Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's not fair!

Photo from

I'm still thinking about the rally in Trenton yesterday. So many people gathered to speak their stories - stories that matter. Who is going to educate the children when we fire the teachers? Who will be there to clean the schools and make them a fit place for our young when we lay off the custodians? Who will cook the food, serve it and notice when a child isn't eating when we collectively pink slip the cafeteria workers?

Schools aren't just about jobs, they are about relationships. Relationships form over time, with trust - when people feel safe and connected. I'm really worried about what is going to happen all around the state in September. Shouldn't we be preparing our students to continue to be some of the best performing kids in the nation? Wouldn't it make more sense to be professionally developing our teachers to meet the needs of the 21st Century? What are we doing? had a twitter feed of many users reporting on the rally in Trenton on May 22nd. Here's what someone reported about my participation:

1:50 p.m.: Speaker Mary Ann Woods-Murphy of Teaneck had a question for the crowd.

"Do I look like the problem?" The crowd roared back "No!" at the 2009-2010 New Jersey Teacher of the Year.

Woods-Murphy, who teaches Spanish at Northern Highlands replied: "I think that I look pretty innocent."

She said the Teaneck school district is laying off custodial and other staff. "No es justo, no es justo," she chanted in Spanish. "This is not right."

I am sickened by the tone leveled against teachers and public employees.

I am the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. My grandfathers struggled for the rights of wire lathers in New York City at the turn of the last century. My father was the shop steward at the Hotel Commodore in what is now Grand Central Station. My great uncle, Hugh Halligan, was the Deputy Fire Commissioner of New York City, under Mayor LaGuardia. Hughie also invented the "Halligan tool or bar" which is used to break into burning homes.

I come from working people who stood up and were counted. Because of their work, I have a college education and the right to be heard. I stand on the shoulders of previous generations. Every single thing I know is a gift from someone. Even the time I have spent alone reading and thinking is on the backs of someone who has entrusted me to do the best job that I am humanly capable of.

This urge to contribute, to work and share talents with others is the mentality of our public workers. It might be the toll collector who smiles yet one more time as a car drives through or the hospital worker who offers a word of encouragement to a elderly patient. We all contribute in different ways, but together, we make a difference. Together, what we do matters a whole lot.

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