The local Oregon Moms Union group plans to host a parent workshop on July 27 at Marcotte Distilling. (Photo by Billion Photos via Canva)

A Philomath woman who started a local group affiliated with Oregon Moms Union earlier this year invites the community to attend a parent workshop on Wednesday, July 27, to learn how to engage with school districts and school boards.

Oregon Moms Union is a school choice advocacy group founded by MacKensey Pulliam in the wake of COVID-19 school shutdowns and distance learning with the goal of empowering parents to advocate for what it calls a “student-first K-12 education system.”

The workshop is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Marcotte Distilling (1732 Main St.). The event is free and open to parents in the Philomath School District and the surrounding areas. Pulliam, who serves as the organization’s president, will lead the discussion.

Chelle Krantz serves as the volunteer captain of the Philomath group, one of more than 90 representing 75-plus school districts around the state.

“Once they started getting involved with what all happens in the school districts at a local level and then at a state level and so on, there were just a lot of things they wanted to see change in,” Krantz said about Oregon Moms Union. “It started with the masking of the students.”

Krantz relayed a personal story about what spurred her on to become involved.

“My son came home from school one day telling me he had trouble breathing at school — he’s healthy, he’s an 8-year-old, never been sick with anything major — because they were wearing masks in PE running,” Krantz said. “That was kind of the catalyst for me getting involved.”

Krantz said earlier this week that the Philomath group has about 10 other moms and a dad.

“Engaging with your school district can be difficult and intimidating,” Pulliam said through a press release. “It’s not always easy for parents to find information on how to reach their school board members, or to find dates and times for school board meetings. And some parents struggle with what to say. Our goal for these workshops is to provide leadership and organization to make it easier for parents to learn how to engage effectively with their school board.”

Krantz said the seminar will teach parents how to get information, such as specific curriculum for their third grader, what the district’s policies are on a given topic or where grant money is originating for programs such as sex education. She said she got involved three or four months ago.

“The masking issue locally in our school district here is what got me spurred on with the group,” she said, “and then finding out things that weren’t being very transparent coming from the school district is why I got fully actively involved and started trying to recruit other families that felt similarly.”

Krantz said she hopes to encourage “parents to get involved with their kids’ education because we’ve gotten complacent over the last few years with what’s going on in the schools. A lot of people just don’t know (what’s happening).”

In the beginning, Krantz admits there was some reluctance to get involved.

“I’m sure you’ve seen on the news where they have really demonized parents getting involved in school district meetings,” she said. “People don’t want to be singled out because they’re standing out and I think people individually are afraid of doing it.

“But I think if we have a group of parents that have similar concerns, that’s the proper way of going about doing it to make change. … the parents being involved instead of just letting the ODE (Oregon Department of Education) make all of the decisions,” she added. “What may work in a Portland school district is probably not going to work in a small community like Philomath.”

Krantz said she’s pushing for the establishment of a board of parents to be able to review curriculum.

“Obviously, you can’t appease everybody — everybody has different beliefs and values but at least we’re having parent involvement where we know what’s being taught and what curriculum they’re actually using … training materials and handouts that they’re giving the kids,” she said. “We should have access to all that and be able to see what they’re teaching our kids before they teach our kids because you can’t unteach something.”

Pulliam started Oregon Moms Union in the spring of 2021 and has attracted a significant amount of press for the organization’s efforts.

“She’s very well-versed in how to go about things at a much-bigger level than we are,” Krantz said. “She gets involved in the legislation … what’s going through the state and it’s good to be able to get information filtered down that’s digestible for just a normal mom like I am.”

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.