Legislation is coming to protect superintendents, senator says
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
OSBA Executive Director Jim Green (bottom right) testified Monday online with Senate Interim Education Committee Chair Michael Dembrow (top right), Vice Chair Sara Gelser Blouin and Sen. Chris Gorsek.
Oregon legislators are working on a bill for the 2022 short session to protect school administrators and create more school stability, Sen. Michael Dembrow said Monday.
A public hearing on K-12 reopening spun off several times to school boards’ dismissing superintendents, particularly focusing on Newberg. Dembrow, chair of the Senate Interim Education Committee, responded that legislation is coming.
Legislative committees are meeting this week to hold informational hearings on topics for potential bills, hear updates on legislation, and take reports from state agencies and task forces.
The Senate Interim Education Committee held an informational meeting that included K-12 school reopening. They heard from Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill and representatives for teachers, administrators, classified staff, school board members and students.
They all told legislators a similar message: Students, teachers and staff are struggling with anxiety and COVID-19 fatigue this year, and the problems are not going away anytime soon.
OSBA is collaborating with other education advocates on a bill to address administrators’ job security, Executive Director Jim Green said during his testimony. He said OSBA is also working on bills that would affect school board preparation and turnover.
“Yes, there have been some issues that have gone on in the state, and we hope to address them through better training for our members as well as some legislative fixes,” Green said.
He reminded legislators that school boards are staffed by volunteers who are doing the best they can for children in this difficult time, with the vast majority quietly meeting their communities’ needs.
“We want our kids in school for in-person instruction for as many days as possible,” Green said.
In addition, school board members are dealing with community hostility as they try to explain state mandates and limits on what schools can do, Green said.
“You have to understand it’s challenging in many of these communities across Oregon to try to explain to folks,” he said.
Testimony Monday afternoon showed the cracks in Oregon’s education system. Students have missed crucial social development and core academic lessons and sometimes are overwhelmed by the current school day. Teachers, administrators and classified staff are facing burnout as they juggle COVID-19 anxieties and their students’ needs. Severe staffing shortages not only impact students’ education, especially the students most in need of additional help, but they also add stress to school workers.
Recent surveys in Portland and Springfield suggest hundreds of teachers are considering leaving the profession, exacerbating the staffing shortages, said Reed Scott-Schwalbach, president of the Oregon Education Association.
Portland Public Schools student Jackson Weinberg, co-executive director of Oregon Student Voice, said he is excited to be back in classes, but he detailed a long list of schools’ “shortcomings.”
Anxieties include students and staff not wearing masks properly, physical crowding, unclear quarantine measures and a loss of clubs and extracurricular activities.
He said in-person classes have brought back some sense of normalcy but students still need more support, especially mental health help.