Today's OEA Fall/Winter 2021

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A PUBLICATION FOR MEMBERS OF THE OREGON EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

TODAY’S

OEA GROWING a CULTURE of SUPPORT

Nicole Butler-Hooton, a Native educator and Oregon's 2021 Teacher of the Year, centers her practice on creating spaces for BIPOC teachers to thrive FALL/WINTER 2021 | VOLUME 96 : NUMBER 1


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Contents VOLUME 96 : ISSUE NO. 1

Features

30 Educators from the Newberg Education Association rally ahead of a school board meeting to protest the Board's new rulings that ban the display of Pride and Black Lives Matter signage in Newberg schools. PhotO by THOMAS Patterson

On the Cover

24 / Connections that Transcend the Classroom Through OEA’s Educator Empowerment Academy, BIPOC educators focus on strategies to diversify the educator workforce. By Meg Krugel

In-Depth

14 / Understaffed and Overworked

Staffing shortages, vaccine tensions, and students with escalating needs: OEA members share their experiences of a Back to School season unlike any other. Intro by Milana Grant

20 / Eyes forward, hearts ready

OEA’s new leadership team brings down-to-earth experience and strong beliefs in the power of education to the Association’s next chapter. By Meg Krugel

30 / Inclusivity Gets Put to the Test

In the face of a damaging vote by the Newberg School Board, Newberg educators rally to support their Black and LGBTQ+ students. By Meg Krugel

ON THE COVER: Oregon’s 2021 Teacher of the Year, Nicole Butler-Hooton, supports new educators as a TOSA in the Bethel School District. PhotO by THOMAS Patterson Credits: Thomas Patterson

TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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TODAY’S

Contents VOLUME 96 : ISSUE NO. 1

Departments

OEA

OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE OREGON EDUCATION ASSOCIATION FALL/WINTER 2021 VOLUME 96 : ISSUE NO. 1 OFFICE HEADQUARTERS 6900 SW Atlanta Street Portland, OR 97223 Phone: 503.684.3300 FAX: 503.684.8063 www.oregoned.org PUBLISHERS Reed Scott-Schwalbach, OEA President Jim Fotter, Executive Director EDITOR Meg Krugel PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Milana Grant

President’s Column

05 / Expecting the Unexpected

By Reed Scott-Schwalbach, OEA President

EdNews 6 / Clackamas educator selected for

2022 Oregon Teacher of the Year 7 / Oregon ranks 19th in nationwide school spending Teaching and Learning

8 / Changes Coming to Oregon’s Systems of Assessment Eye on Equity

10 / Building Protocols and Resources to Assist Members Under Public Attack Politics & You

12 / Sneak Preview of OEA’s Priority Legislation for 2022 13 / When Student Loan Persistence Pays OfF OEA-Retired

34 / Maritimes Coastal Wonders 4

TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

CONTRIBUTORS Milana Grant, Andrea Shunk, Teresa Ferrer, Laurie Wimmer, Thomas Patterson To submit a story idea for publication in Today’s OEA magazine, email editor Meg Krugel at meg.krugel@oregoned.org PRINTER Morel Ink, Portland, OR TODAY’S OEA (ISSN #0030-4689) is published two times a year (Fall and Spring) as a benefit of membership ($6.50 of dues) by the Oregon Education Association, 6900 SW Atlanta Street, Portland OR 97223-2513. Non-member subscription rate is $10 per year. Periodicals postage paid at Portland, OR. POSTMASTER Send address corrections to: Oregon Education Association Membership Processing 6900 SW Atlanta Street Portland, OR 97223-2513 DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Francesca Genovese-Finch


President’s Message Reed Scott-Schwalbach OEA President

OEA President Reed Scott-Schwalbach supports members from Newberg EA at a rally on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

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all is typically a time of new beginnings for educators as students return to our schools, filling hallways, cafeterias, busses and classrooms with energy. In August, I saw that energy firsthand visiting schools prepping for students arriving and schools where students were already back in session. As OEA Vice President Enrique Farrera and I met with members across the state, we heard again and again the hopes that this year would be a more “normal” year after 18 months of pandemic disruption. But one of the key lessons I have learned from the pandemic is to expect the unexpected. This fall has become a different “normal” than we thought it would be in early August. I am deeply proud of the enormous work OEA members do every day to support students and colleagues during this second year of the pandemic. As we learn to live with COVID, this fall has new elements to it: from kindergarten to community colleges, virtual learning has become embedded as a teaching and learning mechanism. Keeping our students, educators and their families safe means adopting multiple measures to stop the spread and mutation of the virus. As requirements from the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon

Health Authority and the Governor’s office change our work, the strength of our union negotiations is key. OEA member engagement in negotiating contract language ensures that local decisions are made with educator input. Engaging with elected officials, from the school board to the Senate, is equally important. Decisions made in Salem and D.C. impact our working conditions every day. Our work as a union does not stop with contract language. Attacks on individual educators and curriculum have unnecessarily complicated an already complex job. Teaching truth and building schools based on equity, as difficult as it can feel, is imperative. The OEA Board of Directors, working with OEA staff and our Committee on Racial Equity have developed a support system for any member who is attacked for implementing the equity standards ODE and the State Board of Education have adopted. If this happens to you, email part@oregoned.org to connect with OEA support. This fall, most importantly, remember that as a member of our union, you are not alone. We stand together for our students and communities. We stand together for you.

THIS FALL HAS BECOME A DIFFERENT “NORMAL” THAN WE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE IN EARLY AUGUST. I AM DEEPLY PROUD OF THE ENORMOUS WORK OEA MEMBERS DO EVERY DAY TO SUPPORT STUDENTS AND COLLEAGUES DURING THIS SECOND YEAR OF THE PANDEMIC. Credit: Thomas Patterson

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EdNews FDA Approves COVID-19 Vaccines for Children Ages 5-11

Clackamas High School English teacher and OEA member Ethelyn Tumalad

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CLACKAMAS EDUCATOR SELECTED FOR 2022 OREGON TEACHER OF THE YEAR

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big congratulations goes to Ethelyn Tumalad, a Clackamas High School English teacher and OEA member who was announced as this year’s Oregon Teacher of the Year! As an Early Career Educator, Tumalad has been an active member of OEA’s BIPOC educator community, Equity SPARKS, and has been a contributor to Today’s OEA. She is the advisor for CHS’ Asian Pacific Islander Student Union, and was nominated by her students to receive this award. Tumalad, who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines as a child, said that having just one educator who looked

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TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

like her during her formative school years empowered her to follow her calling into the education field. “I remember that was one of the first times in my educational career, it was in eighth grade, that I remember thinking, ‘wow, like maybe I could be an educator’,” she says. During the last week of September, she was presented with the award during a surprise ceremony, surrounded by her colleagues, students, and family, who had driven from Washington to be present. She received a $5000 cash prize, and will attend speaking engagements and events both statewide and nationally during the coming year.

n October 29, the FDA officially announced that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to children as young as five years old. Oregon state officials have prepared to roll out the smaller doses to around 330,000 children across the state. As of early November, medical providers began administering the vaccine to children through drive-through clinics and at some regional pharmacies. The Oregon Health Authority is working with providers in primarily BIPOC communities to ensure that adequate vaccine availability and information is provided to those who wish to access it. More than 60 percent of children ages 11-17 are currently vaccinated against COVID-19, and the state hopes to see at least that many younger children receive protection. Parents who wish their children to receive the child-approved doses should speak with their medical providers.


NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR 2022 OREGON ESP OF THE YEAR » Education Support Professionals (ESP) have long been the backbone of our schools, but never more than this school year. Our ESPs have kept our schools and students safe and cared for throughout the pandemic, and now it’s time to sing their praises! Nominations for the Oregon ESP of the Year Award will be open until January 3, 2022, so take a moment to recognize an amazing support staff member today! The winner will be chosen in April, 2022 and will receive a $5,000 cash prize. Visit https://oregonteacheroftheyear.org/nominate-esp/ to learn more about the guidelines and to submit a nomination.

Department of Homeland Security declares schools a safe space from immigration arrests

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mmigration officers will no longer be able to make arrests on school grounds, at hospitals, and other protected spaces defined in an October memo from DHS. “We can accomplish our law enforcement mission without denying individuals access to needed medical care, children access to their schools, the displaced access to food and shelter, people of faith access to their places of worship, and more," DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said of the decision. This announcement is part of a larger agenda of the Biden administration, which will work toward undoing some of the more severe immigration policies of the previous leadership. Other places that have been declared ‘off-limits’ are day care and medical facilities; places of worship; playgrounds and recreation centers and demonstrations and rallies.

Oregon ranks 19th in nationwide school spending

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s more K-12 dollars flood in through the American Rescue Plan, Oregon leaders must address a glaring equity gap. Currently, the state spends over $1,000 less per student than the national average of $15,114. But the number is much lower for students who attend schools in highpoverty areas. According to the Education Law Center’s 2021 report: Making the Grade - How Fair is

School Funding in Your State?, Oregon spends just over $13,000 per student in schools with the highest levels of poverty. The state received a ‘D’ grade for distributing funding equitably among schools with the most need. The reality is that the complex school finance system that is used to calculate state school budgets leaves Oregon schools without the necessary resources to provide quality public education to students.

