An Open Letter to the Paterson Parents and Community,
As we wind down Staff Appreciation Week, the Paterson Education Association (P.E.A.) would like to thank all of you who shared messages of support and expressions of thanks with us. Given all that we have collectively been through these last 15 months, it serves as a reminder that there are people who understand and acknowledge just what it means to be an educator these days.
Unfortunately, the comments made during the May 5th Board of Education meeting by Paterson Board of Education Vice President Manual “Manny” Martinez indicate that he has little understanding of our challenges. To suggest that Paterson’s educators are, in any way, trying to exaggerate the health and safety concerns that exist in our district’s schools to “stay remote” is both ludicrous and insulting. Mr. Martinez obviously does not have any idea about the amount of time, effort, and additional resources it takes to educate our students in a virtual setting. As we have said before—and will emphatically state again—no one is more eager to return to the classroom than we are.
However, we again will repeat: Our position has continued to be that we should not commit to any in-person instruction until it’s absolutely safe to do so. Failing and inoperable HVAC systems, dirty air filters, broken and sealed windows, roof leaks, and mold does not constitute a healthy school environment—regardless of how many desk partitions and disinfectants you have. Refusing to allow the Union access to maintenance logs does not build trust; it breeds suspicion, which is exacerbated when we have to take the district to court to get engaged in a discussion about our concerns.
Additionally, for Mr. Martinez to draw any correlation to educators who chose to support local businesses and take advantage of various activities deemed safe is disingenuous at best. He seems to forget that he is asking Paterson’s educators to remain confined in the same room for hours on end while excusing the district’s abject failure to ensure that even the most basic indoor air quality needs are met. Perhaps Mr. Martinez is not the best person to judge what educators should and should not be doing on the job, in their private time, or in their private life.
It is not PEA members whose actions are shameful; it’s Mr. Martinez’s. Paterson’s school employees should not be chastised for their efforts. They are doing everything they can to protect their students, and they deserve praise, not derision—especially during this week of celebration.
Happy Mother’s Day to all!
John McEntee, Jr.