Over the past few weeks, the scope of the staffing crisis in our public schools has become glaringly apparent.
Of course, the pandemic is part of the problem. This year, staff are required to stay home when experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as well as when they must isolate, quarantine, or care for their own children who may be required to stay home.
But this staffing crisis pre-dates the pandemic, and it’s a reflection of our unsustainable working conditions and the deterioration of student supports in our schools. Together, they pose a real threat to the viability of our public school system.
The Scope of the Problem
The staffing shortage impacts every school community, every student, and every staff member. Here are some numbers to help illustrate the situation:
- As of last week, there were 146 certified positions still posted and unfilled in PPS.
- We have a historic shortage of substitute educators. While the list of substitutes in PPS typically includes over 800 names, this year there are only 528.
- Between September 1 and October 5, there were a total of 1,326 unfilled substitute jobs. (By comparison, the same period of time in 2019-20 had 164 unfilled jobs.)
- One day last month PPS had 122 unfilled substitute jobs.
The gaps are being filled in any way possible. Building administrators are covering classrooms, as are instructional coaches, counselors, and others. Our TOSAs and all licensed central-office staff (including central office administrators) have been asked to substitute in our schools. And of course, classroom teachers are being asked to cover classes during their planning time.
At a time when educators have MORE on their plates than ever before, this is causing an incredible strain and it is not sustainable.
The staffing shortage is not unique to licensed teachers. Here are some more numbers:
- PPS is short over 40 Custodians.
- There are more than 30 open positions in Nutrition Services.
- There are almost 80 open positions for Paraeducators and Educational Assistants.
- The District continues to be short at least 20 bus drivers, even after cancelling numerous routes.
- The District is still trying to fill over a dozen administrator positions.
These are all positions that are FUNDED and POSTED. The problem is that people are not seeking, accepting, and choosing to stick with these jobs.
It is also important to note that this staffing shortage is also not unique to PPS. Across the state and across the country, districts are facing similar struggles.
SO WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?
In the short term, PAT has been working with the District to explore all pathways to immediately increase the substitute pool. Last week, TSPC announced that it is temporarily reducing requirements for substitute educators, in an attempt to address the shortage state-wide. PAT is also supportive of all proposals from our fellow PPS employee unions to attract and retain more custodians, nutrition workers, bus drivers, educational assistants, and para-professionals.
However, short term solutions are not enough. The labor shortages we are experiencing now result from the perpetual under-funding and under-staffing of our schools, and the increasingly impossible demands of our jobs. We have been asked to do “more with less” for decades, and now our schools are paying the price.
The pandemic has made it clear that in addition to our students’ educational needs, our public schools are essential to the mental health and wellness of our children, as well as the well-being of parents, and the functionality of our entire economy. Considering all that is at stake, it is essential that we invest in long-term solutions to make our schools places where talented and dedicated adults SEEK to build their careers, and can find the support necessary to stick with it for decades.
What changes to the system do you believe are needed to make a career in education one that you would recommend to the young people you teach? We owe it to our students to defend the sustainability of our profession and of public schools.
One of the solutions to the shortage of substitute educators that PAT has been advocating for is to allow recently-retired educators to substitute teach. Until now, PPS has been enforcing a 26-week break in employment before allowing retired educators to begin employment as a substitute. PPS has just agreed to remove that requirement for this school year, in order to tap the pool of fully licensed, experienced educators who retired in the spring and to help alleviate the current substitute shortage.
If you know any recently retired educators who might be interested in working as a substitute educator this fall, please pass on this information.
One of the most important events that PAT hosts is Teacher for a Day. Our PAT Legislative Committee invites policy makers, community leaders, and other partners into our schools to experience first hand the conditions we face, to witness the incredible dedication of our educators, and to understand the resources required for our schools to best serve our students.
This year, Teacher for a Day will take place on Tuesday, December 14th. We need educators to volunteer to host leaders in their classrooms.
If you are interested in being a host, or know someone who would make an ideal ambassador, please sign up here!
The PAT Nominations & Elections Committee announces that nominations for PAT Elected Positions will open on November 17, 2021, at the November PAT Representative Assembly.
