Breaking: Oregonian notices contract dispute after 531 days, sends reporter to rally

10:29 pm

The Oregonian, after missing a major teacher rally last month, sent a reporter to tonight’s rally, where teachers called  for a contract to replace the one that expired 531 days ago. Kim Melton reports that teachers disrupted the school board meeting, with superintendent Carole Smith and board members filing out of the auditorium in the face of chanting teachers.

The Oregonian‘s coverage includes no quotes from the district or teachers and does no critical analysis of the causes of stuck negotiations, instead proffering that “[t]he economy is partly to blame for the slow pace.” Melton also fails to mention that teachers included concessions in their settlement offer Friday, and were met with district demands for more concessions. With this dearth of information, the usual teacher- and union-bashing  ensued in reader comments on

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

filed under: Labor Relations, Media, School Board

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26 Responses

  1. Comment from Ken:

    Kim Melton: “What? There’s a contract issue? But the PPS Communications staff didn’t tell me anything about this.”
    Seriously – how much is she being paid by PPS people to write up crap like this?

  2. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    I really don’t blame Kim so much as the paper she works for, and the attitudes of mainstream media outlets in general. Even in their death throes, papers like Thee O cling to an outdated notion of “objectivity,” which turns out in practice to be a virtually insurmountable bias for the status quo.

    I understand if a reporter couldn’t get quotes from board members or administrators, who ducked out. But you couldn’t swing a dead cat in the lobby of BESC without hitting several hundred teachers in the head. How about a quote from one of them?

    But I think many journalists are stuck in the logical fallacy of “Argument from Authority.”

    That is: “Source A says p. Source A is authoritative. Therefore, p is true.”

    And of course, a corollary is that if A is not authoritative (e.g., a rank-and-file teacher), their views have little or no value.

  3. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Well, this is the second time I called and cancelled my subscription to the Oregonian, and this time for good. If this paper wants to survive, they are going to have to do a far better job reporting on education and the PPS.

    I’ll stick with the Tribune (Jennifer Anderson) and WW (Beth Slovic) to get my info. Our weeklies tend to do far more honest and thorough reporting.

    Posting on Oregon Live has been a kick–the ignorant and misinformed, or rather NOT INFORMED AT ALL reign supreme! Thanks for nothing, Oregonian! As others have said, you truly are “a shill for the PPS!”

  4. Comment from Bonnie Robb:

    Keep up the posts on Oregon Live Sunshine…I am having a blast reading them. There are so many people who are so misinformed and the Oregonian report highlighting the duty time in the contract (such a small part of the big picture) really does make teachers look small and petty. Perhaps Kimberly could read the whole history of the contract negotiations before she writes such a surface, misinformed piece.
    Keep on educating the general public!

  5. Comment from marcia:

    I used to work on a small newspaper outside of Denver. I would be at meetings with Denver Post reporters, and write my story, then see their story the next day…I would wonder…were we at the same meeting??? ‘Cause they sure got it wrong…Such is the case with Kimberly…Accuracy Accuracy Accuracy, Kimmy…Do your research before you put pen to paper….Very poor reporting…And the editor let that hit the paper? Even worse. This is why I no longer subscribe to the Oregonian.

  6. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    It’s really not Kim… it’s the O’s culture of complacency.

    Need a source for a government story? No need to leave the newsroom! Call the agency’s PIO or the elected official’s spokesmodel. For “balance” call some wingnut, e.g. at the Cascade Policy Institute (at least they’re not still calling Bill Sizemore).

    Every story has exactly two sides — there is no such thing as nuance. Write to a fifth-grade reading level and don’t confuse your readers with inconvenient facts that contradict or shade your thesis (see the prohibition of nuance above).

  7. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Oh, Oregon LIve is a real buncha fun, Bonnie Robb…what a place to start blogging—don’t go there!!!! AGGHHHH!!!! Glad you are finding it so much fun and seem to have connected the dots to my identity…hehehhehe…..

    I went through two pots o’ coffee just posting on there all day, and am now steamin’ with caffeine excess and headed to the HS Redesign meeting to keep my lips zipped.

    Teechurz Rock!!!

