The NJEA Delegate Assembly (DA) paused from its deliberations at its Sept. 12 meeting to recognize the service of two accomplished educators.
Stacy Yanko, a guidance secretary at Hopatcong High School, is the 2020 NJEA Educational Support Professional (ESP) of the year. She is the president of the Hopatcong Office Personnel Association and was the first ESP to serve as president of the Sussex County Education Association.
“Stacey doesn’t just make a difference for the students she works with, she makes a big difference for the colleagues she works with,” Blistan said.
In her remarks, Yanko reflected on the impact of the pandemic and the value of the contributions every staff member, regardless of job title can make.
“I see our association like a baseball team,” Yanko said. “We need all the different positions: infielders, outfielders, catchers, pitchers and coaches. Each of our members serves an active role in what we accomplish. Some are on the field every day, and others will do what they can when they can and when they receive an ask. But each play in the game matters.”
Kimberly Dickstein Hughes, an English teacher at Haddonfield High School, is the 2019-20 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year.
“Kimberly showcased the level of excellence that New Jersey educators possess, and she represented our profession with grace, class and style,” NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller said.
Knowing that many students lacked access to the devices necessary for virtual learning, Dickstein Hughes turned to public television bringing together a network of teachers across the state who recorded 55-minute lessons for daily broadcast on NJTV.
“Even before the crisis, Kimberly displayed this kind of leadership, innovation, and expertise in education to benefits her students, her colleagues and our state,” Spiller said. “She is an educator who wants to amplify the voice of other educators.”
In her remarks, Dickstein Hughes demonstrated that she not only seeks to amplify the voices of educators, but the voices of her students as well. She credited the structure of her remarks to her students in general, and one named Michael in particular.
“I am grateful for my colleagues whom I humbly serve and work alongside,” Dickstein Hughes said. “The ones who made that possible. I did nothing alone. We did this together.”
In his report to the DA, Spiller provided updates on funding for higher education in the governor’s proposed budget, the reopening plans of the state’s community colleges, and the association’s work with its health and safety partners.
Spiller reported that NJEA is engaged in a lobbying effort with our higher education members to restore a proposed $25 million cut to funding for New Jersey’s community colleges in the Fiscal Year 2021 state budget. NJEA is working with the New Jersey Council of Community Colleges to make sure all of the funding is restored.
“We are all engaged in a lobbying campaign to make sure those dollars are restored,” Spiller said. “It’s important that our community colleges receive the funding that they need.”
Spiller also reported on the re-opening plans at the state’s community colleges and NJEA’s work to ensure the health and safety of students and staff. NJEA continues to partner with the New Jersey Work Environment Council, and particularly the expertise of its industrial hygienists, to examine school reopening plans at all levels.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the DA approved at its May 2020 a recommendation to repurpose a minimum of 50% of the unexpended funds from the virtual or cancelled programs of the 2019-20 NJEA budget. These funds are to be utilized to support members and local associations in dealing with the effects of the current pandemic and be reexamined by the Budget Committee in November 2020 if any funds remain.
NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty reported that the NJEA Budget Committee has discussed establishing a committee to determine how the budgeted funds, earmarked for pandemic relief, would be allocated to support members and local and county associations in handling the effects of the pandemic.
To that end, delegates to the Sept. 12 DA meeting approved a motion to that the DA convene a committee to determine allocation for the pandemic relief funds.
In addition to presenting the report of the NJEA Budget Committee, which can be found in “NJEA Reports to the Delegate Assembly, ” available at
njea.org/da, Beaty updated members on NJEA’s 200K conversations initiative, the association’s work with the Center for Future Educators, LBGTQIA initiatives, and training for members on the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).