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Portland Schools Clash with Union Over Closure
“We cannot allow a small group of individuals to hijack our schools”

As Oregon school districts struggle to keep schools open in the face of personnel shortages, Portland Public Schools administration has taken the Portland Association of Teachers -- the teachers' union, uder the direction of Elizabeth Thiel -- to task for their plan to coordinate teachers' absences in order to force a wider shutdown of in-person instruction at district schools.

The union describes the deterioration of communication between the themselves and the district on the Portland Teachers' Union Website saying

In August, we demanded to bargain with the District over the workload impacts of the pandemic. The District finally sat down to formally begin this critical discussion in November. By then it was clear that our untenable workload– exacerbated by the pandemic conditions– was creating a staffing crisis that threatens our ability to safely run our schools.

We clearly stated our goal of offering educators meaningful workload relief, and creating better systems of support for students before the winter break, so that our community could have time to adjust to any changes, and so that students and educators could come back in January with some confidence that things will get better.

After 5 sessions of bargaining, it became abundantly clear that the District wasn’t willing to offer any significant workload relief for educators, or any meaningful improvements in student safety or student academic/emotional support. Therefore, today, we informed the District we are withdrawing from these talks.

Portland Public Schools has warned educators that this behavior is unlawful and harms students and has put a School Closure Tracker on their website which shows that 161 teachers -- or about 3.5% -- have had to be isolated due to being infected or presumptively infected with COVID-19. With the rise of absences among students and staff driven by the omicron variant of COVID-19, PPS has moved some schools into temporary distance learning, with campuses closed.

State Representative and gubernatorial candidate Christine Drazan (R-Canby) issued the following statement in response to a letter distributed by Portland Public Schools regarding reports of teachers and unions coordinating mass absences in an effort to close schools.

“It is incredibly alarming to hear reports of attempts to organize mass staff absences with the goal of closing our schools,” said Representative Drazan. “Our kids have been through enough these past two years. They’ve suffered from isolation, struggled to keep up with remote learning, and are now once again dealing with the anxiety of whether their classrooms will remain open. We simply cannot allow a small group of individuals to hijack our schools and force our students to pay the price.”

“We all know that good teachers are committed to their students and understand how important it is to keep kids in the classroom. Portland Public Schools is taking appropriate action to hold a limited number of bad actors accountable for their actions. Keeping our schools open full time and in person must be our shared priority.”

--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2022-01-13 16:04:14Last Update: 2022-01-13 16:22:57

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