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Portland Teachers Deny Accusations of Trying To Shut Schools With Absences

Portland Public Schools teachers and their union say they are not coordinating sick calls in an effort to shut down schools.  They’re angry that a district leader accused them of doing that.

Maggie Byrkit teaches fifth grade at ACCESS Academy in Portland Public Schools.  She tells news partner KGW, “It’s been a rocky start to January because of my family having COVID.” 

She took several days off this month, when she and her kids caught COVID-19. She disputes the district’s accusations that teachers are deliberately calling out sick to shut down schools.  She says, “It just blew me away.”

The letter from Portland Public Schools Human Resources Chief Sharon Reese says, “We are getting regular reports of educators being asked by colleagues to call-in sick with the intention of causing the district to close schools.”  It notes, it’s “Unlawful for educators to participate in any sort of coordinated action to be absent for anything other than a legitimate reason under District policy.” And it claims, “There have been a few circumstances surrounding some absences that are concerning.”

But the teachers’ union fired back:  “Rather than recognizing our extraordinary efforts to support our students in the face of untenable conditions, or acknowledging their own failures to prepare for this latest COVID surge, District leaders are now accusing PAT members of engaging in illegal activity. Their message appears to be an attempt to intimidate.”  

The Portland Teachers Union accuses district leaders of, “An attempt to blame educators for the District’s own failure to honestly and proactively address the current staffing crisis and public health emergency. “

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