‘Just keep fighting:’ Tenacity honored

Conference 2017 concluded with honors, farewells and a tribute to OSEA’s Employee of the Year.

Delegates welcomed new board members in Zone V Director Marina McCambridge and Zone I Director Dianna Hess. Outgoing Zone Directors Kathy Forbes and Aaron Powell were recognized for their time and sacrifices in the service of their union. For hundreds of photos from the banquet and other Conference events, check out the OSEA Flickr page.

As per tradition, the evening centered around honoring 2017 Employee of the Year Denise Chase. Public Relations Chair Melissa Siegel described her with these glowing words: “Integrity, self-motivated, honest, positive attitude, tireless, loyal, great sense of humor.”

Chase – president of Central Chapter 124, co-chair of this year’s Conference Committee and a paralibrarian at Central High School – was recognized by Central School District Business Manager Cecelia Koontz.

“You are lucky to have her. I am lucky to be her friend and colleague,” Koontz said.

Government Relations Director Ed Edwards recognized the outstanding contributions of Beaverton Chapter 48’s Lawrence Rajotte and Hermiston Chapter 10’s Delores Piersol with the Government Relations Member Advocate Award.

“If we needed a person to go to a rally, or go to a fundraiser, he really stretched his time,” Edwards said of Rajotte.

“He was a great help with the committee, and he is an outstanding member of the committee and also OSEA,” added Janet Anderson, chair of OSEA’s Government Relations Committee.

Anna Taylor, Beaverton Chapter 48 President, accepted the award on Rajotte’s behalf.

“Political activism has been Lawrence’s passion ever since I’ve known him,” Taylor said, adding with a sly smile, “He never goes door-knocking alone. I am extremely proud to accept this award on his behalf.”

Piersol’s activism includes working with state Rep. Greg Smith to address funding issues surrounding chronically absent students. The bill passed the Legislature and was recently signed by Gov. Kate Brown. Edwards said this type of work requires fortitude and persistence.

“That example should inspire you to believe you can do that as well,” Edwards added.

“It has been an honor to work and be part of the government relations office,” Piersol said. “As Mr. Edwards said, you can do it. If you’re strong enough and believe in it enough, you can do it.”

“Last but not least,” to quote OSEA President Tim Stoelb, the President’s Award was presented to Sella Bemrose, who is North Santiam Chapter 122 president. Stoelb credited her for standing up to disrespectful management, galvanizing her membership to stand as one and insist on respect. Eventually, the district publicly apologized for the bad behavior.

Bemrose recalled the moments of doubt she faced in the process.

“At one point I thought, ‘Why am I doing this? Does anyone even care?’ Then members started coming to the negotiating team meetings, and emailing me to say, ‘Keep it up. We’re behind you.’ So keep fighting, you guys.”

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