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Letter To Superintendent Guerrero and Portland Public Schools Community
November 9, 2023
Dear Superintendent Guerrero and Portland Public Schools Community,
Superintendents from around the state have watched the news out of Portland unfold over the last week with concern and with empathy for all involved. We are encouraged to see recent news reports that mediation sessions are scheduled and both sides are coming to the table with proposals that are student-focused and intended to bring a swift end to this strike.
We know that when our students are not in their classrooms, the impacts can be great. Not only has their education been disrupted, for many, so have other critical wraparound services. Every educator in Oregon will tell you that the needs of our students are greater than ever, and that every day in school is critical. In Portland, and across the state, our students are still reeling from both lost learning opportunities and the social and emotional scars of one of the longest school closures in the nation during the pandemic.
We know that school staff and educators in Oregon, and particularly our teachers, have been under tremendous stress and strain. Their work is more challenging than at any time in their careers – and in many communities, the difficulty of making ends meet for their family budgets is considerable with skyrocketing housing and childcare costs, and soaring inflation. We need great teachers in every classroom in Portland and in every classroom across the state.
We know that you and the PPS administrative team have – and will continue to prioritize – all of the complex needs of your students and your educators. Your willingness to collaborate to resolve the competing needs of your students, teachers, and community members will ensure that PPS students receive the best education and services possible within finite budget resources. As the statewide association that serves and supports superintendents and administrators to ensure student success, we deeply respect that you and your team are focused on what matters most: equitably serving every student in your district. On behalf of superintendents from around our state, we support you, Superintendent Guerrero. We recognize and value your leadership.
The challenge of balancing the complex needs of your students and educators is not unique to Portland. Across the state, school districts have begun, or are preparing to begin bargaining conversations with their educators and staff. We are growing increasingly concerned that different perspectives can easily devolve into deep divisions at a time when we should all be choosing collaboration and problem-solving over conflict. Our focus needs to be ensuring that all students in our state are in schools, supported by educators, connected to their friends and support networks, and involved in the sports and extracurriculars that bring them joy.
Oregon’s public schools work best when we are focused on serving our students and meeting all of their unique needs. Our system faces many challenges going forward and all partners must be willing to put aside their differences and bring a spirit of compromise to the work we have ahead of us. We must all work together to find long-term solutions to address these challenges so that we can collectively support a strong and thriving public education system for all of Oregon’s children.
Craig Hawkins, Executive Director
Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA)