Educational support professionals (ESP) are truly the unsung heroes of our school communities. No one who works in public education receives the respect and recognition they deserve, but that is especially true for our ESP colleagues.

That is why we fought so hard to secure job justice bills that would provide ESP staff with due process and prevent subcontracting during the course of a contract. This was a multiyear initiative that depended on the activism and endurance of all our members. As a result of our efforts, we were ultimately successful in passing the strongest due process law in the nation for ESPs and protections against privatization that made districts address issues at the bargaining table.

ESP staff provide essential services, without which our schools would not function. 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. During the pandemic, ESP staff have stepped up to ensure that students have access to nutritious meals, safe and clean school buildings, technology, and a vital connection between home and school when distance learning made us feel so far apart.

ESP members are essential to our union, as well. 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.

This month, we profile Kimberly Scott-Hayden, the 2021 NJEA ESP of the Year and an inventory control clerk in the school district she attended as a student, East Orange Public Schools. Kimberly’s story is an extraordinary one of service and tireless energy to benefit her students, colleagues, and community. I know that you will be as inspired by her as I have been for the many years I have known her as an active and engaged member of our NJEA family.

I hope that you will join with me in celebrating ESPs. Together, as a united association, we have built the best system of public education in the nation. Together, we will face whatever other challenges come our way. Thank you for all that you do to make the future brighter for our students, our communities, our profession and our country.

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