April 29, 2021
The P.E.A.’s intention all along was to present the findings from our safety inspections to the District. Beyond that, we further planned to work with the administration in good faith to resolve outstanding issues so that our schools could reopen safely. The full spreadsheet of our findings was provided to the District on Monday, April 26, 2021. To date, the District has never provided us with a copy of its own inspection reports (or its Powerpoint Presentation) to analyze. I had also requested time to speak before the board to present a summary of our findings https://www.
In our discussions with the board attorney, the board agreed to allow the presentation. We had also further agreed to meet with the District today to review our findings and determine when we would be able to gain access to many of the HVAC units and Univents that we were denied when we visited the buildings on April 21st and 22nd.
Much to our surprise, a mere less than two hours before the Board meeting was scheduled to begin, the board’s attorney presented the Union’s legal team with an ultimatum; the Union would be allowed time to make its presentation (BUT ONLY IF) no P.E.A. members would be permitted to speak during the public portion. Not only did we never agree to this, but we felt that this was inherently unfair to you. Your first-hand accounts of what you experienced while conducting safety inspections were invaluable testimony that the board needed to hear. To that end, like you, I too was infuriated that so many parents, staff, and other community stakeholders were not permitted time to speak due to some arbitrary cutoff that the board made.
We now believe that Superintendent Shafer, directed the board to prevent me from making my presentation in retaliation for our continued advocacy regarding the safe reopening of schools. Furthermore, Eileen Shafer used the board meeting to paint a one-sided, and inaccurate portrait, of the current state of our schools. Shafer, in her role as the, ignored much of our more pointed findings regarding the lack of ventilation, inoperable/broken windows, and putrid conditions which were plain to see in the pictures and videos which were shared and provided.
Given Shafer’s indifference to our concerns, coupled with her lack of transparency, we do not feel that today’s meeting with her and her board attorney will be productive. How can the District continue to maintain the stance that the buildings are safe when it both ignores our critical findings and it refuses the Union access to inspect ventilation systems? Without this information, there can be no good-faith dialogue towards insuring that the schools will be safe to reopen for approximately 30k students and thousands of school employees.
When the District is serious about listening to our concerns and providing the Union access to inspect, only then can we begin to have good faith negotiations about reopening.
John McEntee, Jr., President
Paterson Education Association