ACLU files lawsuit against the State of Oklahoma, claims that banning CRT infringes on First Amendment rights

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klahoma is one of many states who have placed legal restrictions this year on how educators can approach the topics of race and gender in their classrooms. But, the ACLU argues that this legislation is unconstitutional and strips teachers of their right to free speech and equal protection. Credits: Left page photo: Thomas Patterson

The lawsuit states that HB 1775, which passed the Oklahoma legislature in the Spring, unnecessarily and unlawfully censors educators’ ability to teach historical truths, specifying the Tulsa Race Massacre. It also alleges that the law creates a hostile environment for LGBTQIA+, Black and Indigenous students.

Educators and administrators are already becoming fearful of losing their licenses in their quest to provide an accurate depiction of history and the current experience of minorities in the United States, the suit claims. The next court date is set for the Spring of 2022. TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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Teaching & Learning

Changes Coming to Oregon’s Systems of Assessment ANDREA SHUNK / Education Policy & Practice Strategist, OEA Center for Great Public Schools

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he 2020-21 school year had plenty of disruptions for educators and students. Among those disruptions were changes to Oregon’s assessment system. As we return to in-person instruction, educators and students can expect more changes coming. In this article, we will explain some of the statewide changes you can expect to come in the 2021-22 school year.

test to 11 percent at 11th grade. For the 2021-22 school year, school districts will be expected to comply with the state and federal mandate to administer the statewide summative assessments again. This means students in grades 3-8 and 11 will take both the language arts and math tests, and students in grades 5, 8, and 11 will take the Oregon science test.

Statewide Summative Assessments

The Oregon State Board of Education last changed the state graduation requirements in 2007. These changes included increasing the required number of credits to 24 and adding nine essential skills, deemed as skills that cross academic disciplines and included thinking critically, global literacy, and using technology. The board also added a requirement for graduates to demonstrate proficiency in three of the nine essential skills – reading, writing, and math. This proficiency requirement was in addition to the need to earn 24 credits with passing grades. Students could demonstrate proficiency in these three areas in several ways including the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the SAT and ACT, certain portions of the GED exam, WorkKeys, IB and AP exams, and locally created work samples. Most students in Oregon met this requirement via the Smarter Balanced Assessment during their junior year. The disruption of in-person learning in the spring of 2020 caused major disruptions to students’ ability to demonstrate proficiency in the essential skills. For the class of 2021 who were in 11th grade that spring, they lost the major opportunity to demonstrate proficiency by sitting the Smarter Balanced assessment, as no students in the state took the test. For the graduating class of 2020, some students lost the opportunity to complete work samples to demonstrate proficiency if they had yet to do so. As a result of this and the continued COVID-19 disruptions to in-person learning, the State

In spring of 2020, as schools around the country did an emergency pivot to online instruction, the U.S. Department of Education issued a blanket waiver allowing all states to forego the required statewide summative assessments in language arts, math, and science. For Oregon, this meant that no student took the Smarter Balanced Assessment or Oregon’s science assessment. In the 2020-21 school year, the Oregon Department of Education applied for a similar waiver that would have allowed the state to forego administering these tests. However, the U.S. Department of Education rejected that initial request. ODE amended the waiver, which was approved, and included the following changes: n Limit testing opportunities to only one or two subjects per grade. n Requesting an exemption from the federal requirement to test 95% of students. n Only allowing in-person testing. n Reducing the length of the test and eliminating the performance task requirement for the language arts and math tests. In the spring of 2021, several school boards and school districts made the choice to not administer any SBA or science assessments at all, given the time the tests take and how little time many students would have for inperson instruction. Overall, statewide participation this spring was quite low, ranging from 37 percent of students at 3rd grade taking the

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Essential Skills

Board suspended the essential skills graduation requirement for the graduating classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022. During this time, ODE completed a rigorous data analysis looking at how students in different groups demonstrated proficiency in the three essential skills. A major equity concern emerged from the data, which shows that white students predominantly meet this requirement by achieving a certain score on the Smarter Balanced Assessments while nonwhite students, particularly African American/Black students, meet this requirement through local work samples. This disproportionate data raises several equity concerns. In the 2021 legislative session, OEA led the successful campaign to pass Senate Bill 774, which suspends the essential skills graduation requirement through the class of 2024 and requires ODE to engage with educators, families, students, and other community groups to review: n Existing state high school diploma requirements n Research other graduation models in the nation n Examine local implementation of the requirements


Teaching & Learning

Examine the expectations that postsecondary institutions and employers have for Oregon graduates n And produce a report to the legislature by September 2022 This bill had support from education organizations and community groups and no organized opposition. OEA is engaged with ODE to ensure a robust, inclusive engagement process. n

TAKE ACTION! SEED Survey

In the spring of 2021, ODE launched an innovative new student assessment – the Student Educational Equity Development Survey or SEED Survey. This survey is intended to gather information about the educational experiences of students in Oregon including having Internet at home, feeling like students have friends at school, whether or not students visit the library, or if students participate in extra-curricular activities (see some sample questions to the right). Where Smarter Balanced is an assessment of students’ knowledge and skills, the SEED Survey is an assessment of the experience students have in school. What obstacles get in their way of learning? What about their environment is a help or a hindrance? What opportunities do some students have that other students do not have? Districts can use the results to target resources where they are most needed, such as in improving school climate, increasing student access to wellrounded opportunities like music, libraries, or CTE, and getting resources to families like Internet or connected devices. The SEED Survey was developed with educator and OEA input and feedback. It was piloted in the Spring of 2021 and was optional for districts to administer, however because of COVID-19 disruptions, there was not significant participation. ODE will make the survey optional again for the spring of 2022 and is hoping more districts participate so Oregon can learn more about what resources students need.

3RD GRADE Think about your assignments from this school year. How often did they have pictures or stories of people who are like you and your family? ❑ Never ❑ Rarely ❑ Sometimes ❑ Often ❑ Skip question 8TH GRADE Think about your science classes in grades 6, 7, and 8. How confident are you about doing each of the following? (Scale of: Not confident • A little confident • Somewhat confident • Mostly confident • Very confident • Skip question) ■ I can describe how the length of a

vibrating string affects the sound it makes. ■ I can design an experiment to show how sunlight affects the growth of a plant. ■ I can describe what would happen to the number of frogs at a pond if all the insects were removed from the pond. ■ I can decide which tool to use if I want to measure wind speed. ■ I can describe how light interacts with a glass window. 11TH GRADE How often did you do the following things at your school? (Scale of: Never • Rarely • Sometimes • Often • Skip question) ■ Connect what you are learning in

your classes to potential career opportunities. ■ Speak with a counselor or teacher at your school about career opportunities. ■ Use the internet to gather information about careers.

Get Started with Social Emotional Learning

Have you been curious about Social Emotional Learning (SEL)? OEA has two new independent study opportunities to learn about SEL at your own pace and on your own schedule. Each tutorial takes between 90 and 120 minutes and is entirely selfpaced. There is no facilitator and no time limit. Tutorials are hosted in OEA's Learning Management System, OEA Learn. The SEL modules are suitable for all member groups and are most appropriate for educators new to SEL. Two PDUs are available for each module. Additional SEL modules will be added later this year. All of OEA’s self-paced modules are free as a benefit of membership.

SEL: SELF-AWARENESS Self-awareness is one of five competencies designated by The Collaborative for Academic Social, and Emotional Learning as crucial to effective social and emotional learning for children and adults. In this foundational SEL tutorial, learners gain a better understanding of their emotions, thoughts, behaviors, values, strengths, and challenges. The module introduces concepts and strategies for selfperception, self-efficacy, and self-confidence.

SEL: RELATIONSHIP SKILLS This self-paced independent study module will guide educators through learning about relationship skills. The module covers topics and activities that are key to building, maintaining, and restoring relationships: expressing care, building trust, listening, challenging growth, sharing power, and expanding possibilities. Learners will have the opportunity to reflect on their own relationships as well as their students' relationships. Visit https://grow.oregoned.org/ independent-study to learn about these and other independent study opportunities. TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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Eye on Equity

Building Protocols and Resources to Assist Members Under Public Attack BY TERESA FERRER / OEA Equity Coordinator

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ducators and adults who work with students have reasons beyond a paycheck for doing what they do. They connect to the work and the people in their workplace in more than a transactional way. They develop relationships and interact as their full, authentic selves. That’s the beauty and power of educators and, while under vicious attack, also their Achilles heel. A new laser focus in the “culture wars” is aimed squarely at our schools and on our educators. Groups that are explicitly created to target, demonize and dismantle anything they don’t like — or anyone they don’t like —in our schools are popping up in every state and are connected nationwide. As reported in US News in June 2021, there are “at least 165 local and national groups that aim to disrupt lessons on race and gender.” It is not surprising to anyone who watches carefully (and follows the money and rhetoric) to see that the ultimate agenda of this national effort is to whip up a frenzy in local towns everywhere in anticipation of the next Presidential election. Steve Bannon was quoted in his May podcast to say, “The path to save the nation is very simple — it’s going to go through the school boards.” With social justice issues being centered in these attacks, this targeting campaign feeds into the existing polarization, frustration, fatigue, uncertainty and grief being experienced by our country. What is especially alarming is that with these attacks comes something we haven’t seen before at this scale in our school communities: vitriol, threats and real danger. Educators under attack come to question everything they thought they knew about safety, themselves and their world. OEA members can always go to their local President or OEA Staff Consultant 10

TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

BECAUSE OF THE PERSONAL AND CRUEL NATURE OF THESE ATTACKS ON OUR EDUCATORS — WHO ARE DEEPLY CONNECTED WITH THEIR STUDENTS AND WITH THE SOCIAL JUSTICE CURRICULUM THEY ARE IMPLEMENTING — THE TRAUMA CAN BE BRUTAL.

for support, advocacy and protection for any number of issues, but this brand of public attack can be so explosive and damaging that a more comprehensive and coordinated approach that includes the OEA statewide organization had to be developed. In addition, because of the personal and cruel nature of these attacks on our educators — who are deeply connected with their students and with the social justice curriculum they are implementing — the trauma can be brutal. Local leaders and associations need to be supported in talking about race and social justice so they can combat the inaccurate and outrageous rhetoric being weaponized against their members. For these reasons and more, OEA has begun to build protocols and resources to raise the bar in how we support individual OEA members who have been subjected to these kinds of public attacks. OEA wants to reduce barriers to reporting these attacks so that any member can get help when they need it. To seek support, a member can go to their local association contacts (local President or local OEA Staff Consultant) or they can


Eye on Equity

Educators joined Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020.

email the OEA Headquarters Office at part@oregoned.org (PART stands for Public Attack Response Team). If the member prefers to speak to a BIPOC staff person or leader, that can be arranged. There is a Public Attack Intake Form that is used when a report comes in, but a member can ask for an interview instead. The local leaders, local staff and OEA Headquarters office then coordinate and provide support that is unique to the member’s needs and wishes. There is no such thing as a standard solution package because every situation is nuanced, and everyone’s needs are different. Sometimes districts and colleagues are supportive, and other times, they are not. Sometimes there is an organizing or legal effort that can alleviate and prevent future issues and Credits: Jonathan House

sometimes, a quieter approach is what will make the member safer. Every approach centers the OEA member who is being targeted. OEA is new to this and is learning as we go, but it is crystal clear that a trauma-informed and culturally proficient approach is called for in social justice attacks like these. OEA’s goal for the individually targeted members is to keep them safe, employed and healed, because bringing their spirits back from this kind of trauma is what is necessary to return to the beauty and power of their work —and themselves. Aurora Levins Morales tells us, “What is required to face trauma is the ability to mourn fully and deeply, all that has been taken from us. Only through mourning everything we have lost can we discover

that we have in fact survived; that our spirits are indestructible.” OEA is very grateful to the members, leaders and staff who have already survived or are still on their survival journey after a public attack. Many of our tools and resources that we have collected to support members, leaders and staff who need them came from these “warriors” who built them mid-battle. We have you to thank for our nimbleness and for better responses and tools to come. It is our greatest hope that as our nation and communities struggle past these divisive and destructive times, our members will once again be empowered to lead and inspire as they are meant to.

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Politics & You

Sneak Preview of OEA’s Priority Legislation for 2022 BY LAURIE WIMMER / OEA Government Relations Consultant

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or a decade, Oregon has hosted annual legislative sessions, with the long, five-month sessions in odd-numbered years and short, five-week sessions in even years. Designed for minor updating of budgets and policy, the short sessions are not typically the time lawmakers pursue large initiatives. Each legislator may introduce just two bills, initial language for which is due by November 19. Committees, presiding officers, the Governor, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are also given a bill allotment. In all, there will be fewer than 300 bills introduced in February 2022 — ­ a tenth of what a long session typically yields. Most bills will focus on urgent priorities, statutory tweaks and budget adjustments midway through the biennium. Your Government Relations team is planning to make every minute of this short session count for public education. Highlights of the bills we will be pursuing include: n Tax Equity:

This bill would add a question about a personal income taxpayer’s race/ ethnicity. Gathering this data will enable researchers to gauge the impacts of tax policy on our BIPOC taxpayers but could not be used for tax-payment purposes.

n Improved K-12 Funding:

The association will continue to press for a fix to the method of calculating a no-cuts K-12 budget for future years, whether through legislative or executive action. We will also pursue K-12’s claim to its corporate kicker receipts, guaranteed constitutionally as “additional” money for the State School Fund operations budget.

n Fire Funds:

Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland) will reintroduce a bill supported by OEA to ensure that school districts impacted by

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the 2020 wildfires are guaranteed stable funding for four more years. n Respect:

A key push in February will be to secure hazard pay for essential frontline education workers.

n Fewer Tests:

The association will continue its work to reduce reliance on standardized tests. Our efforts will include a request that school districts undergo assessment audits with the goal of reducing the testing footprint for students.

n Funding Premiums: In 2021, OEA

celebrated its success in establishing health-care coverage for part-time faculty in post-secondary institutions. Under that new law, 10% of the cost would be borne by the covered employee. In 2022, we will seek additional resources for staff who opt into this program but cannot afford the premium co-pay. n Immigration:

Also left on the table in 2021 was a bill to ensure universal legal representation for those facing immigration hearings. It is a truism that whether a person is deported or allowed to stay is entirely a matter of representation in immigration court. Our students whose family members are in this situation will be stabilized with this support.

n Fair Compensation: As a member of the

Fair Shot Coalition, our team will ask the legislature to include farm workers in the law to compensate overtime work — an exception to the requirement left them out in prior legislative sessions.

As always, elevating member voices in this virtual-only session will be crucial to our success. Let your team know if you’d like to help us get these concepts across the finish line by emailing gr@oregoned. org.

Positive Changes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness

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nitially created to provide relief for student loan borrowers who chose careers in the public sector, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program seemed like an incredible opportunity for those who wanted to serve their communities. But the program faced backlash in 2017, when the first class of eligible borrowers began applying for loan forgiveness — 98 percent of borrowers reported that their applications had been denied, despite having met the required ten years of service and corresponding loan payments. The reasons ranged from nonqualifying loan types or repayment plans, payments that were off by as little as two cents or late by even one day, employment certifications with incorrect dates or mismatched signatures, and a variety of other technicalities that left hundreds of thousands of borrowers feeling frustrated and misled. The U.S. Department of Education did little to remedy the situation, though educators were one of the largest groups impacted by the confusing and often laborious process of loan forgiveness through the program. In 2020, the Department’s change in leadership gave educators hope that the promised student debt relief would finally be within reach, and they seized the opportunity to mobilize. In the past two years, hundreds of thousands of educators have made phone calls, sent letters and emails, and testified before state and federal lawmakers to share their experiences with the failed PSLF program. More than 48,000 NEA members sent emails to newly-appointed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona between


Politics & You

August and September of this year alone. In October, the Biden-Harris administration announced that a host of changes would be made to the program in order to make it more accessible to qualified borrowers. Improvements that will make an immediate impact for educators: n Borrowers now have until October

31, 2022 to certify their qualifying employment and apply for the PSLF program if they have not already done so under the Limited PSLF Waiver. n The Department of Education will

audit all denied PSLF applications to find and correct processing errors. n Qualifying payments have been

simplified to include more types of repayment plans, late payments, and payments with small discrepancies in the amount paid. n The application process for PSLF

will be simplified by improving data collection from state and federal employers so that certification can be automated. n The Department of Education will

facilitate regular audits of student loan servicers to ensure that correct processes are being followed. These changes have already impacted tens of thousands of borrowers, who have immediately qualified for student loan forgiveness. Over half a million more are now on track to have their loans forgiven. —Milana Grant To learn more about the PSLF program overhaul, visit https://www.ed.gov/news/ press-releases/fact-sheet-public-serviceloan-forgiveness-pslf-program-overhaul. Credit: Kristy Fouts

OEA Member Kristy Fouts worked extensively with Congresswoman Bonamici on the process of having her student loans forgiven.

