It has been a jarring week for our democracy. Last Wednesday, we saw a mob overtake the US Capital in an effort to subvert certification of the November election results and the transition of power.
This was the culmination of four years of hate and misinformation coming from our nation’s highest office. And it once again illustrated the racist reality of our country’s policing practices. We are all still processing what occurred and what it means—thank you for the important role you have in helping your students do the same.
Last Wednesday morning, we also found reason to hope. The historic victories for Senators Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff in Georgia are the result of years of organizing by Black leaders like Stacy Abrams, and so many others.
The new landscape in DC creates the possibility of real progress toward economic justice, protecting the climate, and reversing racism in all the ways it is built into our society.
And starting January 20th, we also have new hope that our nation’s elected leaders will enact policies that will get this pandemic under control, and will give public schools the support we will need for a safe return to in-person instruction.
Unfortunately, Oregon is moving in the wrong direction.
Governor Brown has abandoned the metrics that have guided the state’s effort to safely re-open schools for in-person instruction, and that have been a key strategy in keeping community spread relatively low. Now she is pressuring districts to open schools in-person by February 15, regardless of community spread, and despite the fact that the disease continues to have an outsized impact on communities of color.
The Governor’s announcement has generated an onslaught of public pressure to open schools immediately.
Last week, we surveyed our members to find out what you would do if you were directed to return to live instruction before a vaccine is available to all school staff. While the survey was only open for a day and a half, we got a tremendous response—2,927 unique participants, or about 84% of members. The results speak for themselves:
- 27.5% said that they would take a medical or family leave to protect their health or the health of someone they care for.
- 41% said they would refuse to go back or take other direct action.
- Only 9% said they would go back without objection.
We also disaggregated the data by grade-level and by race. There was little difference in the answers of our early childhood, elementary, middle, and high school teachers. However, educators of color were substantially more likely to say they would refuse to go back or take a medical leave (76.4%) than were white educators (66.5%).
Clearly, the District will not be able to open schools fully until there are conditions that make educators feel safe.
In the meantime, we are working with the District to formalize and enact agreements to create LIPI (Limited In-Person Instruction) opportunities for students. Read more about that below.
Things continue to change quickly, and we all are anxious for a time when we can once again see our students and each other live and in person.
But the safety of our members, as well as our students and their families, will always be the central concern of PAT. We will not let political expediency trump science in the debate over a return to in-person instruction.
Last night we learned through the Governor’s press release, that early learning and K-12 educators and staff will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting January 23rd, along with childcare providers and everyone 65 and over. We have not received any more information than what was in the press release, but will keep you informed as we learn more.
Please note, Governor Brown said NOT to contact your health care provider at this time; we expect more information about vaccine distribution to be announced on Friday.
Recruiting and retaining educators of color in our profession is a goal of our union, and is essential for the well-being of our students and the future of our profession. Fighting for racial equity in our school system is a core value. One powerful tool we have to further this work is our contract, and we improve our contract through collective bargaining.
Our bargaining team has been revamping the bargaining proposals that we developed last school year to fit the new landscape in which we will be bargaining. There are some proposals we will need to put off or tone down in the face of the economic turbulence we currently face. But it is crucial that we amplify proposals designed to better support our educators of color. To do that, we need to listen to our members of color and what they need.
In December, our bargaining team, bargaining committee, and racial equity committee came together to generate and discuss bargaining concepts that center racial equity. We came together again last week, with bargaining and racial equity leaders from Beaverton, Hillsboro, Eugene, and Salem to discuss coordinated bargaining for racial equity—a strategy to strengthen our power by organizing around the same demands in multiple locals.
As a next step, we are working on creating a survey for all our members of color to give feedback on the bargaining concepts that were generated in these meetings or otherwise submitted to the team, and intended to better support members of color in our union and in our schools.
Many of you have noticed the tension that has developed between the understandable desire to have children return to school, and the sensible insistence on safe working environments under COVID-19 conditions.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, health experts have advised that individuals avoid the “Three Cs” – Close Contact, Closed Spaces, Crowds. Thankfully, there is a way that some in-person instruction can still take place while meeting health and safety guidelines; ODE calls it LIPI (Limited In-Person Instruction).
According to the Oregon Department of Education, LIPI is when schools operating in the Comprehensive Distance Learning instructional model bring a limited number of students, for limited hours and with specific conditions, on-site.
Per ODE Guidelines:
- LIPI cohort groups are limited to no more than 20 students.
- Students cannot be part of more than two cohorts (including transportation) in any given week.
- Any one staff member (even in multiple roles) cannot interact with more than three cohorts in a given day and five in a week.
- LIPI cannot take the place of any CDL instruction.
You can read the full Guidance for Limited In-Person Instruction During CDL HERE.
Your PAT bargaining team has worked over the last three sessions to negotiate the fine points of LIPI activities in PPS. Key to our conversation:
- 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.
- 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.
- Educators who volunteer can rescind their volunteer offer if they do not feel safe once they inspect the space provided for LIPI.
We reached conceptual agreement on all points last week and you can look for the final copy of the language attached to the next Bargaining Brief.
