President's Message: Staffing Crisis Could Get Worse Without Action

Last week, I addressed the PPS School Board to convey the seriousness of the workload and staffing crisis we are facing in our schools, across the District, and across the country.

In addition to our regular responsibilities, this year educators are grappling with increased student needs and other pandemic-related demands, while an historic staffing crisis puts impossible demands on every staff member within our district.

Educators have been showing up and doing their best for students every day. However, we are more overwhelmed and stressed than ever before. For most educators, our workload has become untenable.

While PPS must continue to recruit employees to open jobs, we need to acknowledge that we can not hire ourselves out of this worker shortage if PPS does not retain the staff we have.

Since the beginning of the year, PAT members from across the District have shared with us just how overwhelmed and overstretched they are. 

The results of our recent survey illustrate the magnitude of the crisis we have on our hands.

Educators are facing crushing workload levels. More than 80 percent of educators report that their workload is so high they cannot get it done during the work day, and 25 percent said they cannot get their work done no matter how much time they spend on weekends and evenings. 

Educators are experiencing overwhelming stress. 70 percent of PPS educators reported that their stress level is high or severe, and 28 percent reported that their stress level was so severe it’s impacting their health.

I can’t say it strongly enough, this is not normal. And it is not sustainable. If we don’t immediately address the workload-related stress our educators are experiencing, it could decimate our workforce. More than 1,000 educators said they are currently considering taking a leave of absence or resigning, and an additional 400 educators reported that they are considering retiring earlier than they had planned.

If even a fraction of these educators leave the District, we will not be able to operate public school as we know it.

We know these issues are not unique to PPS. And we are also working in collaboration with union leaders in other districts to promote statewide solutions.

The good news is, we do have the opportunity to implement immediate solutions to make THIS YEAR manageable for the experienced educators we already have, while we work toward LONG TERM solutions to make sure a career in education can be fulfilling and sustainable for our current and future workforce. 

You can watch the presentation to the board here, beginning at about minute 50:00.

 

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President

Tell PPS Leaders What You Need to Make This Year Manageable: Upcoming Listening Sessions

PAT is organizing listening sessions with our PPS School Board members and PPS leaders, so they can hear directly from you.  We are holding 2 more listening sessions, and invite all PAT members to sign up to speak or to attend to listen: 

  • Thursday, November 4th, 5:00-6:00 PM
  • Monday, November 8th, 5:00-6:00 PM

Please come share your thoughts on the following questions:

  • What examples from your personal experiences best illustrate the demands on educators this school year? 
  • What immediate solutions could we implement to make this year manageable?
  • What long-term solutions can we work toward together to make sure a career as an educator can be fulfilling and sustainable?

All Listening sessions will be held on Zoom. Comments will be limited to 3 minutes or less, to allow many voices to be heard. Read more here. 

Evaluation Update

As a reminder, PAT and PPS HR agreed to push back the deadline for goal-setting to November 15th. The rest of the evaluation timeline remains unchanged. 

Early in October the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced new flexibility for Oregon’s educator evaluations for the 2021-22 school year. Oregon has temporarily modified the Oregon Framework for Teacher and Administrator Evaluation and Support Systems to allow districts to suspend the regular summative evaluation cycle for contract teachers because of COVID-19 related impacts. Many district leaders and educators across the state have asked for this flexibility knowing that quality evaluations that support educator growth take time and intention, something in short supply this year.

And because we know that PAT members share these concerns, we will be advocating to PPS that evaluations for Contract Educators be pushed back one year as a way to relieve workload for PAT members and for administrators. We will keep everyone updated as the issue progresses.  

Parent-Teacher Conferences are Virtual, Nov. 22nd & 23rd

This year, Parent-Teacher Conferences are scheduled for Monday, November 22nd and Tuesday, November 23rd. PPS has confirmed that all parent-teacher conferences will be held virtually this year. Educators are encouraged to work from home, but have the right to be in their building if they choose. 

Article 6.7.2 of your union contract states that, “the District shall schedule two (2) parent conferences in the evening on two consecutive evenings.” Evening conferences shall last no longer than three (3) hours and shall conclude by 8:30 PM To compensate for the two evenings, Wednesday, November 24th is a no-work day. Please make sure your conference schedule complies with our contract, including your dinner break and the end time. 

