By Kathryn Coulibaly
Florence Taliercio is an organizational powerhouse. Ask anyone in the information technology department in the East Brunswick School District. Or any of the nearly 1,300 members of the East Brunswick Education Association (EBEA). Or any of the volunteers at the many charitable projects she supports. Or anyone in her family.
Taliercio throws herself into every endeavor with enthusiasm, energy, skill and a smile. When she became the Director of Support Staff for EBEA, which represents 464 educational support professionals (ESP) across East Brunswick Public School District, Taliercio got to the schools before 6 a.m. to introduce herself to the staff. She sacrificed her lunch to visit all eight elementary schools, so ESP would know who she was and how to get in contact with her.
Taliercio is a committed problem-solver. She developed a survey for all ESP staff to help identify areas that needed attention, and then worked with the district’s human resources staff and the head of curriculum to develop workshops the ESP staff requested. Some of those workshops include ESP Health and Wellness workshops for maintenance, grounds, custodial, child nutrition and transportation staff.
According to EBEA President Dr. Dana Zimbicki, “Flo has made a profound difference in the culture of our association. Her passion for doing what is right for the association, our community and our students is contagious!”
Taliercio has worked with the East Brunswick Vocational-Technical School and Lunch Break, an organization that provides food, clothing, life skills and fellowship in the region, to organize winter coat drives. She helped to lead a community service event where ESP members volunteered on weekends to clean and beautify Butterfly Park. She organized a “day of thanks” and a local chiropractor gave ESP massages. She has volunteered hours of her time at the Bear Necessities Den, a second-hand clothing store for families in need established by EBEA and the East Brunswick Education Foundation.
“I’m proud to be a member of a union that is strong, united, and looking out for our best interests. I like being part of a team; anything you do with the union is teamwork. One person can’t do it alone.”
Taliercio is a tireless advocate for her members. She has seen the power that unions have to improve economic opportunities for working people, and she makes it a priority to get involved in her local association and volunteer her time so that it stays strong.
“I’m proud to be a member of a union that is strong, united, and looking out for our best interests,” Taliercio said. “I like being part of a team; anything you do with the union is teamwork. One person can’t do it alone.”
Taliercio has served on the EBEA Negotiation Team since 2015. She has been chief building representative since 2006. She currently serves as a member of the ESP Council, ESP Evaluation System Committee, Contract Writing Committee, Pension Action Committee, Public Relations Committee and on the EBEA Alliance. In addition, she is a PRIDE Committee Captain and a Together for Success Captain.
At the county level, Taliercio has been a delegate to the Middlesex County Education Association (MCEA) and has served on the MCEA Collective Bargaining Council since 2015.
At the district level, Taliercio is a member of the district calendar committee.
In 2015, Taliercio won the East Brunswick Support Staff of the Year award. In 2018, she was named Middlesex County Educational Support Professional of the Year. And now, she is the 2019 New Jersey Educational Support Professional of the Year.
Taliercio is amazed by the accolades, especially when she considers how she got to East Brunswick in the first place.
“My husband and I lived in Brooklyn, and he was commuting into New Jersey every day for work. One day, he’d had enough. He came home and announced, ‘Flo, we’re moving to Jersey!’ and I said, ‘Joe, what the heck am I going to do in New Jersey? I don’t know anyone!’”
The Taliercios chose East Brunswick for the school system. In addition to caring for their two children, Robert and Jennifer, Taliercio sold Avon, Tupperware, and started a home-based business selling jeans.
When she heard that Chittick Elementary School in East Brunswick was looking for lunch aides in 1989, she applied for the two-hour a day position. She then added an hour in the office making copies for teachers and helping the school nurse. Taliercio’s energy is vast; she later added another job as a bus aide assisting special needs students for two hours in the afternoons.
“The schedule worked for me,” Taliercio said. “I was home when my children were home. In the summer, I subbed as a clerk when the district needed additional help.”
After nine years, Taliercio’s co-workers recommended that she work full-time with the district. Her children were older by then, so the idea appealed to her, but she still found herself combining jobs. The technology department was looking for someone to organize deliveries and work with custodians to get them to the schools, so she accepted that position and one with the Educational Technology Training Center. Eventually, East Brunswick realized they needed a full-time person in the technology department, and Taliercio went full-time, but she found herself coming full-circle.
“My window in the technology department faces the playground at Chittick Elementary School,” Taliercio said. “I can still see the children playing outside, and the lunch aides watching over them.”
As a secretary in the technology department, Taliercio is responsible for a variety of tasks. She keeps attendance for the department, maintains the technology calendar, does the purchasing for the technology equipment in the district, renews maintenance contracts and licenses for software, helps teachers with grants, supervises the inventory of equipment, sends broken equipment out for services and monitors all service agreements, gathers all the quotes and pricing, provides budgeting support for the 22 people in the department, and works with the Chief Information Officer to meet the technology needs for the district’s eight elementary schools, one middle school, one junior high schools, and one high school.
“I love my job,” Taliercio said. “I walk in every morning and my department is like my family. We are respectful, we help each other, and we’re friends.”
Working in the technology department has other benefits, Taliercio has found.
“When I came into the technology department, I had a Commodore 64. We bought it for my son. I would look at it and never touch it!”
Taliercio’s colleagues in the technology department trained her and helped her feel more comfortable with technology.
“Every year, my job is different,” Taliercio said. “There are new products, new ideas, and new inventory. I love the challenge of mastering these new areas.”
“Flo has made a profound difference in the culture of our association. Her passion for doing what is right for the association, our community and our students is contagious!”
The challenge of serving as the state ESP of the Year is not lost on Taliercio, who shuns the spotlight. Yet, she is honored by the opportunity to elevate her platform advocating for ESPs.
“It means the world to me to advocate for ESPs,” Taliercio said. “I try to be a positive voice speaking on behalf of ESP. I try to focus on fairness; what’s fair for one is fair for another. When an ESP is being treated unfairly and they’re afraid to speak up, I have to speak up.
“I am so appreciative of this honor, and I want to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart,” Taliercio added. “I really believe that I am receiving this award on behalf of all ESPs and I am going to accept it for all of us.”
Taliercio’s family is proud of all her achievements, and happy to see her receive the honors and recognitions she deserves. Taliercio’s husband, Joseph, is recently retired working in communications with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 456. Her son, Robert, is an electrician with IBEW Local 456 and lives in Hamilton Township, Mercer County. Jennifer, a registered dental hygienist, works in Long Valley, Morris County and lives in Clinton Township. Taliercio is the proud grandmother of Joseph, 7, Brayden, 3, and Gabriella, 8 months.
As the 2019 ESP of the Year, Taliercio has already been nominated by NJEA for the NEA ESP of the Year award. She will attend the NEA ESP Conference in Orlando, Florida, funded by NJEA, and will receive a weeklong Disney vacation. To commemorate the experience, NJEA will present her with an ESP of the Year ring, and she will be a special guest at the 2019 NJEA Convention.
Kathryn Coulibaly is the associate editor of the NJEA Review and provides content and support to njea.org.