Teachers leaflet at the Great City Schools conference

While district administrators attended seminars like “Successful Teacher incentive and Pay for Performance Programs in Urban Schools” last week at the Great City Schools Conference, teachers leafleted attendees with the following:

To the Attendees of the Council of the Great City Schools Conference:

Welcome to Portland. In Portland, we are proud of our public schools. In this city, over 80% of residents choose to send their children to public school rather than other alternatives. The community respects and supports its teachers.

Teachers in the Portland Public Schools are some of the most highly educated and experienced staff in the state. 86% hold masters degrees or higher. Over 50% have 12 or more years of teaching experience.

No wonder Superintendent Carole Smith and the Portland Public Schools Board members are proud to host this conference. Unfortunately, however, they do not show similar regard for Portland teachers and our work.

Portland educators have now been working without a contract for SIXTEEN MONTHS. Despite that, day after day we continue to go to our school buildings because of our deep commitment to our students and to our community.

Just six years ago, Portland teachers took a pay cut of more than 5% when we worked ten days for free to avoid a threatened 24-day cut to the school year. Because of our action, all Portland students had a full school year. No other employee group in the district worked 10 days without pay. And now we are being asked to take another 5-day pay cut and a cost of living freeze.

The District calls for “shared sacrifice,” but it’s disingenuous. Portland teachers are continually asked to take on more responsibilities for less pay, while administrators at the central office are given five figure raises – for “increased responsibilities”.

One manager in Communications got a raise this year of $15,268. The amount of his raise alone is more than one-third of the annual salary of a 4th year teacher with a Masters degree. One part-time (0.8) Director of Planning and Performance at the central office, who has an MBA and no prior K-12 education experience, makes $90,000, while a full-time teacher with a PhD and twelve year’s experience makes $20,000 less.

Your PPS hosts probably did not mention that Portland teachers are frustrated and angry over the District’s lack of respect for us and our work. Teachers are seldom included in educational decisions that directly impact our students. Our professional training and experience is rarely acknowledged.

The District’s misguided priorities have resulted in staff frustration, low morale and a lack of confidence in PPS leadership.

What makes Great City Schools? Great teachers and great leaders who recognize that it takes teachers who feel respected for their professional knowledge and skill.

We have great teachers …

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.