• Message on Teachers Union Proposal for Reduction of In-Person Student Learning This School Year

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    Dear PPS Families and Students,

    The start of this school year has been among the most challenging in our collective experience. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have stretched every person and every aspect of our lives. School districts nationally, including ours, are experiencing staffing shortages that have had a significant impact on our educators, students and school communities. We also know that after more than 18 months of learning virtually, our students learn best in-person.

    Yesterday, as part of the union’s right to bargain working conditions, the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), proposed a set of ideas they believe will address the issues impacting our school communities. In summary, their proposal to the school district includes:

    1. Staff Meetings: Reduce, modify or cancel staff meetings and non-essential committees until next school year.
    2. Teacher Evaluations: Postpone contract teacher evaluations until next school year.
    3. Reduce In-Person Instruction for Kindergarten to 8th Grade: 2-hour early release or late arrival every week; change six days of in-person school for students to planning days for educators.
    4. Reduce In-Person Instruction for High Schools: Make one day a week student self-directed school days; change 3 days of in-person school for students to planning days for educators.

    The teachers union is proposing reducing in-person school experience by about 20 days for high school students. In the aggregate, the teachers union is also proposing eliminating about 10 days of learning for students in elementary and middle school.  

    While we share the urgency to address issues impacting our educators’ experience this school year, we do not believe that dramatically reducing in-person learning for students is in the best interest of our students, their families and our community. 

    We do, however, agree about the importance of finding sensible solutions that best serve our students this school year, including a reduction of non-critical meetings, as the union has proposed.  

    We look forward to remaining at the table with the teachers union and inviting classroom educators, community-based partners, students and families to collaboratively and collectively design solutions to the issues making this school year challenging, including addressing school climate, building a stronger sense of belonging for our students, and creating opportunities to find relief of educators that strengthen and empower the relationship between our teachers and students. 

    Dr. Shawn Bird,
    Deputy Superintendent, Portland Public Schools