No one who works in public education receives the respect and recognition they deserve, but that is especially true for our educational support professional (ESP) colleagues. They provide essential services, without which our schools would not function, and they go above and beyond their job descriptions every day to ensure that New Jersey’s public school children are able to learn in a safe, secure and nurturing environment.

They are essential to our union, as well, and NJEA would not be the strongest public school employee union in the nation without them and their tireless efforts to advocate on behalf of their colleagues, their students and their communities. Yet time and time again, people erroneously refer to NJEA as the “teachers’ union” or to the NJEA Convention as the “teachers’ convention.” We are one union, working toward a common goal that we can only achieve through all of our united efforts.

We as an association have made great strides toward our goals, thanks to the work of people like this month’s cover star, Stacy Yanko, a secretary in the guidance office at Hopatcong High School who has served as the Sussex County Education Association President and the president of her local association. Yanko happily shares the spotlight with her colleagues and urges people to stop using job descriptions as a means of dividing what is—and must remain—a powerhouse team.

Make no mistake about it: NJEA is a powerhouse team. We have achieved many legislative and advocacy goals, and we continue to work toward Job Justice for ESPs and Ch. 78 relief, as well as fighting—and winning—privatization battles.

As always, the work continues, and I, for one, could not be prouder to be part of the NJEA team. Thank you for all that you do to advocate for your students and your colleagues.

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