SECOND OPINION •ÊEducators' representative refutes school board member's view

As we confront the challenges facing public education and Portland Public Schools in the 21st century, the Portland Association of Teachers is looking forward to the opportunity to build a more positive working relationship with the new Portland school board. The 3,400 teachers, school psychologists, speech pathologists and other educators constituting the PAT have no interest in managing the Portland Public Schools, but we do have a strong interest in the district being well managed.

Some believe that educators should have no interest in decisions that have dire consequences for their students and the future of Portland Public Schools. We disagree.

As the professionals dedicated to teaching the next generation of Portland's citizens, we are concerned about the lack of dedication to its teaching force. We want the district to attract and retain quality educators. We want educators in the district to feel respected, valued and recognized for the important work we do. We want all educators to be provided the resources, tools, time and training to do our jobs effectively. We believe that education professionals should have a voice in educational decisions.

Last school year, the Portland school board adopted a budget that called initially for a nine-day reduction in the school year. It later expanded to a 15-day, then a 24-day, reduction in the school year Ñ which would have made Portland's school year the shortest in the nation. The proposed cuts came at a time when public schools faced enormous pressure to improve student achievement while teachers worked with fewer resources and more students.

Those who are cynical about the Portland Association of Teachers' interest in the management of the district should remember who stepped forth with a proposal last spring that kept kids in school for a full school year. It became clear to us that students in less affluent areas of the city were going to lose over a month of school, while more affluent communities were prepared to provide 'temporary' schools and tutors for their children. We came forward with a proposal that put the interest of students first. Teachers worked 10 days without pay. Interestingly, only teachers lost the 10 days of pay.

Former board member Sue Hagmeier has yet to acknowledge this sacrifice (Teachers union looks out for itself, Insight, Nov. 14). Had Portland teachers accepted everything the former board had in its proposal, students would have lost 24 days of instruction critical to higher achievement.

In past years, we enjoyed positive working relationships with Portland Public Schools. We didn't always agree on every issue, but we felt mutual respect. Portland is one of a few large urban school districts that has never had a labor strike. We look forward to working with a new school board that values the contribution of its employees. We welcome the opportunity to mutually work toward our common goals.

Ms. Hagmeier has every right to her opinion. It may reflect the former school board's point of view. Thank goodness it doesn't seem to reflect the view of our new school board members.

Ann Nice is president of the Portland Association of Teachers. Before that, she was a teacher for 33 years, primarily at the middle school level. She graduated from Eastern Oregon University and lives in Southeast Portland.

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