After months of negotiations, Portland Public nears contract agreement with teachers
After a year and a half of negotiations, Portland Public Schools teachers may be close to an agreement on a contract.
Negotiations, beginning with a now-scrapped interest-based bargaining process, have been slow but the pieces are expected to finally come together by the end of the month. The district announced to families on Tuesday that it arrived at a settlement framework with the Portland Association of Teachers union.
The agreement came after several bargaining sessions that reached into the early morning hours, according to PAT President Suzanne Cohen.
The bargaining teams — consisting of 10 people on each side — were under the union's threat of "escalation" if they did not reach an agreement by the end of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend.
"Our patience has run out and it's really time to settle this so we can settle and build," Cohen said last week. "We had really meaningful conversations about important issues but we have not reached any agreements."
Details are sparse as the agreement's terms will not be made public until the union members ratify a tentative agreement — expected soon — with a vote in coming weeks. Then it will go to the PPS Board of Education, which will have 72 hours to decide to accept it.
But the Jan. 16 letter to parents and staff did show a few general items the district and union agree on: a "more competitive" salary and benefits package, more flexibility with hours, more personal attention to individual students and more teacher and student supports.
"This framework agreement is an important milestone in the union's and District's willingness to work professionally and collaboratively to improve student learning and achievement as well as teacher supports and compensation," reads the statement signed by Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. "We are grateful for the student-centered spirit of co-operation and progress demonstrated by PAT representatives, board members, and district negotiators."
Cohen said the new superintendent had been present at all the bargaining meetings, "which we're pleased with."
Guerrero became superintendent Oct. 1 after a year with an Interim Superintendent Bob McKean and spots with Interim Superintendent Yousef Awwad. Prior to that, under Carole Smith's longtime leadership, the teachers came very close to a strike in February 2014.
In July 2017, right as the newly elected board members were taking their seats, the teachers were considering another strike.
Julia Brim-Edwards and Rita Moore are the newest board members to join the bargaining team, alongside Amy Kohnstamm who was elected in 2015.