About a year ago, Reynolds Education Association members quietly supported a no confidence vote for the school district’s superintendent, Danna Diaz. The Reynolds School District serves nearly 11,000 students in east Multnomah County, from the eastern edge of Portland to Troutdale.
“The vote was overwhelmingly in support of no confidence,” said REA president and high school teacher Evan Selby. “It was 87% of our membership.”
Following the vote, Selby said there were several mediation sessions between the district and the union. When the new school year started, the two parties also started bargaining around a safe return to school buildings.
The result of mediation was what Selby called a working relationship agreement, covering several topics. Soon after, the parties also signed a memorandum of understanding for hybrid learning. But Selby said the district hasn’t been collaborative with its teachers.
“We really tried and worked hard... and our members didn’t see the impacts either, weren’t feeling that - the majority of them,” Selby said.
So they’re sharing the no confidence vote publicly, and plan to send a letter to the district board asking them to replace Diaz with someone from outside of the district “who will be a team member with the community and collaborate in actions as well as words.”
Selby said the union plans to share a similar letter it brought to the board last year, following the no confidence vote.
In a response to OPB, the district said it has not received anything new from REA related to the no confidence vote, though the district provided the school board’s message to REA following the vote after it happened last year.
“The Board unanimously supports Superintendent Diaz and her Cabinet members,” read the letter from June 18, 2020. “The Board has purposefully listened to the community we serve: the resounding theme is that Reynolds is fraught with inequities and needs to change for our students.”
In the letter signed by Yesenia Delgado and Valerie Tewskbury, the chair and vice chair of the board, the board said it would like to be “held accountable for our role in what has transpired to date and strongly feels that we can build lasting solutions while promoting healthy communications”.
Selby cites the end of a restorative justice program and cuts to reading specialist positions as examples of decisions REA did not agree with.
With the return to school in-person, Selby said there were additional areas where the union felt the district wasn’t listening. He said the union had concerns about how to continue providing full-time distance learning for students who opted for that. And he said steps to protect healthy air quality in classrooms - such as providing filters - were delayed and caused an unnecessary scramble this spring.
Selby said the union wants to continue to work with the district to do what’s best for students, but hopes the public release sends a message.
“Ultimately, this is the teachers saying, the educators saying, we want change,” Selby said.
“And we do want to work with you, but we want to do it in a way that’s collaborative, truly collaborative.”