NJEA President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller, and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty were formally inducted as NJEA’s officers in a ceremony at the Sept. 9 meeting of the Delegate Assembly (DA). NEA Vice President Becky Pringle officiated the induction, which was led off with an inspirational message delivered by Essex County Education Association President Anthony Rosamilia and East Orange Resource Professionals Association Mike Rollins. Dr. Eva Diane Lyle-Smith of the Camden Education Association performed the Star-Spangled Banner on trumpet.

Following the induction, Pringle offered remarks on NJEA’s future under its newest leaders.

 

 

“Extraordinary leaders have been described as possessing an understanding of the need to honor the past, manage the limitations of their current reality and be able to transcend both to position an organization or a movement for the possibilities that await them in an unknown future,” Pringle said. “In Marie and Sean and Steve, you have elected those kinds of exceptional leaders. These three officers will stand the fire with all of us, and they will do what needs to be done.”

Each of the new officers in turn addressed the DA.

“Over a year ago I embarked on this incredible journey,” Beatty said. “Being elected your secretary-treasurer isn’t the end of that journey, it’s just beginning. I’m grateful to be able to extend my reach to continue the work that I care so deeply and so passionately about.”

Thanking Blistan and Spiller for their confidence in him he said, “I only hope that I can rise to the level of your expectations and prove to be worthy of your support.”

Addressing NJEA members, who elected him from among four candidates, he sought the support of those members who had not voted for him.

Spiller spoke optimistically about NJEA’s future and its role and its role in the state and nation’s future.

“We are fighting for our children’s future and, yes, we are fighting for this nation’s future,” Spiller said. “Everyone deserves a chance at the American dream. And make no mistake. Those things are under attack and we are that last line of defense.

It’s an awesome responsibility ahead,” Spiller continued, “But it’s during difficult times that leadership matters most and that’s why I’m happy to serve as a leader with all of you.”

Blistan reflected on the history of NJEA and its legacy.

“The three of us begin our work in these roles profoundly aware that we inherit a union built over many years by the hard work and relentless determination of generations of advocates and activists,” Blistan said. “From the first meeting of this organization in December of 1853, people who cared about the well-being of our profession and the fate of public education have come together here to advance those causes through the power of collective action.”

Blistan noted that NJEA was approaching an important milestone: the 50th anniversary of winning  the right to collective bargaining for public-sector employees in New Jersey. Legislation enacting collective bargaining became law on Sept. 13, 1968. An important rally on the path to that legislation occurred in Monmouth County one year earlier with an impassioned speech by an NJEA staff member.

We must work tirelessly, not only for our own well-being, but also for the well-being of our students, their families, and of the communities that we all share. We must work for racial, social and economic justice to make our state and our nation stronger and fairer for everyone.

“When Jim George spoke at the Asbury Park Rally 50 years ago this fall, rallying members to support the fight to win our collective bargaining rights, he said these inspiring words: ‘A new order is at hand. A new generation has been conceived.  And we are not afraid!’” Blistan reminded DA members. “And 50 years later, we are not afraid either!”

Blistan also recalled NJEA member and parent Lucy Abbott, for whose son Raymond the school-funding case Abbott v. Burke was named. Abbott fought to ensure that her son and her students received an education on par with suburban communities. She tied Abbott’s struggle to the fight for justice throughout history.

“We must work tirelessly, not only for our own well-being, but also for the well-being of our students, their families, and of the communities that we all share, Blistan said. “We must work for racial, social and economic justice to make our state and our nation stronger and fairer for everyone.”

 

The ceremony ended with the singing of Lift Every Voice and Sing, a song of the Civil Rights Movement often referred to as the African-American National Anthem. Princeton Regional Educational Support Staff Association President Olive Giles, East Orange Education Association President Jacqui Greadington and Atlantic County Council of Education Associations President Gary Melton lead the room in an impassioned rendition of the hymn to cap an event that focused on the imperative to work toward racial, social and economic justice in our schools and communities.

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