On Thursday, March 18, Hillside Board of Education recognized Hillside Education Association members Sherrill Smith, Deanna Defluri, Isha Fairman, Azure Diggs, and HEA President Angela Lawler for their contributions to their community during the Covid-19 crisis.  The board of education wanted to recognize that these members went above and beyond for their students and their families.

President Lawler, a secretary in the high school, and Ms. Smith, an incoming HEA member and secretary at Innovations Academy, since the beginning of the pandemic, have been volunteering with Union county food distribution sites, to ensure that food brought in from Amazon and Whole Foods was divvyed up into boxes for each of the food pantries in the county. They also took responsibility for the distribution of the food boxes to Hillside families in need. When not at the food distribution site, both volunteered at multiple mask-up events passing out masks to those that needed them.

“Rain or shine, we were there,” said HEA President Angela Lawler. “We wanted to do this for our community. When the pandemic first happened there was so much going on but Sherrill and I knew this was something we could do. And, even now when most think these efforts are no longer needed or they taper off, we know that’s not an accurate picture and we have continued to volunteer to make sure our Hillside families have what they need.” The district administration and Hillside Board of Education thanked Lawler and Smith for their commitment to the community and for going above and beyond in extraordinary circumstances.

Kindergarten teachers Ms. Fairman and Ms. Diggs have yet to meet their students in person; thanks to a district that has recognized the need for safety and stability in these unsure times. When it came to their attention that one of their kindergartners might miss class now and then because of a younger sibling’s severe health crisis, the two immediately went to work creating care packages for the student and his family—full of the things one might need sitting in a car or a doctor’s office while waiting. This wasn’t a one time show of support either, as the teachers showed the student in many ways that he was important to his classmates and their classroom, and that he was missed but doing an important thing supporting his brother.

“I think every one of my members show their students the same care and kindness,” said Lawler, “but their actions are often unrecognized. This parent went out of her way to alert the district to the teachers’ kindness and generosity, pointing out that the teachers had not even met her son in person.” The board of education recognized the teachers for going above and beyond in making a student and their family feel cared for and important to the Hillside school community in such a difficult time in their lives.

As the pandemic hit, every school district in NJ was overwhelmed with the technology needs of their students and staff. The board of education recognized that the one person, who made Hillside’s response to the pandemic seem effortless, was Deanna Defluri, a technician in the district’s IT department. Regardless of the hour of night or weekend, Defluri worked to make sure every student, parent, and staff member had what they needed to be successful. She tutored parents over the phone, helping with logins and downloading documents. She helped students navigate the district’s web-share programs, and all the staff with similar questions. The district recognized that Defluri kept the district up and running when they needed it most, and still does.

“I am so proud of my members and so proud to work in Hillside,” said Lawler. “When other districts are having a hard time reopening, our district has worked collaboratively with the association to troubleshoot and analyze the situation to see what course of action to take next. I’m glad they have included us in the process; that has really made a difference. We’re all in this together. We need to do what’s best for the students, staff, and school community.”


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