Every year has its unique memories and challenges, but I don’t think anyone will ever forget the 2019-20 school year, particularly the last three months of it.

Our communities have been hit hard by the pandemic; there is almost no family in the state who has not been touched by illness, death or economic hardship. At the same time, we are working to educate and feed students while balancing the needs of our own families and friends. And for those fortunate enough to have escaped the worst consequences of the pandemic, there is relief and a desire to help those who have not been so fortunate.

As educators, we are leaders in our communities. We are held to very high standards, and we hold ourselves to high standards—we would have it no other way.

And now more than ever, our leadership is needed. Even as some things return to some version of normal, things are not normal and may not be for some time.

We have to lead with love in our communities. We must show compassion for those who continue to struggle and suffer. We must be gentle with those who are mourning and healing. We must be understanding but focused on facts with those who deny the extent of the pandemic. Perhaps this last task will be the hardest, but as educators it most certainly falls within our purview.

I have said time and time again how proud I am of our members. The NJEA family has stepped up to help their students and their communities in ways that go well beyond the call of duty, and they have answered the call for compassion, love and leadership.

Thank you for the strength, courage, humor and dedication you have shown over this school year. I hope that you have an opportunity to rest and rejuvenate over the summer, and I look forward to working side by side with you to plan and prepare for a new school year.

In unity,

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