One part of Portland Public Schools' new two-year contract with its teachers union is supposed to save the financially starved district $4 million a year by increasing high-school teachers' workload.
But that feature of the new contract—to have high-school teachers teach six out of eight periods a day instead of five out of seven—still remains something of a proposal. While PPS administrators have the right to say they will fund high schools as if teachers teach six out of eight periods (a move that allows schools to employ fewer teachers to lead the same number of classes), they can't actually make teachers implement that schedule at their schools without separate site-by-site agreements with representatives of the Portland Association of Teachers union.
That's why, more than a month after the school district and its teachers union reached an agreement on the contract, there's still no official word on how high schools will structure their schedules to accommodate the district's funding plan. The plan would result in layoffs for about 40 high school teachers.
That could change as soon as this week. Today, at 4pm at Madison High School, the district's high-school teachers were to meet with union leaders to discuss options for responding to the district's funding plan. Dee Simmons, a PAT representative, says the meeting is designed to allay teachers' fears about the workload increase. "It's never been about forcing people," Simmons says. "It's about giving people options."
After the meeting, teachers at individual high schools are supposed to craft new class schedules with their principals. Anything experimental like this requires a contract "exception" that has to be voted on and approved by members. (These are the site-by-site agreements mentioned above.) Contract exceptions then need to be renewed annually, which is one reason why Trudy Sargent, the only school board member to vote against the contract, opposed the agreement.