Portland, OR

Portland Daily Round Up: Newberg voters head to polls for SB recall, nurses defend PPS teachers after district email

Emily Scarvie

(George Frey/Getty Images)

By Emily Scarvie

(PORTLAND, Ore.) Hello Portlanders! It's Tuesday, Jan. 18 - Here's your daily round up of all the news happening in the City of Roses.

1. Voters head to the polls for Newberg School Board recall election on Tuesday

Tuesday is the recall election day in Newberg and 39% of eligible voters have already submitted their ballot to determine whether school board members Brian Shannon and Dave Brown will remain on the board. Both Brown and Shannon were elected to the school board in 2019.

The recall effort began when the Newberg School Board voted 4-3 to fire Superintendent Joe Morelock without cause, a move initiated by Brown. Morelock was under contract with the district through June 30, 2024.

Zach Goff, a Newberg resident and the chief petitioner of the recall effort, said Brown and Shannon should be recalled for several reasons, including championing a ban of political symbols in classrooms, the hiring of additional legal counsel, possible violations of state public meetings laws and misusing Newberg School District funds.

Ballots were mailed on Jan. 5. The count should be completed and the results announced in a few days.

2. School nurses defend PPS teachers after district accuses them of misusing sick time

In response to an email sent to teachers by Portland Public School’s human resources office last week accusing some educators of misusing sick time, over 30 nurses contracted by the district signed an open letter defending the teachers. The Portland Association of Teachers condemned the email, saying, “This message from PPS is off-base, demoralizing to all educators and an insult to our profession.”

The letter from nurses criticized PPS for suggesting that school closures were occurring because of staffing shortages rather than the spread of COVID-19. It also noted the district’s lack of school nurses. Currently PPS has one nurse per 1,253 students. The state recommends one nurse per 750 students.

The nurses who signed the letter said they hope things will get better, but in the meantime asked the district to stop placing blame on anything other than the virus itself.

3. Activists march in north Portland to honor Martin Luther King Jr., protest social inequities

On Monday, marchers took the streets of north and northeast Portland for the “March for Humanity,” an event organized by Don’t Shoot Portland to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day by honoring the civil rights activist and protesting social inequities for Black Americans. The event started with a rally at Peninsula Park, where nearly 150 people gathered and distributed face masks, art supplies and books for kids and young adults that discuss themes of social justice and Black history.

The March for Humanity has been held annually for the last eight years in north Portland. Teressa Raiford, a local activist and former mayoral candidate who founded Don’t Shoot Portland, said, “It would be nice to just be able to sit at home with your children and your family and just remember and honor the legacy of Dr. King, but in the same vein we’re fighting against the injustices that existed then, we’re still fighting those injustices now. We can’t do it quietly.”

4. Thousands of Oregonians waiting for pandemic assistance as DHS works through backlog

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon Department of Human Services is struggling to get assistance out as the number of people applying for medical, child care, food and other forms of assistance increases. According to Kim Fredlund, Eligibility Backlog Manager for DHS, they’re seeing a delay in processing due to the volume of applications they’re receiving.

DHS staff processed roughly 37% of applications submitted this month in two days. But the rest of the applications, around 23,000, are taking longer to be approved. According to DHS, the most common delays are for those applying for SNAP food assistance.

DHS is working to get through the applications as soon as possible, but Fredlund said those applying can make the process easier by having all their documents ready when applying. Fredlund suggests having ID, proof of income, social security numbers and information on expenses ready when applying.

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