The positions open for nominations include:
- PAT President
- PAT Vice President
- PAT Treasurer
- PAT Secretary
- PAT Executive Board Directors (5 positions)
- PAT Delegate to the Oregon Education Association Representative Assembly (OEA RA)
- PAT Delegate to the National Education Association Representative Assembly (NEA RA)
Any PAT member in good standing may run for any of these positions. Non-members are not eligible to run for an elected union office. Detailed information about the terms and duties of the positions and the Nomination Form may be found on our website.
Nominations for Executive Board and Officer candidates close on Friday, January 7, 2022, at 5:00 PM. Speeches need to be recorded prior to the January 2022 Representative Assembly.
Nominations for OEA and NEA RA Delegates close at the January Representative Assembly, at 7:00 PM on January 12.
The Voters’ Pamphlet and Ballots will be sent electronically to members on February 7, 2022. Votes must be cast by 5:00 PM on Thursday, February 24, 2022.
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:
- Grand Ronde Tribal Education resources including Tribal History Curriculum for 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th grade.
- Indigenous Library: Click the link, then click books for read aloud (YouTube) links
- Resources for teaching about Thanksgiving and Columbus Day
- Videos to share with students (links on our website)
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.
Join Us Monday October 18, 2021, 4:30-5:30 PM: a SJCO subcommittee is meeting to review our current PAT resources for Native American/Indegenous Heritage Month and to make recommendations for this year and the future. Affinity representation is warmly appreciated and all members are welcome. Please sign up here to help on any of our heritage month subcommittees. The link for the October 18 meeting will be sent to everyone indicating interest in helping with Native American/Indegenous Heritage Month.
The current PAT/PPS contract states, “Student loads will be calculated on the third Monday in October and the third Monday in February.” (Article 126.96.36.199)
This year, the third Monday in October is Monday, October 18th.
All professional educators should save a copy of their Synergy class lists, and of their course preparation lists, on Friday, October 15th, and then keep a copy of that record.
PPS will make overage payments in the November check.
If any professional educator does not receive payment for an overage, claims can be submitted to PPS in December, by filling out a form that will be sent by PPS.
If you have earned educational credits over the summer, or if you are a new hire and have yet to submit your educational background, you must submit the official documentation to HR no later than October 31st if you want the credits to count from the start of the year.
The PAT/PPS Collective Bargaining Agreement states in Article 188.8.131.52 “ In order to receive a salary adjustment retroactive to the beginning of the current school year, a professional educator must, by October 31st, provide the Human Resources Department with proof of completion of coursework. Adjustments based upon proof received after October 31st will be made effective the first day of the next pay period.”
If you submit the credits to HR after October 31st, they will move you on the salary schedule but the credits will not be counted retroactively to the start of the school year.
The PAT Racial Equity Committee is hosting Socials throughout the year for Educators of Color. Come join us from 4:00 PM-7:00 PM on the following Thursdays:
- January 27th
- April 7th
- June 2nd
We'll have food, drinks, and, most importantly, a chance to hang out with other EoC from around the district in an affinity space.
Locations TBA. Hope to see you there!
PAT Committee Meetings-Join the committee mailing list to receive a Zoom Link.
- October 20th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Instructional and Professional Development Committee
- October 27th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Legislative Committee
- October 27th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Membership Committee
- October 27th, 4:30-6:30 PM: Racial Equity Committee
- 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:
- October 13th, 4:30-7:30 PM: PAT Rep Assembly
- October 18th 2021, 4:30-5:30 PM: SJCO subcommittee for Indigenous Heritage Month. RSVP Here
- October 21st, 4:30-6:30 PM: PAT Rep Training: Racial Justice #1: History of Race and Racism in the US, Oregon, and PPS
- October 23rd, Northwest Teaching For Social Justice Conference
- November 6th, 10 AM- noon: PAT Rep Training, In-Person: Rep Fundamentals #3 : Representing Members (Advanced)
- November 6th, 1:00 - 3:00 PM: PAT Rep Training, In Person: Racial Justice #1: History of Race and Racism in the US, Oregon, and PPS
Upcoming OEA training and Events:
- October 16th, 19th, and 21st, 2021: OEA Fall Conference
- October 21st, 4:30-6:00 PM: New Educator Toolbelt Series: Student Debt Relief