The members of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education have voted 6-0 with two abstentions to formally express their gratitude and appreciation to the district’s administrators, teachers and staff members for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic is impacting a third school year. The pandemic’s initial impact was felt during the 2019-20 school year when the virus struck New Jersey in March 2020. Schools were closed and education switched to a virtual/remote format.
The pandemic’s impact continued during the 2020-21 school year as children and teachers resumed in-person learning; and its impact has continued to be felt during the 2021-22 school year as students and staff members remain masked in school, with quarantine rules in place for individuals who have been exposed to someone who contracts the virus.
During a meeting on Feb. 1, board members considered taking action on a resolution that would become a permanent record of the appreciation they wished to express to the district’s employees.
The resolution states that “the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique challenge to school districts nationwide during the 2021-22 school year” and that “the administrators and staff of the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District collaborated to create a plan to safely open schools for full day in-person instruction in compliance with guidance from national, state and local authorities.”
The resolution goes on to state that “the administrators and staff have continued to ensure that schools remain open and safe for student learning, including providing virtual instruction, when necessary” and that “the administrators and staff have continued to ensure students were transported to and from schools on school buses.”
“The administrators and staff have continued to ensure students were able to receive daily meals; despite the health concerns arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administrators and staff have continued to work inside school buildings and on buses to enable in-person instruction; and despite the health concerns arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administrators and staff have worked tirelessly to reduce or eliminate the threat of virus transmissions inside school buildings,” the resolution states.
The resolution states the board joins “parents and other community members in expressing their sincere gratitude for all the administrators, staff members, consultants and outside contractors of the Manalapan-Englishtown regional schools for their personal sacrifices and extraordinary contributions to ensure our students continue to receive the educational level they have come to expect.”
Prior to a roll call vote on the resolution, several board members commented on the pending action.
Jesse Tossetti, who joined the board in January as the representative from Englishtown, said, “As a military service member, a veteran, who has seen unit awards given out, the common sentiment was that some people deserved it and some did not.
“I think that with the work we have done, there is still room for improvement, and I don’t think a blanket thank you or recognition is the best way to do it, but it’s probably the easiest way to thank all the staff. There are some concerns, so I wanted people to know why I am abstaining from the vote,” Tossetti said.
David Ferber, who joined the board in January as a representative from Manalapan, said, “Similar to Mr. Tossetti, while there is absolutely much of the staff and teachers and administration who did a wonderful and amazing job, there were definitely hiccups along the way, and students in particular and parents who had some extreme difficulties unfortunately … I don’t think it is fair to them … to put a blanket thank you across the board to everybody; certainly to all those who did go above and beyond, so for that reason I am abstaining.”
The board’s vice president, Gerald Bruno, said, “I know how hard the schools have worked over the last two years and I’m not naive. We have 800 employees, we drop the ball sometimes, but we have good, good people here and I am proud to be on this school board.
“I will tell you we asked teachers and staff members to do things they were never asked or trained to do … and that goes for administrators, nurses, bus drivers and custodians … so I greatly appreciate and know what our staff has done over the two years and that comes from my heart … and I think I speak for most of my colleagues up here how much we appreciate what the staff has done,” Bruno said.
On a roll call vote, Board of Education President Brian Graime, David Kane, Christine Parisi, Dotty Porcaro, Ryan Urgo and Bruno voted “yes” to pass the resolution. Tossetti and Ferber abstained. Board member John D’Amato was absent from the meeting.