On Thursday, February 2, team OSEA headed to the State Capitol in Salem to speak before the House Committee on Rules about House Bill (HB) 2708, which would permanently mark the first full week in March as Classified School Employees Week (CEW). This recognition has been observed in Oregon for decades, traditionally by proclamation from the governor each year. But noting that classified employees are truly professionals essential to the operations of Oregon schools and deserving of far more acknowledgement and appreciation than they typically receive, Rep. Courtney Neron has sponsored a bill to enshrine CEW in Oregon statute.
“As a student, I used to love visiting Lida the bookkeeper. As a teacher, I knew how important Jodi in AV was to having photocopies and textbooks. As a parent, I am grateful that Mrs. G. was the first person my son saw as he entered elementary school each day. I also hope people connect their pride in a clean and beautiful school to the hardworking custodians and groundskeepers,” Rep. Neron said. “No matter the size of the school district or which parts of the state, our dedicated classified employees are critical to ensuring that Oregon students are safe, cared for, fed, transported and receiving a quality education.”
3 OSEA members – President Sarah Wofford, Justin Dowell of Centennial Chapter 113 and Sandra Gibson of Willamette ESDEA Chapter 95 – spoke to the committee about how much statewide recognition means to Oregon classified school employees.
“As you may know, the education of all of Oregon’s youth is imperative to Oregon and to our nation; professional classified school employees is a term used to identify the myriad of employees who support the care and education in the daily life of a student. In a typical elementary school day, the ratio of classified public education staff to licensed staff is roughly 7 to 1,” Wofford told the committee. “HB 2708 marks an important course correction for the state to acknowledge this core group of frontline workers who have been frequently overlooked and underrepresented in state educational policy forums.”
Dowell agreed, adding “I can attest to the essential role that classified employees and professional education staff play in the success of our children. They are often the unsung heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that our schools run smoothly and our students receive the support they need to succeed… classified employees are professional education staff who are critical to the success of our schools, and it is essential that we increase awareness and respect for them as professional educators.”
Gibson closed OSEA’s testimony by telling lawmakers, “I am here to be the voice of my fellow classified employees who go above and beyond for Oregon schools’ students every day… While their work is often unrecognized, these dedicated educators and civil servants do very important jobs that are essential to our schools and communities… We ask that a week is designated as Classified School Employees Week in recognition for the support that these essential workers who keep schools running, even in extraordinary circumstances.”
Executive Director Susan Miller, Government Relations Specialists Susan Allen and Bob Estabrook and Centennial Chapter 113 President Kris Dowell attended the committee meeting to support the members testifying. Visit the Oregon State Legislature to watch the testimony, which begins with President Wofford at 4:15 p.m.
OSEA members can make history when we share our stories with lawmakers through testimony like this. Whether during Legislative Education Day (LED) on March 5 through 6, testifying before lawmakers or sending letters to your representatives, you can help us create an Oregon where schools, students and education workers can thrive. Contact the government relations office at (800) 252-6732, email Bob or email Susan to learn more.