Spotlight on Locals: Oshkosh Education Association

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen presents the WEAC Strong Local Affiliate Certificate to Oshkosh EA Co-Presidents, Michelle Klett and James Warren, while some members of the Oshkosh Education Association gather for the photograph. Pictured, from left, are Shelley Hoernke, Alicia Herman, Suzy Greeninger, Pam Gerrits, Julie Kraemer, Tara Perry, Sara Klein, Theresa Bures, Kim Phillips and Tim Foye.

By WEAC Vice-President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen

“The Oshkosh Education Association’s strength is that we offer our members a voice in their own profession,” James Warren, President of the Oshkosh Education Association (OEA), told me.  “We work together in Oshkosh to do what’s best for the community, the teachers, and our students and families.  We take great pride in our schools.”

“The people who work together with our central office administration and our school board make our local strong,” John Reiland, Co-President of the Oshkosh Education Association, told me.  “We helped with the passage of our district’s operational referendum as advocates for our students and our community because we believe in our schools.”

Alicia Herman, Membership Chair of the Oshkosh Education Association, said, “OEA is strong because we all have a passion for teaching children.  Education is a difficult and rewarding profession.  As educators in the OEA, we support each other in our roles both in and out of the classroom.  We believe in public education, strong teachers, and helping our students be successful in school and in life.  The members of the OEA take pride in our profession and want to ensure that future educators feel supported and inspired to continue to change the lives of students each day.”

That passion for students is clear as the Oshkosh Education Association helped decrease 1 to 1 assessments in grades 3 – 5 to increase instructional time.  Educators know that over-testing hurts our students, and by raising their voices, the OEA was able to see changes districtwide to improve student learning conditions.

Another victory for the OEA was in securing 45 minutes of preparation and planning time for all teachers.  James shared, “The OEA started on this a few years back because our elementary teachers didn’t have this.  By working with central office administration and our school board, we were able to secure a consistent 45 minutes of preparation planning time for all teachers.”

In terms of advocacy, the OEA meets monthly with the district’s central administration on labor relations and is engaged in improving working environments across the school district.  According to James, they have maintained teacher voice in representation on this committee working on everything from concerns with Infinite Campus to preparation and planning time to building working conditions.  Additionally, they have been able to secure fair wage increases for all employees along with increasing the base salary for new teachers. 

The Oshkosh Education Association served as a host for National Board Teacher Certification workshops and has taken advantage of mentorship opportunities through WEAC and the WEA Academy.  James shared, “Our educators have been utilizing WEAC’s support for educators seeking their National Board Teacher Certification with a large group from Oshkosh working in a cohort and obtaining the National Board Teacher Certification both last year and this year.”

While they have done much, there’s still more to do.  The Oshkosh Education Association is working toward a goal of improving communication with members and potential members about their successes and their continued advocacy.  “We’ve come to recognize that some of our colleagues aren’t aware of who we are, what we do, and what we can do.  We are working actively to change that,” James told me.

As far as advice to other locals in Wisconsin, John shared, “we learned from our former Superintendent to work together and not against each other.  We are all in this for our students.”

Alicia shared this insight for other locals across Wisconsin, “Working with children each day makes ours the best profession in the world.   We inspire our future to make our city, our state, our country, our world a better place! The Oshkosh Education Association helps us to be stronger working together rather than alone.”

WEAC says Thank You to the Oshkosh Education Association for their strong advocacy on behalf of their students and colleagues and for their pursuit of professional excellence in education.