Over the weekend, P.E.A. Union officers, our NJEA rep, and our attorneys spent many hours preparing for yesterday’s meeting with the Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC). As you know, the Union has filed unfair labor practice charges (ULP) against Eileen F. Shafer for denying our delegates comprehensive access to inspect all HVAC, Uni-Vent, and other ventilation systems. Since March, the Union has been completely transparent that the inspection of ventilation units was crucial to our determination whether schools would be safe to reopen. Despite this knowledge, Ms. Shafer has continued to throw roadblock after roadblock to prevent the Union from ensuring that all workspaces are safe.
You should know that at every PERC conference about school reopening, 1st VP Charles Ferrer and I were present. As your duly elected representatives, we have attended every meeting advocating on your behalf. Not surprising, Ms. Shafer has been conspicuously absent at these meetings, content only to spend the District’s money on board attorneys who delay and complicate the process. Ms. Shafer’s absence is telling. For example, at yesterday’s conference, the attorney didn’t even know whether all of the schools would be reopening on June 1, 2021. The attorney had to resort to text messages to the Superintendent. This further illustrates the Superintendent’s non-commitment towards the process of ensuring that these inspections are completed thoroughly and efficiently. At least to us, it is clear that Shafer’s sole goal has been to delay everything from the outset so that schools will reopen with no meaningful chance for walkthroughs/inspections.
So accordingly or attorneys will be seeking injunctive relief at PERC with two goals in mind;
1. To force Ms. Shafer to allow the Union to have unfettered access to inspect all ventilation units.
2. In-person instruction is paused until the Union has had the opportunity to complete our health and safety inspections fully.
What continues to be most profoundly upsetting about this is that the District has wasted valuable time. The months lost could have been spent working to inspect, fix, and make plans to ensure that our students all walked into cleaner, repaired, and safer buildings. At the end of the day, the P.E.A., our delegates, and the NJEA are doing everything within our power to push the Board of Education and the Superintendent to allow us access to complete our inspections.
While we pray that the District’s abject failure to inspect properly does not impact our students or educators, should this not go well, many from the community (the silent majority) will rise and demand answers. Many will want to know what the rush was? Many will want to know why was the Superintendent prevented inspections of HVAC’s and Uni-Vents, and most importantly, many will want to know what exactly is being done about it.
John McEntee, Jr., President