What it Will Take to Fix PPS

PAT members delivered a strong message to the School Board last week that the dysfunction in PPS has gone on long enough. BIG THANKS to Sarah BrownGreg Burrill, and Francisca Alvarez for sharing powerful stories of what PPS cuts mean to educators and students. You can watch their comments on the PAT YouTube channel.

In my own testimony, I made it clear that if PPS wants to fix the very real problems in our District, administrators and Board members need to take off their rose-colored glasses and start listening to frontline educators.

PPS Leadership in Denial

District leaders need to trust our professional judgment, and make sure we have the tools, trainings, and time we need to teach our students. We have not felt support this year, and not just because we’re well into our second school year without a contract. 

PPS started the school year with cuts, with larger class sizes, with less administrative support, and with more work expected from each educator! Instead of acknowledging this and stepping in to resolve these issues, we have been met with denial that the problem even exists.

The enormous disconnect between what District officials say is happening in PPS, and what we see every day in our buildings is incredibly demoralizing, and it’s a barrier to helping our students succeed.

 Ballooning Workload

Oregon has the nation’s third worst class sizes, but we are told we can’t talk about class size at the bargaining table. Why? Not only are District officials refusing to address a key aspect of our workload, they are also missing the discrepancies and inequities that exist across PPS when you start looking beyond the already unacceptable averages. 

Problems such as putting too many programs in one building or overloading certain educators leads to outrageous situations. For example, one PE teacher at Peninsula is being forced to teach two classes at the same time. Does having fifty 1st graders in one PE class really count as offering PE?

As Sarah Brown told the Board, she sees 1,018 students every eight days, splitting her time between two elementary schools. Is that the kind of quality student engagement we’re trying to foster? 

And as Francisca Alvarez illustrated so vividly, our dual language instructors need curricula in the language they’re teaching, and when the District hasn’t provided it they’ve been filling the gaps, translating materials as well as instructing their students. Rather than providing workload relief, the District has been denying that the problem even exists.

Special Education Suffering

Since the beginning of the school year, special educators have been telling the District that their caseloads are too high. They don’t have the support they need to serve our most vulnerable students—whether it’s additional para-educators to provide critical one-on-one attention or more time to work through their extreme caseloads. 

Over and over we’ve seen this problem ripple across entire schools. Classroom teachers struggle with a shortage of support staff, and other resource people like counselors or reading specialists are pulled away from their own cases to help address the most urgent special education needs.

It’s long past time for the District to listen to educators on the front lines, and start working with us to solve these problems so we can serve our students. 

A key starting point is settling a fair contract.

In Solidarity,

Suzanne Cohen
PAT President