When PSLF Persistence Pays Off It took over two years of phone calls, diligent note-taking, research, and finally the help of a Congresswoman to get Kristen Fouts’ student loans forgiven through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Fouts heard about PSLF when it was first created, and of course, she wanted to take advantage of it. She made sure to verify that she was on the correct payment plan for the whole 10 years and turned in her certification paperwork annually. Fouts was in the first group of eligible borrowers in 2017. Since she knew that a lot of people would be applying at the same time, she started working on her application a bit early to be proactive. That’s when the problems began. Five years earlier, her loans had been sold to a different loan servicer. She was told by several support agents that this meant that she only had five years of qualifying payments counted toward forgiveness. Even though she had her own records of all ten years of payments, her loan servicer would not accept them. Fouts spent months making phone calls, emailing, and advocating to get the problems resolved. But the headache wasn’t over yet. Fouts was then told that the repayment plan she was on did not qualify for PSLF, even though the writing in the contract listed her plan as a qualifying program. The misinformation she encountered during this process was really baffling. “Many of the service representatives knew very little about this program, or they were giving incorrect information that conflicted with what was written on their own company’s website. One representative even shared that their

employees had not been receiving adequate training on the PSLF program,” Fouts said. She had hit a wall. Every phone call ended in someone telling her to just move on, that she didn’t qualify, and wouldn’t be able to receive debt relief. She knew that simply wasn't true, and she wasn’t backing down. That's when she started reaching out to her federal representatives in Congress. Thankfully, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici took notice of her case. Fouts worked closely with Bonamici's aides, who were able to put in a records request on Fouts' behalf. It was like magic. All of the months of phone calls, keeping detailed records of conversations, and calling different federal offices to get help had landed her nowhere. But the records of her sold loans were “miraculously” found as soon as Congresswoman Bonamici’s office requested the information. For the first time, Fouts felt hope. Finally, after years of advocating for herself and getting support from Congresswoman Bonamici, she was able to get her loans forgiven in 2019. It was absolutely life-changing to feel the weight of that debt taken from her: “I am so grateful to have my loans forgiven. At the same time, I know that the process should not have been this hard. There were so many barriers that could have kept me from succeeding in this. The process was a nightmare," she says. Fouts is hopeful that the recent changes in the PSLF program will keep other people from having to go through the difficult experience that she went through to get the loan forgiveness that they were promised.

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Exhausting. Challenging. Unsustainable. These are the most common words that educators are using to describe what the beginning of the 2021-22 school year has been like for them. Staff shortages that began long before the pandemic have now reached crisis levels. New and ever-changing safety protocols have compounded the problem by adding to the already-increasing workloads of all educators. Students who haven’t been in classrooms full-time for nearly two years are having to learn how to interact with their peers and be part of a structured school environment again, on

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top of trying to catch up academically. And the threat of COVID-19 still looms over the scene, creating an extra layer of anxiety for all. And still, OEA members and educators across the nation are showing up every single day, doing their best to provide quality public education for all students. From the full-time release local presidents who are doing their part to fill the gaps in substitute coverage, to the bus drivers who are taking on extra routes to ensure students have a safe ride to and from school, to the school nurses who are giving their all to keep students and staff healthy and safe — we've collected just a few of these eye-opening Back to School stories from OEA members across our state. — Milana Grant


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e started off this school year with dozens and dozens of unfilled classroom positions. Most of our available and willing substitute teachers became long-term subs, and we’re still trying to wade through the TSPC backlog to get new hires into their classrooms. We’re also using every available licensed staff person, like literacy specialists, behavior specialists, counselors, and instructional mentors to supplement our daily substitute needs. Subs that are not in a long-term position are very scarce. We have had a shortage for years, but the pandemic has exacerbated it considerably. If one of our staff gets sick or has to quarantine or use any kind of leave, we’re scrambling to find someone to take that class. At the elementary level, the worstcase scenario is that classes have to be divided up into several other classrooms for the day, which creates a lot of disruption internally. To help remedy the crisis, we’ve both started substitute teaching one day a week as part of our full-time release positions as SKEA President and Vice President. Everybody is just doing the best that they can, but it's not an ideal situation in so many ways. We’re exhausted. We’re afraid that this unsustainable workload is going to make us sick and add to the substitute shortage. One of the big issues is that our Governor and ODE and other state leaders are forging ahead this year as though we've never been in a pandemic. Instruction time, evaluations, those requirements have all been reinstated. We really appreciate the work that OEA leadership is doing to uplift our voices at the state level, because it seems like they’re expecting schools to run business as usual and we’re still actively dealing with this pandemic. We can’t have teachers in the front of students for 100 percent of their day and still expect them to be able to provide care and connection. Not only that, but we’ve been on a runway to a teacher shortage for the past several years. We’ve been patching the holes for a long time, but COVID came and ripped the band aid off. We know this is not a unique situation to Salem-Keizer, but when our members are calling us on the brink of quitting, it really hits home for us. Our motivation is first, we want to stand in solidarity because we know teachers are giving up their prep time, and that’s a crucial part of a teacher’s day. We have non-classroom license staff that filling in as subsitutes on top of their jobs and we’re trying our hardest to scale that back as much as possible. We want to try to provide relief. In terms of bargaining, we pushed the district to give the statewide in-service day back to our teachers. Having just one extra day to take care of ourselves was a huge win for us. And we're still pushing. We believe that meetings and PD needs to go on the back burner for now, because it's just not even manageable at this point. Another big win for us is that our district has agreed to an MOU that gives our teachers control over education plans for students who are in quarantine. In my twenty-plus years of teaching, I have never been guaranteed the ability to use my own professional judgement to decide what’s best for my students, and it’s something that needs to be happening more. A lot of times, our communities and our leaders think that we should just do what’s best for the kids and everything else will fall into place, but most of the time, that’s unrealistic. It’s not best for our kids for their teachers to be stretched so thin that they are ready to leave the profession. We have to support educators if we want our students to be successful. Credits: Macy Mulholland, Salem-Keizer School District

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eynolds is a huge school. When one student tested positive a few weeks ago, there was such a large number of students and families that we had to notify that the school had to close in order to accommodate that effort. What people don’t realize is that we have to first contact trace, which can be extremely difficult at the high school level when kids are moving between different classrooms and there might not be assigned seating, and then we have to make phone calls to each and every household as well as send out letters to notify families that their child was exposed. We have a large percentage of families who need interpreters, so we have to coordinate that so we can communicate with them. So, it might seem silly to close down a school that only has four positive cases, but the workload that those four cases create is huge. Because of all of the tracking that we as school nurses have to do for COVID, I can't do my regular job. I’m all-consumed with following up on reported cases and trying to notify students and families. I’m not able to do the follow-up with students and families about documentation I need to provide medical care. I don’t have time to send teacher notifications. I sometimes feel like my license is vulnerable because I don’t have the bandwidth to meet every obligation that I have to my students as a school nurse. It’s not a good feeling. I know I’m responsible for these kids, but COVID has become a full-time job. I don't even know how many hours a week I work anymore. I work weekends and nights because I am constantly interrupted at work, and I can’t keep doing this. It’s exhausting. Even if the district wanted to hire more nurses to make my job easier, there are no nurses to hire. Healthcare workers are in such short supply as it is. MESDEA has pushed our employer into finally reopening our contract at the point because we nurses have been worked to the point that we’re getting sick, and we can’t hang in there much longer. And this comes at a time when we really don’t have the energy or time to enter into bargaining. I don’t honestly know what their plan was, but the current situation for us is unsustainable. One thing that I think would be so helpful is if districts would hire more full-time contact tracers. That kind of work does not require a medical license, and I feel that by asking school nurses to do it, we’re wasting extremely limited and valuable resources. There are already so few of us; our schools can’t afford to lose any more to burnout.

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ur school district went back to full-time, in-person classes last January, so we had a good idea about what to expect coming into this school year. We’ve had to make modifications as new guidance has been released, but we had an advantage in that we already had routines in place for lunches, drop-offs and pick-ups, and social distancing. One of the biggest challenges for us this year has been the statewide COVID vaccine mandate. Though most of our district is fully vaccinated, there are still some of our members who are hesitant. And we’re already so short-staffed. In a district this small, losing even a few of our numbers would seriously impact our ability to run our schools, so the idea that, come October 19, we were going to have even fewer staff was a scary thought. As a local president, it’s my job to make sure that I’m representing all of my members, not just the ones that have the same values and beliefs that I do. My members are good educators, even if they did not get the vaccine. As a leader, it’s my responsibility to show everyone the same respect and compassion as they make those choices. Eagle Point is fortunate that our association and our district and school board have a great working relationship. We don't agree on a lot of things, but we’ve always been able to work together to make sure our students and staff are supported to the best of our abilities. I was able to send out surveys to my members to get a feel for what they were comfortable with and did my best to make sure that they knew that our district did not want to lose them as employees. Once they felt valued and supported, there was room for conversation about how to keep everyone safe. Our HR department scheduled one-on-one meetings with all unvaccinated staff, and I was there to support them and help figure out what reasonable safety measures might look like in their particular jobs. We also addressed the issue of ensuring that our unvaccinated members weren’t singled out in obvious ways by giving everyone several different options for the types of face protection they could wear. This collaborative approach that we took made all the difference and it means that we won’t be losing any of our staff members, yet we were still able to come up with solutions that will keep our staff and schools safe. At the end of the day, that’s the goal and I’m proud of my entire district for coming together to make that happen.

