In response to national #RedForEd initiatives, along with NJEA’s organizing efforts surrounding passage of important educational support professionals (ESP) and Chapter 78 legislation, the Wayne Education Association (WEA) declared 2019 the “Year of Action.” An Action Team, chaired by Donna Reaver, a first-grade teacher at James Fallon Elementary School, began meeting in the fall of 2018 to plan for 2019.

“We all have to realize that participation in our union must extend beyond the local level—it’s bigger than that,” said Wayne Education Association (WEA) President Eda Ferrante, a social studies teacher at Wayne Valley High School.

Starting on Jan. 2, and every Wednesday in January, WEA members hit the ground running with their #RedForEd initiatives, gathering outside their school buildings to walk in together to raise community awareness of the devastating toll that Ch. 78 has taken on educators across the state.

“Overall, the community has had a positive reaction,” said Christopher DeWilde, a music teacher at Anthony Wayne Middle School. “Having a large percentage of parental and community support just strengthens our cause,”

In February, WEA focused its energy on a social media campaign leveraging the national #RedforEd momentum and lobbying lawmakers to support legislation for ESP protections and Chapter 78 relief. And the end of March, WEA members called attention to Chapter 78 walking out of school at the end of the workday as a single group to demonstrate solidarity.

Reaver made sure that community and media outlets were notified to keep the message clear.

WEA also works with district PTOs to engage parents at a deeper level, hoping that on future #RedForEd days, educators are not the only members of the school communities wearing red,

“We want to see parents and students wearing red in support of their educators,” Ferrante said.

“Sharing our stories at board of education meetings has been eye-opening for many parents,” said Rebecca Tzortinis, a teacher at Albert Payson Terhune Elementary School and PTO president of James Fallon Elementary School. “Many people outside of the profession are not always aware of what is happening with Chapter 78 and hearing the concerns of dedicated professionals is important.”

Note: A longer, more detailed version of this article appears on Search “Wayne.”

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