Individual educators may flex their schedule for parent-teacher conferences. For example, if an educator needs to attend to family needs for portions of the scheduled conference times, they may contact some families to schedule an alternative time for their conferences. However, unless your entire building applied for and received a contract exception, the only dates communicated by your building administrator should be the ones on the calendar.

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

Know Your Contract: Early Retirement

Every fall, we send members information about re-employment of retirees and the Early Retirement Incentive. Both of these provisions are explained in detail in Article 15 of the PAT/PPS contract.

We have all fought to maintain these benefits to assure that educators are able to retire with dignity when they feel it’s time.

PERS Bubble

The PERS Bubble refers to the ability of a PAT member to officially retire under the PERS system during the middle of the school year, but work through the end of the year. This saves PPS money, as they no longer have to make PERS contributions for the educator who retires, because they are essentially “substituting” for themselves for the rest of the year. The educator’s earnings remain intact, PPS saves money, and the students have continuity of instruction. 

In order to be eligible for the benefit, a member must retire after November 30th, and provide the District with at least 30 days notice before their official PERS resignation date. For example, if a member wishes to retire at the start of Winter Break on December 20, 2021, they would need to submit the official District Resignation Form at least thirty days prior – approximately November 19th.

Early Retirement Incentive

For educators with at least 15 years of service as of September 20, 2020, this benefit provides insurance contributions for the retired professional educator, and one-half the contribution to the cost of insurance for a spouse or domestic partner, for up to 60 months or until the professional educator becomes eligible for Medicare. The Early Retirement Incentive also provides a stipend of $425 per month, for up to 60 months. See all the details in Article 15 of our contract.

Notice-of-Retirement Stipend

There is a one-time stipend of $1,250 for any educator who gives written notice of retirement to the District prior to January 15th, and a stipend of $700 to any professional educator who gives written notice of retirement prior to February 15th.

November is Native American/Indigenous Heritage Month

Join PAT as we work to ensure that our students recognize that Native American and Indigenous history is American history and should be taught in the classroom year-round. 

Please visit our website to find resources co-created by the 2020-2021 PAT Social Justice and Community Outreach and Racial Equity committees. Resources include:

We encourage you to add a land acknowledgement to your school routine. Making a land acknowledgement is taking time to recognize the tribes that once lived where our schools now sit. You can use this website to find what ancestral land your school is located on. More information about land acknowledgements can be found here.

Navigating the Student Loan Forgiveness Quagmire: Upcoming Webinars

Your union is working on several fronts to help with the student loan debt crisis in this country. On an individual level, we want to help you better understand the Federal Loan Forgiveness programs including the newly announced PSLF Waiver and to move you toward loan forgiveness. 

Please join us to learn the facts about the current federal loan forgiveness programs and to gain access to the NEA Member Benefits Loan Forgiveness Navigation tool available at www.neamb.com/start.

  • December 6th, 4:30-6:30 PM on Zoom
  • January 13th 4:30-6:30 PM on Zoom

RSVP here. Please remember that you need to be a PAT member to attend, so if you are not already a member, sign up here today.

Thinking Ahead About Retirement? Find Retirement Planning Resources Online

PAT has frequently hosted workshops on financial well being and planning for the future, led by veteran financial advisor Ed Foster.  Whether you are a new educator thinking ahead, or in the last years of your career, we now have Ed Foster’s sage advice available for you online, whenever you need it:

Upcoming Events

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

  • November 3rd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Social Justice and Community Outreach Committee
  • November 3rd, 4:30-6:30 PM: Substitute Committee

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

Other PAT Events:

  • November 4th, and 8th, 5:00-6:00 PM on Zoom: Listening Sessions with PPS Leaders: Workload and Staffing Crisis. All sessions are virtual. Sign up here to speak or attend to listen 
  • December 6th, 4:30-6:30 PM on Zoom: Navigating the Student Loan Forgiveness Quagmire: Upcoming WebinarRSVP here
  • January 13th 4:30-6:30 PM on Zoom: Navigating the Student Loan Forgiveness Quagmire: Upcoming Webinar. RSVP here

Upcoming OEA Training and Events:

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