Credits: Photos provided by members; Reynold HS photo: Pence Construction

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s much as I’m excited to be back in school and working in groups again, it hasn’t been without some serious challenges. In short, the beginning of this school year has been exhausting, for everyone. It’s starting to feel like we’re getting back in the swing of things; I’m having fewer kids complain about being tired after a full day of school, but it’s been so difficult to get back into this routine. My sixth graders haven’t been through a normal school year since third grade, so we can’t necessarily just dive right back into teaching content. We’re spending a lot of time resetting expectations for what classroom behavior looks like and it can be really stressful and disruptive, both for students and educators. Enforcing all of the requirements for safety means that we are constantly having to remind students to put their mask on, to put it on correctly, to stay in their assigned seats, and that takes up a lot of our time. I’ve also found that I've had to slow things down considerably compared to years before. I teach beginning band and beginning orchestra and I find that it takes me about twice as long to go over concepts and review things that I wouldn’t normally have had to review before. And I know it’s not their fault, but it’s still upsetting to see. Most of them haven’t been on a regular sleep schedule for almost two years, so they’re tired much more easily. They’re distracted much more easily. We were experiencing a high level of educator turnover even before COVID, but it certainly hasn’t helped. Our teachers are burnt out. Educators are retiring before they normally would have planned to because this job has become so difficult. We already have a hard enough time recruiting people to come to work in our district because the wages are low and there is a lack of affordable housing in our area. People can’t afford to live and work here. There are lots of open jobs right now, but we can’t fill them. It’s hard to address those underlying issues because we’re so busy dealing with the fallout of COVID right now, but these things existed before the pandemic and they’ve only gotten worse. My hope is that we can get through this and be able to do more beneficial things for our members, like creating salary incentives and affordable housing opportunities, things that will benefit the whole district and community.

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2022 OEA/NEA POSITIONS OPEN FOR NOMINATION & ELECTION

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he following positions are open for nomination for the 2022 elections:

ELECTED AT OEA RA: n Region I Vice President: 1 position for a 2- year term n Region II Vice President: 1 position for a 2-year term n Region III Vice President: 1 position for 2-year term n Racial Equity Director: 1 position for 3-year term n NEA Director: 1 position for a 3-yr term (term begins September 1, 2022)

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uring the summer, our transportation staff had a lot of hope that this school year was going to be a bit smoother compared to last year. We were all prepared to come back to certain conditions, like added safety precautions and doing what we could to stop the spread of COVID, but the vaccine mandate threw a wrench into some folks’ plans. It forced a lot of people to make some difficult decisions that they perhaps weren’t entirely ready to make, and the result is that we have already lost six bus drivers, and we expect to lose at least three more come October 18. We started the year off with 18, and we’re down to half that number now. Most of the people in our transportation department have been with the district for ten years or better. With this loss, we’ve had to completely switch up our game plan to make sure that our students still have a safe way to get to school. We’ve already planned to eliminate two bus routes and absorb those kids into three different routes. Even though those buses might not be at full capacity, that’s going to put a lot more demand on the driver. School bus drivers are representing our district in the community, and we have a responsibility to stay focused on the road. When you increase the number of kids on the bus, that becomes a lot harder. Most of the kids on my bus have known me for years, and I’ve had time to build a rapport with them, which makes it easier to manage them and keep them safe while I’m driving. When 10 or 15 more kids who aren’t familiar with me get added to my route, it changes the whole dynamic of what’s happening behind me in the driver’s seat. Consolidating routes is a short-term solution. Our district is already proposing a renegotiation of our contract so they can make an adjustment in driver wages and benefits, because we have to replace all of the people we’ve lost. It’s not easy to find good candidates for this job when they can make more money doing something far less stressful. It takes a lot of training, both initially and ongoing, to do this work. What we do takes skill. Replacing the years of experience and knowledge is not going to be an easy task. Credits: Left: provided by Nick Courtnage; Above: Thomas Patterson

ELECTED BY MAIL BALLOT: State Delegates to the NEA RA: 13 positions: n Region I: Four (4) positions for a 3-year term; n Region II: Three (3) positions for a 3-year term; n Region III: Three (3) positions for a 3-year term. (The number of delegates per region may be adjusted as the number of members within the region dictates as indicated by the January NEA membership report.) n Aspiring Educator Leadership Conference/NEA RA

Delegate: One (1) position for a 1-year term. (The number of Aspiring Educator delegates may be adjusted as the number of members within the region dictates as indicated by the January NEA membership report.) OEA Board of Directors: Nine (9) positions for three (3)-year terms in Board Districts: 01a (Southern Oregon UniServ Council), 06 (South Coast UniServ Council), 08 (Eastern Oregon UniServ Council), 10b (Portland A.T.), 12 (Columbia River UniServ Council), 15a (Beaverton EA), 17b (Santiam UniServ Council), 19 (Klamath/Lake UniServ Council), 20a (Metro SE UniServ Council), 21 (Douglas County UniServ Council), 30a (Community College UniServ Council) One (1) position for a two (2)-year term in Board District: 05 (Eugene UniServ Council) Three (1) position for a one (1)-year term in Board Districts: 02 (Washington County UniServ Council), 15b (Beaverton EA), 26b (Three Valley UniServ Council), 30b (Community College UniServ Council)

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Following their election at the 2021 OEA Representative Assembly in April, OEA President Reed ScottSchwalbach and Vice President Enrique Farrera began their terms in July 2021.

Eyes Forward, Hearts Ready OEA’s new leadership team brings down-to-earth experience and strong beliefs in the power of education to the Association’s next chapter BY MEG KRUGEL

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Reed Scott-Schwalbach OEA PRESIDENT

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hen Reed Scott-Schwalbach introduces herself, she often leads with a story about the people who raised her: teachers. Her story is wonderfully unique – she was raised in a cooperative community in a remote area of Alaska by her parents and their close friends, almost all of whom were special education teachers. Looking back on her childhood, she says she experienced nearly every single type of educational environment possible – from a cooperative community home school in her family’s remote Alaskan town, to a religious private school, to a suburban middle school in Nashville, where bussing was used as a means of racial integration. When she was in grade school, her family moved for a short time to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and she attended a village school in Micronesiaon Saipan where she and her brother were the only two white children in an entire elementary school. Each of these school environments helped shape ScottSchwalbach’s deep appreciation for the power of education, in all its varied forms. . Like many educators, “I was raised with the really strong belief that education is the path to improving your life and those around you. I believe that for our students coming into our schools, we are there to provide them an experience that helps them become the best version of themselves,” Scott -Schwalbach says. Understandably, education and the power of teaching has been the constant thread that connects Scott-Schwalbach’s most influential life moments together – and that, of course includes her newest role – serving as President of the 41,000-member Oregon Education Association. As a young adult, Scott-Schwalbach considered different career options. “I thought I might become a physical therapist, or travel the world working for the Government, or even become an author. Becoming a teacher wasn’t necessary a clear path for me,” she remembers. “But, I have always loved languages. It has been vitally Credits: Thomas Patterson

Though she's no stranger to using a megaphone, Reed Scott-Schwalbach spends her first public rally as OEA President with the members of Newberg EA, to support safe schools for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students.

important to me that we make an effort to understand other cultures by learning languages. Language learning is also about empowering people to maintain a connection to their native language, which might not be present in the dominant culture.” These values eventually led her to Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore. to pursue degrees in education and Spanish. As a student at Pacific University, Scott-Schwalbach took her first foray into union organizing, where she supported farmworkers looking to unionize as a Spanish interpreter. After graduation with her teaching degree, she opted not to head into a classroom right away; she traveled globally, spending a year building houses in Guatemala and working as a medical interpreter. Finally, in 1999, she made her way back to Oregon, subbed through Portland-area schools for a school year, and eventually was offered a position teaching Spanish at Centennial High School, right outside of Portland. Within a few years as a new teacher, she had taken on leadership positions within her local association, moving quickly from

Building Representative to President of Centennial Education Association. During her first year as President (and fourth year of teaching), “we were in a difficult bargain that went to mediation. We ended up going all the way to where we knew we’d either be settling that day, or we’d be going on strike,” she remembers. Her bargaining team ended up negotiating through the night and finally, at 10 a.m. on the following Saturday morning, walked out of the building with a settled contract. “I was really proud of the organizing work we did as a local. The power of good organizing leads to good results for educators, which helps us create better student learning environments – that was a lesson I learned very early on.” The memory of those early days – and the warm welcome she felt as a substitute, a new teacher, and even a new union leader — continues to shape Scott-Schwalbach’s priorities. “We need to make sure our schools are as welcoming for educators as they are for our students. We need to put as much attention to building that community of support for our colleagues and substitutes TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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“When we find our members’ passions and connect with them; when we ask them — ‘How can you put those passions into action? How can you put your community values into action?’ Only then can we diversify our leadership and begin to build, and that’s really, really important.” Reed Scott-Schwalbach

as we do for students,” she says. Personally, she also knows that as a white woman in a field that is predominantly filled with other white women, she was afforded the privilege of a warm welcome and supportive environment from the get-go, which often isn’t the norm for new educators of color. As President, she’s committed to changing that reality by focusing specifically on the recruitment and retention of newer BIPOC educators. “Those new to our profession have so much to give,” Scott-Schwalbach says “I get so frustrated when I hear from our newer members that they’ve been told to ‘sit down and be quiet’ until they have more experience. There isn’t a predefined box for what makes a ‘good leader’ in the education space. We need to find our members’ passions and ask ‘How can we support you in putting those passions into action? How can you put your community values into action?’ Only then can we diversify our leadership and build for our union of the future, and that’s really, really important,” she says. One of her concerns is truly big-picture: there aren’t enough students going into the education profession to sustain and grow it. She believes OEA can and should have a role in changing that dire reality. “We have so many students who go through our schools in Oregon and come 22

