Hello EWEA Family!
School is in full swing now and it already feels like déjà vu. The great thing is that we’ve already been through a reopening of school during a pandemic, so we know what to do.
Of course, we have made it through the last school year (and a half!)—to be here today. It has been harder, more stressful and more uncertain than anything most of us have ever experienced professionally. But we know we can do it.
And we stepped up to meet the challenge.
During the last 18 or so months, we’ve advocated for the health and safety of ALL of our students and colleagues. We refused to accept half measures or broken promises.
The educational, social and emotional well-being of our students is always worth fighting for, and we successfully pushed back against things like poor indoor air quality and physically unsafe buildings.
You made all this possible.
Just as we did with remote and hybrid learning last year, we will need to continue to follow the best scientific and medical guidance on how to keep our students and staff safe and healthy as we – hopefully! – begin a year of uninterrupted full in-person instruction.
As we know, social-emotional well-being should always be a priority for both students and staff, and even more so during a crisis.
The challenges and stresses that we have faced after a tumultuous year of remote and hybrid learning are unparalleled.
We learned the importance of attending to our students’ social and emotional needs, as well as our own.
In a way, the pandemic shed light on the need for SEL and mental health awareness that we may not have discovered before.
Knowing these disparities exist gives us a chance to explore and express our emotions, build relationships, and support each other – students and educators alike.
New Jersey has taken decisive action to support the safe reopening of schools for in-person instruction and to address the pandemic’s disparate impact on students of color and other underserved students (click to read “Education in a Pandemic, published by the US DOE).
The digital divide, the funding gap, and deep resource inequity were all exposed during our responses to remote instruction.
We must face down these inequities and change things for the better for ALL our students and their families.
This may have been a difficult year from the perspective of the pandemic, but it has shown us that for far too long it has been difficult for other reasons—systemic and institutionalized racism, gender and LGBTQ+ disparities, and the redlining of resources and opportunities.
We have a chance now to begin correcting those wrongs.
We can be instrumental in creating the change we want and the change we need.
As families across our district eagerly anticipate a return to school, the governor is determined to ensure that our schools and students not only recover from the pandemic, but that we come out on the other side better than we were before.
In conjunction with the heroic efforts of community members, parents, and all of you, combined with the state’s aggressive vaccination push, a return to safe in-person learning is possible.
Federal American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Education funding supports efforts to get students back in the classroom safely for in-person learning, to safely keep schools open once students are back, and to address the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of all students.
However, we all know there is still more work to be done.
Wearing a mask is only part of our strategy. We must continue to physically distance ourselves and wash our hands. If you feel sick or a household member is not well, then stay home.
Together we can get through this and have safe and healthy environments for our students and our staff.
Listen, the facts are clear, we are good at advocating for the issues that matter most and taking a stand for what we feel is right.
But, we have got to do this together, because that’s how we’re really good—together!
We’ve helped secure our future by winning the state’s first full pension payment in over a quarter of a century – and then saw the Legislature and governor add ANOTHER half-BILLION dollars on top of full funding!
Gov. Murphy and the Legislature AGAIN provided record school funding from the state because of our advocacy.
And we are still at it today, making sure our district uses its American Rescue Plan Act funding in ways that support our students and invest in their long-term success.
Making progress is good.
But protecting progress is important, too.
And the best way to do both of those things is to elect a pro-education and pro-labor governor and legislature.
We cannot take for granted that Gov. Phil Murphy will be voted in without a fight. We must get out and vote!
We have survived an abusive governor before, but we did not walk away unscathed.
We can never go back to an extremist administration that demonizes our members and strips our students of resources and opportunities.
We cannot go back. We will never go back.
On behalf of the entire EWEA Leadership Team , we have a lot we want to accomplish this year.
And, to inspire us—let us remember the words of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
We must inform our members and our communities about the importance of public education and we must continue to evolve and change to meet the needs of our students.
We will continue to face foes of public education;
We cannot yield to their attacks and gaslighting.
We must continue to stand strong and fight for our students,
fight for equity, and
lift up their voices.
And, we must continue to support each other—
we must be unified.
As always, thank you for all you do all year long
to stand up for our profession,
to advocate for our colleagues and
to keep our public schools the very best in the nation.
We remain committed to supporting and advocating on behalf of YOU…our members. And we are counting on YOUR unity and the solidarity of our union.
East Windsor Education Association