The Portland Association of Teachers is working hard to shield teachers who have been disciplined, investigated or fired for misconduct.
Parents whose children are endangered by this agreement can thank the teachers’ union; language in the most recent collective bargaining agreement prevents the release of documents that could lead to the blacklisting of predatory teachers.
Sadly, this contract – written in the dark – has already directly led to the harm of children.
In 2012, Physical Education and Health teacher Norman Scott retired under murky circumstances from Portland Public Schools after 36 years of employment. In 2015, he became a substitute teacher for the Oregon City school district.
In one day of substituting as a PE teacher at Oregon City Middle School, he molested six female students.
Multnomah County District Court documents, obtained by The Oregonian, show the ugly truth about the former faculty member. As it turns out, Scott’s exit from the district was in response to a long history of complaints and infractions related to inappropriate conduct and behavior towards students, including texts and personal gifts to students and wearing a condom on his head in class.
Had the documents surrounding his retirement from PPS been in his personnel file, those six middle school girls would have been spared horrific abuse at the hands of Norman Scott. But the contract between the union and the school district preserved this predator’s career as a teacher.
The school district, which has been attempting to implement better transparency in its procedures, has its hands tied by these union contracts. School board members have stated repeatedly that they are interested in more free and open public records, unions are not interested in that kind of action.
Last fall, concerned mother Kim Sordyl and journalist Beth Slovic requested a list of Portland Public Schools employees on paid leave—records that had been previously granted to the public—and were greeted with a lawsuit from the school district.
Slovic has reported that one district employee had been on paid leave for four years. The encounter with the district was covered by AP.
Sordyl, an attorney and mother of students in the district, has long been an outspoken advocate within the community. Her advocacy and concern earned her a seat on Oregon’s Board of Education
In a hearing held in Oregon’s Capitol yesterday, Sordyl’s criticism was countered with a bill intended to remove her from serving on the Board of Education.
As the law currently stands, the Secretary of State may appoint a person of his choosing to sit in his ex-officio seat. The seat’s purpose is to bring expertise and guidance to the Board. The position does not vote.
House Bill 4013, sponsored by Rep. Doherty (D-35) would require that the Secretary of State and State Treasurer’s appointee to the board be a member of their paid staff. This is nothing short of targeted legislation meant to chill the voice a parent advocate concerned with the direction of public education.
Sordyl isn’t alone in her concern.
Thirteen written testimonies reflect a group of parents, Oregonians and officials who strongly oppose the bill and its intended outcome.
“I am very upset to learn that you are trying to change the rules so that the Secretary of State cannot appoint whomever he pleases to fill in for him on the State Board of Education. Kim Sordyl appears to be your target.” – Vicky Maurseth, Portland, Ore.
“I oppose any attempt to change who the State Treasurer or Secretary of State have appointed to the State Board of Education. I am well aware that Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson’s choice in Kim Sordyl was not a welcome choice by the “status quo” education lobby.” -Lindsay Berschauer, president, Leona Consulting
“It is my understanding that you have decided to use an ‘anonymous’ committee emergency bill 4013 to silence an opponent immediately.” – Gordon Fiddes, parent in House District 35
House Democrats are showing their true colors with HB 4013 by silencing the voice of opposition and bowing down to the will of the unions that fund them.
Had the unions’ collective bargaining happened in the open, concerned parents and citizens may have been able to contest its provisions before they were set in stone. The sordid mess faced by Portland School District’s parents, students and faculty comes down to a lack of clarity and, ultimately, failure to prioritize student safety over the will of the ever-powerful union.
Rather than rushing to silence parent advocates in Portland School District, Oregon’s politicians should be focusing on the real problem: agreements made in the dark, curtained off from the very citizens they harm.