As we prepare to start negotiations over a new PAT contract, it is vital that every PAT member knows how we are developing our capacities and structures to organize members to demonstrate our solidarity. It is through organizing and action-- both internally with members and externally with parents, labor, and community allies-- that we build our power and win a just contract that moves us towards the schools our students deserve.
Get a PAT Shirt from your Organizer
PAT Blue emblazoned with the words It’s Time for the Schools Our Students Deserve are currently being distributed by your building organizers. Please make sure you complete the t-shirt order form that they circulated and keep an eye out for a communication from your organizer on when and where you can pick your t-shirt.
Use your 1:10 Organizing Structure
When things are happening fast, we use our organizing structure to quickly relay messages or have conversations directly with every member in our buildings. Here’s how it works:
The Head Internal Organizer, Erika Schneider, communicates with Zone Organizers.
The Zone Organizers call the Building Organizers in their Zone.
The Building Organizers communicate with the 1:10 Organizers.
The 1:10 Organizers each talk to up to 10 members at their site.
To make this system work, we need enough 1:10 Organizers at every site, to make sure your Building Organizer has a team to help get the word out to everyone. Please respond to your Building Organizer when they contact you. It is important we get your input.
What if my building doesn’t have an organizer?
If you aren’t sure if your building has an organizer, please consider stepping up to take on the role during this important time with bargaining. We need a strong organizing structure in every school, and we can only achieve that when people take on leadership roles within their building. And if your Building Organizer could use another teammate, please consider stepping up as a 1:10 Organizer during this crucial time.
Meet your Zone Organizers
A big thanks to these PAT members who are the lead organizers for these Zones:
Erika Schneider (Llewellyn Elementary School) -- Head Internal Organizer
Mike Bauer (Cleveland High School) --- Internal Organizer Lead
Beyoung Yu (Rosa Parks Elementary) -- Zone 1
Jeff Grier (Woodlawn Elementary/SLP) -- Zone 2
Joyce McShane (ACCESS @ Vestal) --Zone 3
Shannon Foxley (da Vinci Middle School) -- Zone 5
Maggie Raczek (Lincoln High School) -- Zone 6
Ami Fox (Cleveland High School) -- Zone 7
Tina Lamanna (Markham Elementary) -- Zone 8
Julie Whitaker (Bridlemile Elementary) -- Zone 9
Each Zone Organizer is responsible for supporting and communicating with the Building Organizers in approximately ten buildings in their assigned zone.
Cynthia Campos, our UniServ Consultant, has accepted a new position within OEA. Starting this month, she will be working on behalf of our fellow OEA members in Higher Education. Cynthia has been a huge support to our members and our union, and our Community College colleagues are lucky to get her support and expertise. Will will miss her, and wish her the best of luck as she pursues this new endeavor! Luckily, we will still get to work with her through OEA.
We are interviewing candidates for the UniServ Consultant position at PAT this week and hope to have a new staff member to introduce to you soon. In the meantime, we are fortunate to have our own recently-retired Kathi Koenig in to fill the gap.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired on Dec. 31, 2020. It required employers to provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. Although employers may voluntarily choose to continue the expanded leave, PPS has decided not to.
The traditional (original) form of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is still in effect, but this form of leave is unpaid. PPS allows employees to use their accrued time to “pay themselves” while they are on an approved leave. If you are approved for a medical leave to care for yourself or a family member, you will be paid using your accrued leave balances in this order: family illness leave, sick leave, personal leave, then reserve sick leave.
Leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an entitlement so long as you have met the Oregon eligibility requirements.
PPS recently decided to outsource their FMLA leave processing to a vendor called FMLA Source. You contact them to begin the process of applying for medical leave.
This is an extremely stressful time. Please take care of yourself, and know that medical and family leave may be options to support your health and that of your family members.
Details from the PAT/PPS Contract, Article 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."
Information regarding these unpaid leaves can be found on the PPS website.
On February 8, an e-mail 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:
Executive Board (vote for 4):
- Angela Bonilla
- Ami Fox
- Shannon Foxley
- Tina Lamanna
- Beyoung Yu
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 25, 2021, by 5:00 PM, outside of your work hours.
Executive Board Candidate Questionnaire
Pursuant to Section 2, subsection E of the PAT Nominations and Elections Handbook, members now have the opportunity to submit written questions for the Executive Board candidates who are currently running for office. The Nominations and Elections Committee will choose 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 8, 2021. Please submit your questions via this electronic form by the end of business Friday, January 20.
In November, the PAT Executive Board signed the Defend Democracy Coalition Pledge.
On January 20th, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm in Irving Park, the Defend Democracy Coalition is holding a rally and march to celebrate the defeat of the Trump administration at the ballot box and to send a loud message to the Biden-Harris administration that our movements for social, racial, and economic justice are demanding an ambitious agenda of change.
Dumping Trump and turning the senate blue was just the beginning. This agenda includes such vital demands as: Medicare for all, real COVID relief, protection of immigrants, and reallocating money away from policing and into human needs.
Put on your PAT blue on January 20th and join the labor contingent at the march.