School building bonds win with OSEA backing

Chapter-endorsed school bond measures won big around the state last week, with three winning and one more ahead in a squeaker of an election.

The Coos Bay School District’s $59.9 million bond is currently ahead by a razor-thin margin of 28 votes; however, that’s a significant improvement from May, when a slightly larger bond proposal failed by similar margins. School officials are hesitant to declare victory just yet, but the current margin of victory is too large to mandate an automatic recount. And while Coos Bay members are cautiously optimistic, classified employees in Lowell, Oakridge and Phoenix-Talent are celebrating their wins.

All four measures received contributions from OSEA’s Education and Labor Advocacy Fund (ELAF), which supports education- and labor-friendly candidates and measures around the state. If you’d like to contribute, Oregon offers a political tax credit of $50 for single filers and $100 for married couples filing jointly. In other words, free money for a fantastic cause! Click here to learn more and make your contribution.

Coos Bay: If the measure ends up passing, it will expand and upgrade buildings throughout the district. Voters will see the impact almost immediately, especially families of 600 children attending Eastside Elementary School. Built in a tsunami zone on fill dirt, the foundation has failed and parts of the school have been sinking for years. Bond proceeds will construct a new school built both on solid ground and outside the tsunami zone. The Harding Building – built in 1923 – will be replaced by a new three-story school that will finally put 7th and 8th graders in the same building. 

Denise Wright (left), a retired member from Phoenix-Talent Chapter 96, and Zone V Director Marina McCambridge make calls to neighbors urging them to vote in favor of their school improvement bond. Their efforts, along with those from our Coos Bay, Lowell and Oakridge chapters, resulted in a very successful Election Day for OSEA members.

“We have a poor community, we have a lot of retired people and it’s hard to get them behind something like this and vote for it,” Coos Bay Chapter 33 President Sandy Reiber said. “I certainly pushed for it in our meetings and urged our members to tell their friends and neighbors to vote. We were pretty desperate here to have buildings that are safe.”

Lowell: Brown water will no longer run from the taps in Lowell schools thanks to a $4 million bond that will modernize plumbing, electrical and other vital infrastructure at the district’s elementary and middle/high schools, which are 77 and 87 years old, respectively. Classrooms will be air-conditioned for the first time.

Lowell Chapter 118 President Colette Ullrich said general fund dollars had to be diverted from student needs to making repairs. She’s hoping that some of the reclaimed school funding will be invested in staff.

“We’re excited because so many things in the schools have been broken for a long time and kinda bandaged,” Ullrich said. “It will be nice to have all those things you’re supposed to have, like heat and clean water.”

Ullrich said the ELAF contribution allowed the bond’s supporters to send mailings to district taxpayers explaining how Lowell’s kids will benefit from the bond’s passage. She added that the state’s matching grant program will provide an additional $4 million, and this fact helped convince voters to back the measure.

Oakridge: Just a few miles east on Highway 58, voters here gave a big thumbs-up to a $6.2 million bond measure, with almost 78 percent giving support. Big ticket items include a new roof and new HVAC at the junior-senior high school. Parts of the school – the gym, locker rooms and weight room – do not have heat at all, according to the Register-Guard. Other big changes include science lab and kitchen improvements.

“I was very happy with the result,” Oakridge Chapter 46 Co-President Niki Gamez said. “Our schools needed a lot of work done on them. There were a lot of things we really wanted in there.”

Phoenix-Talent: In this southern Oregon district, voter support will build new classrooms and renovate the career technical education facilities at Phoenix High School, upgrade all district buildings to modern seismic standards, improve access for students with disabilities, address future growth and improve safety and security districtwide.

Marina McCambridge, OSEA Zone V director and secretary of Phoenix-Talent Chapter 96, said that canvassing was a great way to meet neighbors and voters. She praised member Holly Tamplin, retiree Denise Wright and OSEA Field Representative Susan Greeley for helping with phone-banking.

“We had a great, positive response from those we spoke to,” McCambridge said. “This was also an opportunity for OSEA, the Oregon Education Association (OEA) and the school board to work together for a common goal: Our students.”

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