Members of The Year

Meet your CSEA Members of the Year

Janice Harington, Sue Olinger express their emotions receiving prestigious award

Meet the Matriarch of Templeton Unified: Janice Harington

For 2021 Member of the Year Janice Harington, getting kids excited about reading isn’t a job, it’s a lifelong passion. Before retiring this past year, she was the library technician at Templeton Unified School District for 22 years.

People become librarians for different reasons. For Harington, it started as a stay-at-home mom who wanted to get involved in the education of her six children.

“My youngest child was in kindergarten and that's when I got my job at Templeton Unified School District,” said Harington, who also served as chapter secretary of Templeton Unified 554 for 25 years. “I started as a yard duty and an instructional aide before going back to school for my librarian certification. Once I got offered the position at the elementary school, I adored it because I got to read to the kindergarteners. It was incredible.”

Aside from sparking the imagination of her students in the library, Harington was also known for sparking the conversation at the negotiating table. Harington is part of a proud tradition of CSEA negotiating committees advocating on behalf of their classified colleagues.

“I feel like we had one of the best negotiating teams in the county because we had a good relationship with the administration, which is key to negotiations.”
- Janice Harington, former library technician with Templeton Unified Chapter 554

And her success at negotiating the best possible terms for classified workers with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education was one of many reasons why she was honored as a Member of the Year at the 95th Annual Conference.

“I feel like we had one of the best negotiating teams in the county because we had a good relationship with the administration, which is key to negotiations,” Harington said. “We went in there smiling, we came out smiling, and that wasn’t true for other unions. Every time, we felt like winners and we got what we strived for.”

When she looks back at her 25 years of union activism with CSEA, Harington thinks fondly of how her chapter was united in their cause. A group united in safeguarding their rights while helping their students navigate challenging times.

As the pandemic slowly impacted Harington’s duties in the library, she quickly pivoted by meeting students in front of the school to give them their favorite books.

“I went online and told all the students the library was still open. They could tell me the book they wanted or what they were interested in, and I'd meet them at the drive-thru pickup,” Harington said. “If they wanted to read, then I was going to help them read.”

She describes herself as “a hopeless optimist with positive memories” when reflecting on her career, but Harington’s passions didn't end at reading and union activism.

She was a true matriarch for her certificated colleagues and even the administrators who were often on the opposite side of the negotiating table.

“I've just been so impressed with what she brings to an environment that can sometimes be tense and difficult to navigate,” said Aaron Asplund, Superintendent of Templeton Unified, in the conference video. “She’s genuine, she’s reasonable and she’s thoughtful.”

Sue Olinger: Passionate annex lead teacher and CSEA member

Sue Olinger may be retired from San Mateo Foster City School District, but she leaves behind a legacy for her union family, her fellow coworkers and the students and families she helped over her 15-year career. She is quick to share that those years greatly affected her as well.

“My career allowed me great opportunities to help children and prompted much personal growth,” she said. “I learned about myself, my strengths and weaknesses through them. Their innocence and unyielding potential to learn and grow never became boring nor ceased to amaze me. They allowed me to learn with them and share our appreciation of those accomplishments along the way.”

Olinger was first hired as a paraeducator II for a special needs sixth grader and just eight months later was selected as paraeducator II annex lead teacher (before-and after-school care provider) at Foster City Elementary School Annex. As the lead teacher, Olinger took the primary role of planning, providing student enrichment and supporting homework time.

“Many who get into the field of education are doing so because they want to better the lives of those in their community and care about what lies ahead for the human race,” said John Harrison, lead teacher at Abbott Middle School after-school program and chief steward of San Mateo City Chapter 411. “Very few of these people can say that they have given as much or contributed as greatly as Sue Olinger in terms of hours put in daily, the diversity of her contributions and her impact on those that call on her for help and guidance.”

Afterall, Harrison said, Olinger’s job was only “half of her story.”

“It is her off-work daily routine that sets Olinger apart from the crowd as much as anything that she does during her work hours,” he said.

“My career allowed me great opportunities to help children and prompted much personal growth.”
- Sue Olinger, former paraeducator II annex lead teacher with San Mateo Foster City Chapter 411

In addition to excelling on the job, Olinger served as chapter president and was part of the negotiations team for 11 years. As the negotiator, she fought for wage and healthcare benefit increases for all classified employees in the district.

As a job steward, Olinger helped the district electrician from losing his job. Additionally, for five years, Olinger served on the Labor Management Initiative Planning team and as the leader/promoter, in addition to the Measure L Committee to improve the overall quality and safety of the local elementary schools and middle schools.

Fittingly named one of the 2020 Members of the Year at CSEA’s 95th Annual Conference last summer, Olinger said “this award impacts me with a satisfaction of knowing I gave my best, learned so much and will always hold dear to have been an active member of one of the largest unions in the world.”

“When I was first informed of being selected as a CSEA Member of the Year, I didn't believe it,” she said. “Having witnessed others who had also received this recognition at numerous annual conferences over the years, I was shocked to realize I was being extended this honor.”

But this came as no surprise to members of her union family. In fact, more than 10 of her colleagues sang her praises and shared heartwarming stories about Olinger’s unwavering dedication to the students and members she served in the Member of the Year nomination form.

“Her experience in the children’s annex as the lead teacher and chapter president has provided her with an outstanding foundation that makes her an excellent candidate for CSEA Member of the Year,” said Karrie Haselton, the district’s principal of child development, who was Olinger’s direct supervisor for three years.

To those who nominated her as well as those she worked with throughout the years, Olinger said she is humbled by the thoughtfulness and respect they showed her, both as a teacher and a union leader.

"I thank each of you and all of you for helping me lead Chapter 411; I couldn't have done any of it alone," Olinger said.

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