Lenape District Education Association (LDEA) Secretary Lynda Miller was formally recognized as the 2018 NJEA Educational Support Professional (ESP) of the Year at the ESP Conference on Feb. 3. Sussex-Wantage Education Association Treasurer Nancy Richeda received the 2018 NJEA ESP Career Achievement Award and Gloucester County Education Association President Susan Clark earned the NJEA Friend of ESP Award.
The story that traces Millers path to 2018 ESP of the Year was featured in the March NJEA Review. She was nominated by LDEA Vice President Andrea Carpenter.
“Sometimes our ESP staff can feel that not all members have a voice,” Carpenter wrote. “Lynda Miller has always worked to serve as the voice. She reminds everyone of the value and rights of all ESP members.”
The registrar for Lenape High School in Burlington County, Miller has enjoyed a 44-year career with the district. She was first employed there as a secretary there in 1973 after graduating from Shawnee High School, which is part of the Lenape district. Devoted to the staff, students, and community, Miller’s affection for Lenape is well-known. In addition to her work responsibilities, Miller can be found at school activities and sporting events cheering her students on.
Miller was one of the founding organizers of the Lenape District Secretaries Education Association (LDSEA) and its first president.
“At the beginning of my career I discovered the importance to advocate for our profession,” Miller said upon accepting the award. “When a group of us secretaries noticed that the teachers had a union but we did not, we quickly got to work organizing our association.”
When LDSEA later merged with the Lenape District Education Association, Miller was determined to ensure that ESP members were well represented and had a strong voice. Currently holding the office of LDEA secretary, she is the longest serving member of the association’s executive committee. She organizes members for training and political advocacy and serves as a model of ESP involvement at LDEA Rep Council and Executive Committee meetings.
“We must continue to establish our ESP image as indispensable to our union,” Miller said. “I try to mentor my fellow members and help them recognize their value as well as their rights. I believe that together we are the voice of one strong and united association.”
As NJEA President Marie Blistan conferred the ESP of the Year Award on Miller, she praised Miller’s dedication to her students and her unwavering advocacy.
“Lynda represents the empowerment of ESP union members,” Blistan said. “She embodies the heart of our union.”
Gloucester County Education Association President Susan Clark, a basic skills teacher in Mantua Township, was honored at the NJEA Friend of ESP at this year’s ESP Conference. Nominated by Traci Davis, transportation professional and member of the Glassboro Education Association, Clark was lauded for the numerous ways in which she brought ESP members into leadership roles in the association.
Clark established a standing ESP Committee in GCEA, instituted the first ESP county overnight training sessions, created county ESP roundtables, and an annual ESP dinner to honor district-level ESPs of the Year. Clark works to ensure the GCEA budget includes funding for the ESP-at-Large to attend National Education Association ESP Conference and provides scholarships for ESP members to attend the NJEA ESP Conference.
“We talk about what we need as ESPs, and Susan is all too happy to listen,” wrote Davis. “She truly understands the importance of ESPs in the successful daily life of a student.”
Every letter of support for Clark’s nomination noted her commitment to battling the privatization of ESP work.
“Ms. Clark was at nearly every privatization battle organizing her members, arguing with a school board, supporting local leaders and advocating for our great public schools,” wrote Al Beaver, a former history teacher at Kingsway High School and former GCEA member who now serves as the interim UniServ regional director in NJEA’s Central Region.
“Gloucester County is a hive of activity as Sue encourages ESP members to become more involved with their local associations by offering a wide selection of workshops and trainings,” said NJEA Assistant Executive Director Steve Swetsky as he conferred the Friend of ESP award on Clark. “She works to make sure that all members feel included and receive the assistance they need to succeed within the association.”
Upon accepting the award, Clark credited the large team of ESP leaders in GCEA and in locals associations across Gloucester County, the NJEA ESP Committee, and the NJEA staff who support ESP members.
“All of these folks make it easy to advocate for educational support professionals,” Clark said. “They are right there beside and, most times, in front of me, as we work together.”
