Parkrose teachers give a 'heads-up' to school district officials

PORTLAND, Ore. -- While teachers in the Gresham-Barlow School District recently voted to strike, teachers in the Parkrose School District are facing pay cuts and may even have to give back hundreds of dollars from furlough days.

The union hasn't decided on a specific strike date, but on Thursday morning, Parkrose teachers were already on the picket line. However, it wasn't an official picket. Several Parkrose High School teachers were just giving a heads-up to school district officials by "working to the rule," they said.

Jennifer Handsaker, Parkrose Faculty Association (PFA) President and also a Parkrose High School teacher, said "working to the rule" means they are only to work to their contract hour that they are obligated to work by their contract.

Contractually, teachers start at 7:30 a.m., so they used the 30 minutes before that to bring attention to a critical issue for them -- time.

"Many, teachers put in many, many hours beyond the contract time," Handsaker said.

English said he needs to correct a pile of tests, but time is not on his side.

"I've had to pare down these tests because it takes about four or five minutes to correct each test, so multiply that by 120," he said.

English said prep time for teachers has been cut in half, meaning more of his own time taken up by schoolwork.

"You add an extra whole workweek onto your load and that's what class sizes ... it's about time," he said.

It's about other things, too. But so far, school district officials and teachers can't come to an agreement, which will mean a real strike just might be around the corner.

In a statement, Dr. Karen Fischer Gray, the Parkrose School District Superintendent, said the following about a possibility of a strike:

"It is particularly disheartening, given the district's bargaining proposals, which while they do not give raises to teachers, are designed to limit as much as possible the impact of the economic downturn facing us all."

By law, teachers have to give school district officials at least 10 days notice before they walk off the job.