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out at the end of their experience saying, ‘I don’t want to go back. I could see how tough it is for my teachers.’ There’s an even more profound reaction to this from our BIPOC students, who are often not supported in our schools,” she notes. “We need to pay attention to this. As the most powerful labor organization in the state, we need to use our power to listen to students and make the necessary changes to the system.” For Scott-Schwalbach, it starts with asking the hardest question of all: How am I, in unintended ways, helping create a system that doesn’t make students feel like it’s where they belong long-term? The second piece of this question comes down to some of the basic tenets of a labor union – securing an economic reality (i.e. strong wages and benefits for educators, including Education Support Professionals) that enables new members to support their families and give back to their communities. As an organization, Scott-Schwalbach points out, we also have to celebrate the strides we’ve already made for members. “It’s not perfect, but Oregon educators do have better protections around leave and higher quality benefit and compensation packages as compared to other states nationwide. Our union made these wins possible,” she says. In terms of celebrating the wins, Scott-Schwalbach continues to draw inspiration from the massive statewide actions that took place on May 8, 2019 – when tens of thousands of Oregon educators stood up for their students in the most visible and vocal way possible through the #RedForEd movement. It’s easy to forget the good – particularly in the midst of never-before-seen challenges to public education brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s quite a time to assume OEA’s top leadership role, but having just ended two consecutive terms as OEA Vice President, Scott-Schwalbach feels prepared for the long road ahead. “We’re learning to live with the reality that COVID has created in our lives. It’s not easy, but by sticking together, listening to each other, and building solutions together — we’re going to be able to get through it.” n

Enrique Farrera

OEA VICE PRESIDENT

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id Enrique Farrera ever expect to be serving as Vice President of a 41,000-member labor organization? “Never in my wildest dreams,” he says. The Academic Advisor from Clackamas Community College credits the power of education for getting him to this point in his career – but there were certainly twists and turns along that path. “Nothing about my journey to this point was traditional,” Farrera says. A little over ten years ago, Farrera was living on campus at Portland State University as a single dad of his then two-year-old daughter. He was an anthropology major and was leading a support group for undergraduate men of color through PSU’s diversity office. “I didn’t know exactly what my career was going to look like,” he remembers. One of his professors and mentors asked him about his post-graduation plans, and encouraged him to pursue graduate school. That mentor probably saw in Farrera what so many others have seen in the years since – an incredible ability to connect with people from nontraditional backgrounds who need some real-world guidance outside of the safety of a college environment. An unwavering commitment to other students of color on campus, like himself. A barrier-breaking persona that would help him write his own unique story. His move back into higher education eventually led Farrera to his job at Clackamas Community College serving students in an academic advising role as a classified staff member, where he worked for about 10 years before his election to the OEA leadership team this past Spring. His election makes him the first Hispanic member and first community college classified member to be elected to OEA’s second-highest office. “I had so much appreciation for the students who came through our doors. In my position, I worked with such a range of students – from those who struggled with addiction, were homeless, to Veterans returning to finish their education, to those


who might be business owners, or graphic designers who had their own studios. It was such a range of people. It’s what I’m going to miss most about the college environment,” Farrera says. During his tenure at Clackamas Community College, Farrera dove headfirst into union work. Just two years into his career there, he was elected President of the Clackamas Community College Association of Classified Employees (CCC-ACE). He guided his local through tense negotiations and elevated the voices of classified higher education members at both state and national levels. In June of 2017, Farrera was appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to serve on Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), the advising body to the Oregon Legislature, the Governor and Chief Education Office on policy that will help the state meet its postsecondary goals. When he was appointed, Farrera became one of just two community college members, the only OEA member, and the only classified employee member on the commission. Later that same year, Farrera was elected to serve as an NEA Director, building the link between OEA members’ experiences and education policy-making at the federal level. His conversations with US Senators and Representatives helped shed light on the struggles faced by educators – and the passion they bring to their jobs every day. Though he represented all OEA members in that role, Farrera never lost sight of where he got his start as an advocate – fighting for hardworking and often under-resourced classified educators. Today, Farrera is approaching his fifth month in office as OEA Vice President – which means he’s left the college campus that’s been his home for the better part of a decade. Making such a momentous career shift in the middle of a pandemic isn’t for everyone, but Farrera is ready and willing to make the leap. “There’s definitely no textbook for this,” he jokes about the uncertainties that lie ahead. “I want to continue doing what I’ve always done, and that is listening to the experiences of our members and hearing about their working conditions and the difficulties that they’re facing.” Credits: Thomas Patterson

Enrique Farrera, OEA Vice President, joins members from Newberg on Sept. 30 during their "Every Student Belongs" rally. Proud Boys had threatened to stage a counter-protest, but there were only supportive signs in sight.

Part of his role as Vice President is to oversee the OEA Foundation, the nonprofit arm of our union that provides grants to members to support students’ basic needs, like clothing and essential healthcare items. The pandemic has put unprecedented financial pressure on the OEA Foundation as more members are accessing grants for their students than ever before. Last fall, in the wake of devastating wildfires that ripped through Oregon, the OEA Foundation opened up its grant application process to provide wildfire relief for students – in total offering more than $100,000 in relief grants to hundreds of Oregon students over the last school year. Farrera has big hopes for the Foundation over the next two years, but knows its success is dependent on the members who reach into their pockets to give through payroll deduction. Their heartwrenching stories about their students give him pause, as he realizes the importance of the role he’s now been elected to serve.

Just a few weeks ago, Farrera made the drive from Portland to Klamath Falls and back in one day. He joined members for a Saturday afternoon barbecue before making the journey home. “We talked openly about everything they’re going through – all the challenges they’re facing this year. I replayed their stories over and over in my head, the whole drive home,” he reflects. In some ways, he says, his background as an immigrant and person of color working in higher education gives him a deeper understanding of what members in our more rural districts might be facing. “We have something in common, and that is the human struggle. The system wasn’t designed with me, or often them, in mind. It’s why I’m able to connect with members who don’t fit in more traditional roles or who live in these rural areas,” Farrera says. “Those stories gave me the perspective I needed: how can I help our members and students in a way that makes a real difference for them? That’s really what motivates me." n TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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THAT TRANSCEND

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CTIONS Through OEA’s Educator Empowerment Academy, Oregon’s 2021 Teacher of the Year and fellow BIPOC Educators Focus on Strategies to Diversify the Educator Workforce BY MEG KRUGEL • PHOTOS BY THOMAS PATTERSON

There have been moments over the last year that have seemed surreal for Nicole Butler-Hooton — like when she walked through the front doors of the White House last month to be greeted by First Lady Dr. Jill Biden for a special event honoring the State and National Teachers of the Year. Butler-Hooton, a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz and the San Carlos Apache tribe of Arizona, was named the 2021 Oregon Teacher of the Year in the Fall of 2020. She speaks of her experience in Washington D.C. in a way that reflects her most ardent values as an Indigenous educator. In a post of her outside the White House on her Teacher of the Year Instagram Left: Nicole Butler-Hooton, a new educator mentor TOSA, returns to work with students at Irving Elementary School in Bethel, her teaching home prior to being named Oregon's Teacher of the Year.

account, Butler-Hooton wrote, “Today was one of the most beautiful days to celebrate teachers and all they bring to their communities. Our voices were heard today and we felt seen. Oregon teachers, I share this with you... I have work to do to strengthen the Indigenous presence in today’s classroom, and I’m ready.” Her experience at the White House and her meetings that followed at the U.S. Capitol with Sen. Wyden and Sen. Merkley will stay with ButlerHooton long after her time as Teacher of the Year comes to an end this Fall. And yet, for the Eugenearea teacher, the equity issues she discussed that day in Washington D.C. have been her passion since her career began as a teacher a little over 15 years ago — and they are anything but surreal. They are her own lived experience as a student and now teacher of color in Oregon.

ROOM


Nicole Butler-Hooton meets with Juliauna Greene, a BIPOC educator from Fairfield Elementary in Eugene’s Bethel School District. Greene was fresh into her career when she was asked by Butler-Hooton, her new teacher mentor at the time, to join the work of the OEA Empowerment Academy team.

In thinking about strategies to support the work of diversifying the educator workforce, Butler-Hooton reflects on the experience she had as Native student growing up in a predominantly white community. “I didn’t see teachers or students who looked like me. I didn’t see curriculum being used that was accurate to my experience. I’ve really focused on how we can humanize the curriculum and create classrooms of love and joy, justice and social justice,” she says. “My experience as a Native teacher now is about finding my voice to disrupt practices that I don’t feel are equitable for my students, especially those in marginalized groups. 26

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I’ve seen the effect in these limitations and so I really strive to create connections that transcend our classrooms.” Up until this year, Butler taught second grade at Irving Elementary in the Bethel School District, but this year, she’s shifted gears and taken on a new TOSA role, focused on providing support to new teachers in the district. Her work is fueled by a critical question:

how do we lift up, support, and retain educators of color in the profession? How do we build the pipeline to recruit new BIPOC educators in pursuing a teaching career?

