a suggestion to contribute, please email Alisha Chavez-Downing or Julie Whitaker. Thank you!

Please check out these resources to use with your classroom!

  • Teaching for Change will host a Virtual Curriculum Fair: Black Lives Matter at School 2022 on Saturday, January 22, featuring workshops, a keynote speaker, and time for educators to learn more about Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action.
  • The DC Area Educators for Social Justice organization has robust educator resources, with links to suggested lessons, films, books, readings, and general teaching guides for Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action and beyond.
  • It goes without saying that learning about slavery should not be your students’ first or only introduction to Black history. If you will be teaching about enslavement in America, Learning for Justice has an in-depth, sensitive framework for Teaching Hard History that is broken down into K-2, 3-5, and 6-12 grade level bands.

If you are reading this, please click this link to receive a small gift from your PAT Membership Committee.

Request for Help with Newberg Education Association

Newberg Educators are trying to win back community control of their school board.  

This coming Sunday, January 16, please join Newberg EA and community members to phone bank (can be done from anywhere) or do door-to-door canvassing.  

Sign up here.  Confirmation and training instructions will be emailed to you.

This is our time to step up and stand with Newberg students, educators, and community members. This is your opportunity to help say enough is enough to school boards who vote to dismantle the freedoms of expression and commitment to equity we believe in for our public schools. Can you give an hour this coming Sunday?