Nancy Richeda, a paraprofessional at Clifton E. Lawrence School in Sussex and treasurer of the Sussex-Wantage Education Association, received the NJEA ESP Career Achievement Award at the ESP Conference. Richeda was first employed in her district as a paraprofessional 20 years ago.
In Richeda’s first year on the job, her local president approached her suggesting that she become an association representative. She agreed and has been an active association leader ever since. In addition to being the current SWEA treasurer, she has served chair of the negotiations team for seven years, following six years on the team. She is the current Membership Committee chair for the Sussex County Education Association and serves on the SCEA Executive Committee. A member of the NJEA Membership Committee, she is an NJEA Consultant who has also worked as an NJEA Summer Fellow.
“Nancy recognized very early on that in order to effect change, she must be the change,” NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty said as he presented Richeda’s award. “She firmly believes in transparency in the union and is a seasoned veteran very willing to get newer and younger colleagues involved in their local association.”
Richeda was nominated SCEA Vice President Gillian Raye and received a letter supporting the nomination from SWEA member Jessica Musilli, the K-2 language and learning disabilities teacher with whom she works. In addition to praising Richeda’s association advocacy, Musilli recognized her work as an educator.
“In addition to providing support to me as a teacher, Nancy provides essential support to our students,” Musilli wrote. “She takes the time to connect with each student individually and to learn about their interests, motivators, strengths and challenges. Our students know that Mrs. Richeda believes in them and they, in turn, put their trust in her.”
That trust was underlined by a letter written to the NJEA ESP Committee by one student’s parents in support of Richeda’s nomination. The student, Faith, called Richeda “Kedda,” which is the last two syllables of Richeda’s name.
“The three years that Nancy and Faith shared demonstrated to me that Nancy doesn’t consider her position as just being a job,” Faith’s father wrote. “I see it more as her vocation.”
The father reported that Faith would do everything she could to delay going to school, except for those days that “Kedda” was waiting for her.
“On those days she would get out of the car and run, arms open wide, saying ‘Kedda’ as best she could,” the father wrote. “The love and trust they shared was obvious.
Tragically, Faith passed away during her second-grade year. Richeda supported the family as Faith was fighting for her life and went on to help the family deal with the loss of their child. She remains involved in the family’s life.
“To me there is no better way to explain the impact our school team has on a child, and the equally powerful impact these children have on them,” Beatty said.
In addition to the statewide NJEA ESP of the Year, each county association honors its members with a countywide ESP of the Year.
Atlantic County: Christine D’Alessandro, instructional aide, Brigantine Education Association
Bergen County: Barbara Michels, teacher assistant, Bergen County Special Services Education Association
Burlington County: Lynda Miller, registrar, Lenape District Education Association
Camden County: Carmen Cooper, clerk, Camden Education Association
Cape May County: Joanne Ciccotelli, bus driver, Dennis Township Education Association
Cumberland County: Iris Gonzalez, paraprofessional, Upper Deerfield Township Education Association
Essex County: Keysha Knight, information and support services employee, South Orange-Maplewood Education Association
Gloucester County, Roberta Rissling, paraprofessional, Township of Franklin Support Association
Hudson County: Marquisha Reynolds, paraprofessional, Jersey City Para-Professional Association
Hunterdon County: Debra Risko, paraprofessional, Holland Township Education Association
Mercer County: Roselia Lake, paraprofessional, Hopewell Valley Education Support Professionals Association
Middlesex County: Marleen Lewandowski, paraprofessional, Sayerville Education Association
Monmouth County: Mary O’Keefe, teacher assistant, Freehold Township Education Association
Morris County: Angela Cordova, paraprofessional, Randolph Education Association
Ocean County: Nancy Jubert, paraprofessional, Toms River Education Association.
Passaic County: Charles Wilson, instructional assistant, Paterson Education Association
Salem County: Franklin Nelson, custodian, Salem County Vo-Tech School Employee Association
Somerset County: Virginia Feola, secretary, North Plainfield Education Association
Sussex County: Ann Warhol, administrative assistant, Sparta Education Association
Union County: Michael Manzella, building maintenance worker, Clark Education Association
Warren County: Joanne Chipaloski, para-educator, Phillipsburg Education Association