Orcas School union in negotiations | Letters

Thank you to the Orcas Island community for passing the OISD bond and levy. This will provide funding for necessary school improvements. The Orcas chapter of the Public School Employees union is currently in negotiation with the OISD administration concerning wages. After failing to reach an agreement this summer on a wage scale, we will enter mediation the week of Nov. 13. We are asking the district to acknowledge that the classified staff is a critical part of the school and that we need to be paid a wage that allows us to reside on Orcas Island, as the cost of living continues to rise.

Classified staff includes approximately 40 people: most of the support staff, or the “non-certificated staff” in the schools. We are the bus drivers who transport students safely to school, and to off-island sports events. We are the kitchen employees who feed over 300 healthy delicious meals daily. We are the para-educators, providing support for the high needs children in the school, academic support for those with learning challenges and monitoring the cafeteria and playground, where social skills are being developed by the minute. We are the parent-student support personnel who counsel those in difficult times and assist in finding resources. We are the office staff who maintain accurate school records and answer questions – questions such as “where is the assembly?” “When does the field trip start?” “Is there a half day tomorrow?” And they are the ones who call home when a child is absent to be sure they are safe and accounted for. We are the custodians who clean the facilities daily so that the staff and students have a healthy, clean environment to learn and work in. We are the maintenance staff who have maintained the old facilities and will maintain the new facilities. Many of us are married to a working spouse and many of us have a second job, or “side job,” a term commonly used in our working community, in order to earn enough to stay on Orcas.

Recently the OISD administrators were given a cost of living salary increase, and now we are asking for an equitable increase in our wages. We encourage our community to support our request that our working-class families are given a fair wage and commensurate compensation for the important work we do in our community.

Members of the Orcas Island Chapter of Public Employees Union