Portland Public Schools: Goal is to keep schools open if teachers strike

PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland Public Schools says the goal is to keep schools open with normal class schedules even if teachers go on strike, according to district spokeswoman Christine Miles.

Miles says a team from the district's human resources department is working behind the scenes to compile a confidential "emergency plan" with staffing and instruction plans should the Portland Association of Teachers authorize a strike.

The school district and the Portland Association of Teachers met with the state mediator Friday to continue negotiations.

The union has scheduled a strike vote for Wednesday.

KATU's calls to the teachers union have not been returned.

Miles says the district has a "deep list" of substitute teachers to keep schools open. She says this includes the current roster plus retirees, recent graduates and even previous teacher job applicants who were not hired.

"We're in a great position since the district has been hiring teachers and has a list of candidates."

The district's website said it had 1,006 substitutes and 2,828 teachers.

Miles would not discuss how many people are on the extended list, or how the district would find enough subs to fill all teaching positions during a possible strike.

The Portland Association of Teachers did not respond to multiple phone calls.

A representative from the union responded to a tweet, saying substitutes would support the teachers.

PPS says subs have a contract that prevents them from striking, and if they do, they'll be deleted from the database, according to Miles.

Meanwhile, some parents say they'll keep their kids home from school if teachers strike regardless of what the district does to keep schools open.

"It's a lesson in democracy," said Betsy Salter, who has an eighth-grade daughter at Mt. Tabor Middle School.

Salter says she'll take her daughter, Maggie, to the picket line, if teachers strike, as a way to support the teachers.

"I've been anxious for a long time," she said. "I've never been through a strike before."

Superintendent Carole Smith sent the following email to the PPS community Thursday night:

Last night, the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT) announced that they will hold a strike vote next Wednesday. While PAT has chosen to take a step toward a strike, bargaining teams are meeting with a state mediator tomorrow in continuing negotiations.

I know that a strike would be extremely disruptive for your student and your family. I want you to know that if a strike should occur, our goal would be to keep schools open.

If the teachers vote to strike, PAT must give our school district a 10-day notice prior to a work stoppage. If that happens, you will receive more information from your school. Also, a hotline will be available to answer your questions.

For more than 10 months, PPS has been working to reach an agreement with PAT that is in the best interests of Portland's students. The school board has refrained from taking unilateral action to impose working conditions on our teachers. We have stayed true to our commitment to reach a settlement at the table.

Our goal is to reach an agreement that adds teachers, adds school days and helps Portland retain and recruit the best teachers for our classrooms.

To learn more about what PPS has offered, click here. You can find both sides' proposals and other information on our PAT Contract Talks web page.

Thank you for your patience as we work hard toward negotiating a new agreement for Portland's teachers.


Carole Smith