Through OEA’s Educator Empowerment Academy and the Western Regional Educator Network (WREN), ButlerHooton and a team of other BIPOC educators from Eugene 4J, Bethel and Albany School Districts are tackling these questions as their central “problem of practice.” Using the OEA Empowerment Process, which centers on human-centered design, continuous improvement, and community-based organizing, ButlerHooton and her team are defining strategies to support and retain BIPOC educators in the classroom, a demographic that is highly susceptible to burnout. A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that teachers of color leave the profession 24 percent more often than white teachers, and NEA cites a declining number of Black and Hispanic students majoring in education that is steeper than the overall decline in education majors. When she joined OEA’s Empowerment Academy in January 2021, Butler-Hooton had already begun meeting with educators from around Oregon as part of her Teacher of the Year title. Some were surprised she’d decided to take on yet one more responsibility during an already taxing year, but “my heart was in it,” she said. “Thinking about how I got to where I am in my own lived experience — and using that to focus on how we can support our BIPOC teachers. I said yes immediately.” Through her platform as Teacher of the Year, she’d heard with so many teachers of color across the state who needed support. “How are we humanizing our spaces in our curriculum and in our relationships? One thing I know that’s necessary is to have supports in places for our teachers who feel very marginalized and isolated,” she says. In Bethel and more broadly across Oregon, Butler-Hooton says teachers coming into the profession today receive so much more in the way of anti-racist training and curriculum than she did as a new classroom teacher 15 years ago. Now, with the passage of Senate Bill 13: Tribal History / Shared History in 2017, K-12 educators are given professional development to deliver Native American curriculum that accurately reflects the histories of Oregon’s nine federally


At left: Juliauna Greene teaches a class on identity at Fairfield Elementary in Eugene’s Bethel School District. She loves the close rapport she's been able to develop with her students of color in particular.

recognized Tribes. But training alone does not solve the deep, systemic issues that contribute to a workforce that lags in diversity, especially in contrast to our student populations. This is where the human-centered piece of the puzzle comes into focus.

THE POWER OF EARLY CAREER TEACHERS

Juliauna Greene is in her fifth year of teaching at Fairfield Elementary in Bethel. She fell in love with the school community the moment she walked out of her job interview — accepting the offer to teach there was an easy decision to make. As Credits: Thomas Patterson

a child growing up in Eugene, Greene’s mom, who had a disability, was unable to continue working. “We were very poor. We were on food stamps, disability income and Section 8 housing. I have a lot of students who are in similar situations — most of my students are struggling. But it’s why I love working here, because I really do see myself in them as a students. And I see all the supports that we have for them here at our school, which is really heartening,” Greene says. She recognizes that as a Black teacher, many of her students of color (she has just a handful) conversely see themselves represented in her — an experience she

didn’t have until taking an ethnic studies course in college, when she had her first Black instructor. Greene was fresh into her career when she was asked by Butler-Hooton, her new teacher mentor at the time, to join the work of the OEA Empowerment Academy team. The Team’s “change idea” in addressing their problem of practice was to build a network of support for BIPOC educators. The work began by reaching out to collect feedback from BIPOC teachers across the Western region; that survey data gave way to interest groups, beginning with a time for educators of color to meet and share culturally responsive lesson plans. TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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While the time was incredibly valuable for Greene as a facilitator, “I was definitely nervous. I had to fight against feeling like it wasn’t my place in be one of the leaders in this type of group setting. But, everyone was so supportive and the experience really built my confidence and truly did make me feel empowered in my practice. To meet all of these other educators who look like me and have similar experiences… to collaborate and bond with them… was a really powerful experience,” she says. Greene says that putting newer educators into equity leadership positions helps cultivate new ideas and bridge the understanding of what it’s like to be early career, and particularly an early career teacher of color in a system that has long been geared around white, experienced teachers. “I have a perspective that they don’t necessarily have any more,” Greene says of the isolating experience it can be to walk into a new District as one of the few teachers of color. “This is something I’m living now, and it’s been nice to provide that voice. I feel like I’m stepping up for all my other fellow new educators.” For Greene, having Butler-Hooton as her mentor has all but eliminated that feeling of isolation, which for many early career teachers has only intensified through the pandemic and online teaching. “She’s Oregon Teacher of the Year, and yet she she’s so humble. She talks to me like we’re on the same level,” Greene says. “Having a mentor of color has just been really valuable and made me feel so supported. I feel like this is a place that I could be for a long time, because I do have that support system with Nicole.”

DIVERSIFYING THE FIELD THROUGH TEACHER LEADERSHIP

Norina Andina’s 20-year career in teaching has been largely shaped by her Colombian heritage, although she hasn’t always been a Spanish-speaker. Andina was adopted by white parents at age three from Colombia and raised in Minnesota; she didn’t start taking Spanish classes until middle school. The love of the language was immediate — she chose to earn a dual major in Spanish and Latin American 28

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OEA’s Empowerment Academy Educator Context: n Low numbers of BIPOC educators teach or lead in Oregon n Our students of color need our support and Culturally Responsive curriculum that authentically includes their histories and realities today n Heightened racial tension and conflict of 2020-2021 n Isolation and invisibility felt by BIPOC educators in districts and schools n A need to connect with each other and create change and opportunities where they didn’t exist previously n A desire to partner with white allies and work together The Problem Statement: There’s a lack of personal connections and supports for BIPOC educators in many districts.

studies, and eventually found her home in the classroom, first as a Spanish teacher for nearly all white students in Eugene, and then as an ELD teacher for students who entered school knowing little to no English at all. Two years ago, she moved from the Eugene area to Albany (following her children as they enrolled at Oregon State University) and is currently an ELD teacher at Sunrise Elementary, the lowest SES school in the district. About half of her students are Latino, and she’s the only teacher of color in that building. “I take the responsibility deeply. For all the Latino students and students of color to see me and think, ‘Oh, one of us can be a teacher. It’s not just white people. And for the white students — it’s just as important. I might be their only teacher of color they will ever have,” Andina says. Nationally, according to the US Department of Education, about half of all students in our public schools are nonwhite, and yet only 20 percent of educators identify as BIPOC. A Center for American

Progress study, titled “America’s Leaky Pipeline for Teachers of Color,” reports that “minority teachers have higher expectations of minority students, provide culturally relevant teaching, develop trusting relationships with students, confront issues of racism through teaching, and become advocates and cultural brokers.” Indeed, having a teacher of color contributes to rising student success rates — but it also shows students of color what’s possible. It shows these students that they have something to offer the teaching profession in return. Lecturer Sarah Leibel, a master teacher in the Harvard Teacher Fellows (HTF) Program, mentions how, in literature, students need “mirrors and windows” ­— meaning they can see them themselves in stories and also experience unfamiliar worlds. “It’s really important that students have people who reflect back to them their language, their culture, their ethnicity, their religion. It doesn’t mean all the people in their lives have to do that mirroring, but they should have some. And we know that in the teaching profession, there really are not enough mirrors,” Leibel says. When Andina decided to join OEA’s Educator Empowerment Academy, the instant connection and rapport she felt with the Western Regional team of BIPOC educators was palpable. After a year of participating in the Academy, she opted to step up as an Empowerment Coach, helping guide other BIPOC teachers in the journey to create and deepen connections within their own districts. The support she’s felt as she’s moved into this work has been vital — especially given the recent racial tensions that have escalated in Albany over the last few months. In early August, the Greater Albany School Board’s incoming school board members (all white men) abruptly fired equity-champion Melissa Goff from her position as District Superintendent, citing “different values and divisiveness.” It was an apparent move to limit the District’s focus on equity, and in the months since, has put a spotlight on the racism that exists in Albany’s school leadership.


Norina Andina is currently an ELD teacher at Sunrise Elementary in Albany. About half of her students are Latino; she thrives in helping her students find ways to celebrate, connect with and honor their cultural backgrounds through her teaching, including the use of music, cultural dress and art.

Through it all, Andina seems to have maintained a sense of calm and focus, especially during a time that could have put an added emotional burden on her as one of the few teachers of color in the district. She credits the President of her local association for providing additional support and reassurance during this tumultuous season — but, mostly, it’s been the connections with other BIPOC teachers, particularly in affinity space, that have reignited her love of teaching and helped her work through those common feelings of burnout. If our goal is to funnel more BIPOC students into the teacher pipeline, we Credits: Thomas Patterson

have to show them that the profession is primed to support their success. This includes making sure the curriculum they receive during their K-12 years is culturally responsive; it includes deepening the connections our public schools have with ethnically diverse communities; it means ensuring students of color have teachers who look like them; it requires us to rethink how we recruit for and make teacher prep programs feasible for first-generation college students. And, once they’re in the profession, district and union leadership can and must prioritize a teacher’s social, emotional, and professional journey through instructional

coaching, mentorship, and affinity space with other BIPOC staff. As she moves on from her title as Oregon’s Teacher of the Year, ButlerHooton is committed to supporting Oregon educators in creating space for a more representative teaching demographic. “Doing equity work can be lonely — but as we become more equitable, anti-racist and culturally responsive teachers, we begin to understand and acknowledge our own bias and lived experiences,” she says. “I think our time is now to really address the racial climate and to empower the next generation of teachers, specifically BIPOC teachers, to lead this change.” n TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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INCLUSIVITY GETS PUT TO THE TEST IN THE FACE OF A DAMAGING VOTE BY THE NEWBERG SCHOOL BOARD, NEWBERG EDUCATORS RALLY TO SUPPORT THEIR BLACK AND LGBTQ+ STUDENTS. By Meg Krugel

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HOULDERING THE BURDEN of students’ deep and systemic mental health needs comes with the territory of being an educator. But in the small community of Newberg this school year, that burden seems to have been magnified tenfold. A harsh decision by the Newberg School Board enacted at the beginning of the school year has left students from historically marginalized communities feeling unsupported and unwelcomed in the district — and worries the educators, particularly those working in mental health roles, who care for them.