  8. Comment from Dagmar:

    I’ve been working as a substitute teacher for the past 10 months, so maybe I’m a bit naive, but does the PAT have a PR person? There should be press releases, media appeanances, etc. if we want the public to hear both sides of the story. We’ll never get anywhere if we sit back and just let the story come out the way PPS wants it to.

  9. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Good point, Dagmar! You might want to contact the union, they could do a better job with more TV interviews, more stuff in the papers, etc. With the Oregonian reporting being so biased, and incomplete, we need a more OUT THERE union. Just a tiny dose of RADICAL and LISTEN TO US might be nice. FIRED UP!

  10. Comment from Susan:

    PPS has a communications staff of 50. I would hate to see PAT go in the same direction. Parents do need to be more informed from both sides, and then lend their voices to this very important issue, which speaks to our faith in public schools and the ability of the district to work with its teachers.

    Interesting timing for the district to start getting press and posting info regarding the negotiations, but the reality is that parents are really wrestling with ‘the high school redesign thing and the K-8 thing’ and are waving signs and sending emails (maybe even willing to do a mass pullout of students one school day?), but a little radical from the teachers union might push us over the edge.

  11. Comment from Dagmar:

    I don’t think it would be “radical” at all for the PAT to start generating some thoughtful, carefully-worded PR pieces. If they don’t, we’ll have little to no public support. Yes, the Oregonian has made us look like a bunch of whiners who refuse to sacrifice anything in a tough economy. What are we going to do about it? Writing a press release isn’t difficult, and it’s a good start.

  12. Comment from Susan:

    Press releases are definitely not radical, so wasn’t trying to argue against them.

  13. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Dagmar, good points. I hope you keep posting on this site.

  14. Comment from Dagmar:

    Okay, Gotcha, Susan. 🙂 I definitely understand your point that radicalism might be off-putting, which is what I think the Oregonian is focusing on.

  15. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Y’know, DAgmar–you are right on your last post, which the PPS KNOWS, and will use to their advantage. They strung out these negotiations as long as they could while the economy tanked–because who is going to support teachers when people are out of jobs, etc? That’s the plan, the PPS executed it perfectly, and teachers are just plain screwed, no matter how much we’ve had salaries cut, frozen, etc.

    What the dismal PPS management fails to realize is the total demoralization and burn out rate among staff. Wait till they ask teachers to campaign and rally for a bond measure or whatever. I’ve never seen such cynicism and digust about Carole Smith on down, people I’ve never heard say a critical word and vocalizing their dismay.

    I’ve been through several strikes in my working lifetime, one that turned violent. That leaves a bad taste in the community for decades to come. But, I’ll tell ya, this contract negotiations and how the PPS has used it on teachers and created a hostile atmosphere, fanned by the flames of the Oregonian is JUST AS BAD AS A STRIKE. The PPS brass should be ashamed of themselves. Teachers and admin. didn’t used to be this divided—ahhh…the corporate model and Gates-ish thinking has really taken a toll.

    PPS teachers are just plain swimming up s*&$ creek, with no way to get to the river again. If we speak up, we’re greedy.

    Crap, what now?

  16. Comment from Steve Buel:

    I’ve bargained from both sides — as a school board member and as a union president where I was in full control of negotiations. I’ll say it again. It is Carole Smith’s job to settle this up. I am not sure she gets it though.

  17. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    She COULD, but I don’t think she wants to face the reality of what her workforce feels and thinks about her, the board, the district. The year ol’ Vicki Phillips settled the contract BEFORE bargaining began did a lot for morale and stress for all, and I think gave Vicki more respect than she possibly deserved. But, it was a relief, nonetheless, to not have a contract battle hanging over our heads and the threat of a strike.

    I don’t think Carole has the “chutzpah”, ‘gizzards’, male-body-part or whatever you would call it to make a strategic move to heal the rift, drop some of the ridiculous workload demands, give a teeny raise and help everyone move on. She COULD, SHE WON’T. She is insulated from teachers by her staff, and may think we are all just sooooo happy…….????

  18. Comment from pps teacher:

    Carole who??
    It’s time for her to “step up” and show some leadership.

  19. Comment from howard:

    With Measures 66 and 67 undecided and negotiations in arbitration,I think it is pointless to expect Carole Smith to “drop some of the ridiculous workload demands, give a teeny raise and help everyone move on.”

