There's a common saying when it comes to working with children: "It takes a village." As classified members of the Lake Oswego Schools Employee Association (LOSEA), we work in our local schools and are honored to be a part of "the village" every day.
We are custodians, lunch servers, educational assistants, secretaries, technology assistants, bookkeepers and maintenance staff. Through our widespread roles, we support the entire educational process. We work closely with students, teachers, administrators, district staff, parents and community members.
Over the past few weeks, developments in the local School Board campaign have left many classified employees with questions, mixed emotions and concerns about the impact of LOSEA's endorsement of a School Board candidate and the subsequent $10,000 donation by the state chapter to that candidate's campaign. The endorsement and donation information was not communicated with LOSEA members prior to publication in local media and on campaign materials, leaving many of us frustrated and shocked to not learn about it directly from our own colleagues.
LOSEA members place great value on clear communication from the union's leadership; this isn't the first time, however, that classified union members received no communication about a School Board endorsement. But only in recent history has the union publically endorsed a candidate. If endorsements are to be made in future elections, then we, as a classified union, need to have open communication among our members regarding strategic information that impacts all our members.
The LOSEA Executive Board asked two School Board candidates to fill out a questionnaire related to key LOSD issues. Yet the vast majority of association members have not seen the questions and responses, even after they requested them. Our members want to be informed and our union should aid in this effort, not deter it. If, as a union, we are going to get involved in local elections, then we should help each other become educated and aware of the circumstances surrounding the race and also provide a platform for candidates' voices to be heard and questions to be answered.
During this campaign, one thing is clear: Our endorsement "process" was not inclusive. Communication was inadequate to our members. Information was not provided along the way. In our classified "village," this can and should be improved. If the classified union, to which its members pay dues, is to make endorsements or financial contributions, then our members deserve to know ahead of time and provide input to the process.
All School Board elections are very important to the growth of the Lake Oswego School District and the community. All Lake Oswego voters should be informed and confident in their votes. The Lake Oswego School District classified union members are no different. We must all take responsibility for being more involved in the processes so that the voice of the LOSEA union is the voice of all our members.
Terrie Sheik has been a member of the Lake Oswego Schools Employee Association for 28 years and is a former LOSEA union president.