From Maddie Kozloff’s perspective, tension and educator burnout is at an all-time high in the district, following the Sept. 27 decision by the Newberg School Board to ban any symbols considered “political, quasi-political, or controversial” from school buildings — including LGBTQ+ pride flags and Black Lives Matter signs. The implications of the decision have been felt acutely by school counselors, school psychologists and parent/community advocates. Kozloff, a school counselor at Chehalem Valley Middle School, says she’s witnessed “increased comments of bigotry, a direct response to people feeling emboldened by the recent board policy to voice hateful, hurtful opinions and reflect the poor behavior modeled by some members of the school board. Luckily, many staff have rallied to support our students, seeking to provide reassurances that everyone is welcome in our schools and community.” The 4-3 vote by the school board has been met with extreme opposition from 30

TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

the Newberg Education Association (NEA), progressive educators and community members. Just hours before the Board cast their deciding vote, over one hundred supporters gathered along a busy Newberg corridor with Black Lives Matter signs and rainbow flags — a colorful display of strength from the local association and a visual message to students: you belong here. In a recap of the rally by KATU News, Newberg EA President Jennifer Schneider powerfully explained why the union was fighting the Board’s decision. “Every student who walks through our doors deserves our best every day. They deserve to know that they are welcomed and loved for who they are, no matter where they come from, or what they look like, and no matter how they identify.” Yet in the days following the Board vote to ban these ‘quasi-political’ symbols, news outlets also reported that students of color in Newberg were apprehensive to return to their school buildings, feeling that the


Activists of all ages put on a visual display as a form of protest against the Newberg School Board's recent policy limiting the display of anything considered "political or quasi-political," including LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter signs.

Credits: Thomas Patterson

TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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vote by the school board was a visible demonstration that racism is alive and well in Newberg. In a 4-3 vote cast in early November, the Newberg School Board abruptly fired Superintendent Joe Morelock, a known equity champion for the district. That vote has caused increased political chaos in an already struggling district. In a poignant letter to the Newberg School Board, a group of 25 school counselors and other mental health professionals in the district called into question the Board’s actions over the last several months to enact three closely-related changes: 1) the prohibition of BLM signs and Pride flags in District facilities; 2) the elimination (or rewrite) of its resolution condemning racism and committing to being an antiracist school, and 3) the elimination (or rewrite) of Board Policy ACB: All Students Belong. In the letter, the group of mental health professionals urged the Board to reconsider its decision on these three fronts. “Banning BLM posters and Pride flags and removing the anti-racism statement will further isolate historically marginalized students, jeopardizing their physical, mental, emotional and educational futures,” the group of educators write. “Being inclusive and supportive of vulnerable populations means actively providing safe environments, clear communication and professional development. As educators who continuously strive to better our practice to support all students this reality is clear in both our professional education and our work experience.” Since the beginning of the school year, Newberg has found itself in the epicenter of several other harrowing race-related incidences; in September, a support staff member showed up to one of Newberg’s elementary schools in blackface as a form of protest against the vaccine mandate; shortly before this, students at Newberg High School were found to be participating in a racist “slave trade” on Snapchat. Many educators believe that the Board’s decision is indicative of a white supremacist undercurrent that perpetuates racism in the community — and in its schools, too. “Educators are feeling the stress of this policy, as it makes them second guess what they can teach without drowning in parent 32

TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

Maddie Kozloff, center, helped organize the Sept. 30 rally for her fellow Newberg EA members and the community.

emails that attack their professional judgment, topic being taught, and even their fitness to teach,” Kozloff observes. “[White] students are being emboldened by their parents to talk back in class and hold classes hostage to their views.” The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has its eyes on Newberg; during the first week of school, the ACLU of Oregon sent a letter to the Newberg School District, demanding the immediate retraction of the ban on Black Lives Matter and pride signage. “We strongly encourage the Newberg School Board to immediately revisit and reverse their ban on displays of belonging and inclusion. If the Newberg School Board continues to violate the United States and Oregon constitutions, as well as other state and federal laws, we will see them in court.” In light of the decision, the Oregon State Board of Education has also passed a resolution calling on the Newberg School Board to “reverse course and validate that student identities are not inherently political or controversial, but welcomed and affirmed.” Newberg EA is committed to pursuing a legal challenge of the decision and has endorsed the recall effort for Board members Brian Shannon and Dave Brown.

In a Facebook post immediately following the Sept. 27 vote, Newberg EA leaders said: “We cannot let this group of four [Board members] impose their own political agenda, erode our rights, and strip our support of our students. Our educators are united in their goal to create classrooms where students can walk in and feel like they belong. We are more committed than ever to this goal.” For Kozloff, the Board’s decision has resulted in muddy waters about how she can identify herself as an ally to other LGBTQ+ students. “Dozens of students have commented on my pride and BLM shirts, pins, and buttons – each excited to see them and in turn be seen. Our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students cannot and should not have to hide who they are and without these symbols, I would be an unknown to some of my most vulnerable students.” In a powerful testimony that the school counselor delivered to the board on Sept. 22, Kozloff says she — and her students ­— aren’t backing down. “The reality is you cannot silence us into disappearance. We exist: as your staff, your children, and in your community. But this district doesn’t belong just to you. It belongs to all of us.” n


“EVERY STUDENT WHO WALKS THROUGH OUR DOORS DESERVES OUR BEST EVERY DAY. THEY DESERVE TO KNOW THAT THEY ARE WELCOMED AND LOVED FOR WHO THEY ARE, NO MATTER WHERE THEY COME FROM, OR WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE, AND NO MATTER HOW THEY IDENTIFY.” — Jennifer Schneider, Newberg EA President

Credits: Thomas Patterson

TODAY’S OEA | FALL/WINTER 2021

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Inside OEA

Peggy's Cove is considered the most picturesque spot of Canada.

Maritimes Coastal Wonders Everyone is welcome to take this great adventure up north BY RAY JOHNSON / OEA-Retired

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re you looking for a place to go next summer for a great adventure, possible tax deduction, wonderful memories, or pick up numerous items to take back to your classroom? Be sure to check out OEA-Retired’s Maritimes Coastal Wonders, sponsored by Collette. The trip begins with flying out of Portland on July 24, 2022, and arriving in Halifax, Novia Scotia. You return from there to Portland on Aug. 3. The trip includes tours of Halifax, Peggy’s Cove—considered the most picturesque spot of Canada—Lunenburg, Cape Breton Island, Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, Cabot Trail, Alexander Graham Bell Museum, Anne of Green Gables Museum, Charlottetown, and Grand-Pré Historic Site—home of the Acadian people. 34

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Also included are a kilt-making demonstration, listening to and learning Gaelic songs, cooking Prince Edward Island mussels, lunching in a national park, watching potato farming, observing the four-story high Hopewell Rocks before they disappear into the Bay of Fundy tide, eating samples of seaweed and fiddlehead fern, listening to traditional fiddle playing, enjoying a lobster feast, and taking a ferry ride. The tour also allows time for exploring on your own, and extra days can be added, either at the beginning or at the end, at your own expense, with no additional cost in airfare. The trip is an Activity Level 2, which means walking over a variety of terrains or several city blocks. Anyone is welcome to take this trip—you do not have to be an OEA-Retired member. Details for the tour include: July 24-Aug.

3, 2022 for 11 days with 16 meals at a cost of $3,999 per person for double occupancy. A deposit of $600 is due January 17, 2022 with final payment on May 25. The total cost is per person, double occupancy and includes airfare from Portland, rooms, guides, transfers and most meals. The first and last day of each trip are counted as part of the total trip, but they are always travel days. A reduction in cost can be had with an early full payment, and prices can increase until final payment is made. A cancellation with full refund, less insurance cost, is allowed up to 24 hours prior to departure. To make reservations, go to: gateway. gocollette.com/link/1059877. For more information, contact Nancy Lewis at 503-352-4453 or nancyjolewis@gmail. com. Credits: Anthony Dezenzio, iStock photo



The Official Publication of Oregon Education Association

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Articles inside

Changes Coming to Oregon’s Systems of Assessment

7min
pages 8-9

Oregon ranks 19th in nationwide school spending

2min
page 7

Building Protocols and Resources to Assist Members Under Public Attack

4min
pages 10-11

Sneak Preview of OEA’s Priority Legislation for 2022

3min
page 12

Understaffed and Overworked

15min
pages 14-19

When Student Loan Persistence Pays OfF

3min
page 13

Maritimes Coastal Wonders

2min
pages 34-36
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