    Vicki Phillips and her negotiating team had the financial backing of a temporary county income tax and the support of some influential city and county political leaders backing her first negotiation with the PAT.

    PAT and PPS had been content to go without a contract in hopes of finding enough money to come up with a contract acceptable to both sides. Now restlessness has set in. Are both sides now willing to cooperate in arbitration to work out a contract based on current resources?

  20. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    I get your point, Howard–you’re right on that temporary tax. But… will never convince me that the board used delay tactics and a tanking economy to avoid an earlier settlement. PAT really did try to settle long before the contract even expired—I know for a fact PAT had private “conversations” (I am so sick of that word) with Carole and her people, in an attempt to do this in a timely manner. AND, the big stickler in all this is not $$—but demands of increased work and a longer schoolday with current salary.

    Restlessness? That is not the correct word to use, but I can’t come up with one that is appropriate for this site, ha!

    The vacuum of leadership and respect that Carole Smith projects doesn’t help all this. Where is she???????

  21. Comment from Miss Merry Sunshine:

    Whoops, Merry didn’t proofread good enuf:

    “ will never convince me that the board DIDN’T PURPOSELY use delay tactics and a tanking economy to avoid an earlier settlement”

    Sorry about that. Need more cawfee….

  22. Comment from Robb Cowie, PPS Community Involvement and Public Affairs:

    Just want to correct some misinformation that’s been reported on this blog about the number of staff in the PPS Community Involvement and Public Affairs Department.

    The CIPA department does have 50 staff. But those staff are responsible for a range of critical functions including: coordinating before and after-school child care services and pre-K and kindergarten support; communications; operating the Enrollment and Transfer Center, promoting and coordinating family engagement; managing our governmental relations; serving families, including many newcomer families, at the Northside and Southside Family Support Centers; providing interpretation and translation services; developing partnerships with community and governmental agencies; promoting student voice in school district decision-making, and producing PPS’ Web and TV Services.

    The people in this department support PPS students, families and staff in a variety of ways, from ensuring that families have access to appropriate language services and health benefits to ensuring that our schools are welcoming and that families have a voice in important decisions, like the future of our high schools.

    The Marysville fire was one example of how Community Involvement staff provided important coordinated assistance to families in Portland Public Schools. Community Involvement and Public Affairs staff worked all hours (including over a holiday and through the weekend) from the moment the Marysville fire was reported, until after the students moved into Rose City Park. Among other things, they kept families informed at every step of the way, provided interpretation and translation services to the diverse mix of languages represented among Marysville families and organized and supported the out-pouring of volunteer offers and donations we received. Their work helped to keep Marysville families and the public at large well-informed and supported throughout the ordeal.

    For the record, only 4.5 out of the 50 staff in the Community Involvement and Public Affairs staff are dedicated to communications and public engagement. In a school district of 47,000 students and nearly 7,000 employees, and in a community of over 500,000 people (where more than 8 out of 10 residents do not have children currently in the school system and may have little direct knowledge about what is happening there), communications staff play an important role that is vital to keeping people informed and involved in our schools.

  23. Comment from ppsparent:

    Mr. Cowie-with due respect to Marysville, several schools in PPS have been “on fire” for years, with no one at the district rallying over the weekend to make them safe and supported, or communicate clearly with parents about their concerns. Start with any school in North Portland who could use a new book, and working water fountains and move your way through the district.

  24. Comment from Susan:

    Thanks for providing more accurate information regarding CIPA’s scope. I apologize for my generalizations and I appreciate the time you took to respond to my incomplete post.

    I was also appreciative of the district’s response to the Marysville crisis. I know CIPA weren’t the only folks working round the clock to get things done. It really was encouraging to see the whole city work together to help Marysville staff get ready to reopen in a few short days. It gives me hope that Portland might possibly be able to work together to tackle the other quiet crises ppsparent references above.

    Thanks again for your time and enjoy the holidays.

  25. Comment from marcia:

    Steve B…at the union meeting this week we heard that a member had confronted Carole Smith and told her she had the power to settle these contract negotiations…According to reports..Carole just raised her hands and said sweetly, “We all have the power.” Ok…then.

  26. Comment from S. Wilcox:

    Then why do I feel powerless?