Testimony before the Assembly Education Committee

A-3696 - Concerns Arbitration for certain non-teaching school staff
by Brian Currie, NJEA ESP member
March 14, 2013

Good afternoon, Chairman Diegnan, Vice Chairwoman Watson Coleman and Members of the Assembly Education Committee. My name is Brian Currie and I am a ____ year maintenance mechanic in the Buena Regional School District. I am here to urge your support of Assembly Bill number 3696, to provide due process rights to non-teaching employees in a school district.

As a custodial worker, I am one of the few lucky educational support professionals throughout New Jersey who have the statutory right to due process in disciplinary matters. Sadly, not all of my colleagues have this right. I work in the same building alongside teachers’ aides, cafeteria workers, and others, who perform roles in the school that are just as important as mine, yet are not afforded the same rights that I have. I think all school employees should be treated the same way and let me tell you why. School employees are an important part of the school team every day, working to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for all of our students. As a team, we all look at our roles as critical to achieving the educational success of every student. Why then, would we not treat all school employees in the same way?

To illustrate my point, I would like to share a story with you about how my school community came together following the difficult tragedy of Superstorm Sandy. During the evacuation of residents from Atlantic City and other nearby barrier islands, our middle school was used as a countywide shelter for people forced from their homes. We all pitched in to help – custodians, grounds keepers, mechanics, cafeteria workers, teachers’ aides, and teachers. Without hesitation, school employees came in on Saturday and met with Red Cross officials and started preparing the school as a shelter. Many of us did not know what to expect, but as community residents ourselves, we were happy to pitch in to help local residents in such a difficult situation. On Sunday afternoon, many residents arrived on buses with only plastic bags filled with their belongings. My colleagues and I accommodated senior citizens in rolling chairs because there were not enough wheel chairs. We all worked together to set up cots, distribute supplies, setup and hand out food. Following the evacuation period, the same thing happened again; various school employees, regardless of their normal duties and responsibilities, pitched in to help clean up the school to prepare it for the return of our students. No one complained that it was not their job. We all just pitched in.

Time and time again, educational support professionals demonstrate themselves as a team. But unfortunately, as much as we consider ourselves a team, not all of us are treated the same way when it comes to due process. Why should part of the team be treated differently when we all contribute to the educational process?

As public school employees, we care about our communities and we are happy to pitch in when we can help our fellow residents. We simply want to be shown the same level of respect when it comes to treating all school employees fairly and with equal due process rights.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. On behalf of over 46,000 educational support professionals around the state, I urge you to vote “Yes” on A-3696 to create a fair system of due process for all school employees.