Dear Professional Educator,
On November 29th and 30th, your PAT Bargaining Team will meet with representatives from PPS to bargain for immediate and much needed workload relief that centers student safety and social-emotional needs, and that directs the District resources where they are needed the most, into the classroom and for wrap-around supports.
For a year and a half, the ongoing pandemic has disrupted our school system and our entire community. This year, students at every grade level need so much more from our public schools, both academically and in terms of social-emotional support. Additionally, we are seeing more students impacted by trauma and in need of intensive support than ever before.
Rather than having more resources and supports to meet these increased needs, this year our schools have LESS. We are facing an historic staffing shortage, and hundreds of crucial positions in our schools remain unfilled. Educators are stretched beyond capacity trying to fill the gaps. For example, our counselors, social workers, and academic support teachers are frequently being assigned to cover classes, rather than providing specific supports for students that are so urgently needed.
Educators are working every day to connect with students from behind masks, to teach over the noise of air purifiers, to establish classroom climate that meets all students’ social and emotional learning needs, to adapt to the absence of students and colleagues who are out due to COVID, all while working to keep up with curricular goals.
Clearly these are NOT normal circumstances and help is urgently needed in our schools for both students and educators. The path we are on is not working, and if we don’t make changes, we risk unplanned and extended school shutdowns due to staffing shortages and safety concerns.
As we head into bargaining with the District, it’s important to focus on what students and educators need most in this moment. These needs are driving our bargaining priorities, which include the following:
Students deserve classroom instruction that meets their current needs
- Time for educators to adapt curriculum and instruction to meet post-CDL student needs
- Time for educators to give feedback to students and families.
- Time for educators to collaborate with SpEd, ELL, Social Workers and content teams
- Time for students to get individual support from their teachers.
Students deserve all available PPS resources directly addressing their needs
- Temporarily remove job duties that do not immediately have an impact on student learning.
- Pivoting central office support to filling in for para-educator vacancies and absences when possible
Students deserve schools that are safe, secure, and that focus on the whole child.
- Dedicated time within the school day/week to meet the individual social-emotional and academic needs of students.
- Time for school staff to work together on school climate, to create an environment that is safe and supportive of student learning
The bottom line is educators need time to address our students’ needs, and we will be bringing a range of common sense proposals to the District next week that reflect these priorities.
We are hopeful that by making these changes-- to be implemented immediately after winter break-- we can provide our students with a better experience, create real relief for educators so the staffing crisis stops getting worse, and provide a stable and sustainable plan for the rest of the school year.
Normally, we would have a slower build-up to bargaining. But with the intense pressure so many of you are experiencing, and with so many educators feeling such despair, we’re worried that mid-year resignations will continue to climb if we do not get right to the bargaining table.
You will be able to view the sessions via recorded YouTube posts. Your building organizers will be coming to you so that you can review the bargaining platform that was developed from the workload survey and listening session input.
Our goal is to reach a quick settlement that can be fully in place for the first day after winter break. Educators need resources and time to provide a safe, caring, and supportive school community. The time to do it right is long past due.
As always, we ask for your support so that we can bring everyone a sense of hope for the second half of the school year.
Steve Lancaster, Angela Bonilla, Emy Markewitz, Charity Powell, Francisca Alvarez, Thea Keith