The Paterson Education Association (PEA) took a decisive stance on community safety this week. With students in mind, PEA demanded that the district reschedule the back-to-school nights. The district was reluctant to change the dates and times for back-to-school nights despite a recent uptick of gun violence in Paterson. To PEA, this was unacceptable. A union that is committed to the safety of the students would simply not allow this to happen without a compelling response. The risk was too great.

PEA pressured the board to change the dates, and, despite their initial reluctance, the district agreed to reschedule the back-to-school nights.

The district recently reduced the security forces of the Paterson School District by roughly 30 percent. Close to 100 school security guards permanently lost their positions. According to PEA, the cuts to security present a significant risk for students’ families, particularly when travelling to and from the schools. With the district refusing to account for those personnel, PEA chose to be proactive and enlist support.

Before the rescheduling of the back-to-school nights, PEA secured the help of the Guardian Angels to ensure the safety of all who plan to attend. The Guardian Angels, a New York City-based volunteer group dedicated to community safety, are slated to support PEA in providing a safe environment for the rescheduled back to school nights on Oct. 5, Oct. 6 and Oct. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m.

“The responsibility of protecting students, parents, and teachers has fallen on the backs of PEA members,” said John McEntee, president of PEA. “This concern is not one that our union takes lightly. Unlike the district, the union places children first.”

Criticism from the members of the board of education has not caused PEA to waiver in its commitment to safety. Members of the board of education in Paterson have labeled the PEA’s commitment to safety a “publicity stunt,” but that has not discouraged the union leadership. PEA has made its determination clear.

The members of PEA will continue to stand up for what’s right for their community and for their students.

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