Educators and political officials met in North Bergen last week to make clear their support of President Obama’s job creation proposal.
The North Bergen High School, at 7417 Kennedy Blvd., was the site of an emotional press conference on Monday, Oct. 17. Attendees included American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, state Sen. Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen), North Bergen Schools Superintendent Robert Dandorph, and Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9th Dist.).
Proposed last month, the American Jobs Act aims to create jobs, help small businesses grow, and modernize schools. The act calls for the investment of $35 billion to prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs, and modernize at least 35,000 public schools across the country.
“This money will give our kids the opportunity to better themselves and fulfill their own American dreams.” – Laurie Troiano
Opponents of the act, such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, said, “If spending money would solve our problems and crisis in America, we wouldn’t have a problem right now because we sure did our share of spending money in the last few years.”
Others argue that Obama’s plan fails to increase both demand and production output of the economy, and instead simply reallocates resources.
Aimed toward improving the infrastructure of schools, the act will appropriate funds for school emergency repair and renovation projects, new science labs, internet-ready classrooms, and technological upgrades.
‘It is in need of great physical improvement’
North Bergen High School Principal Paschal Tennaro took the podium to express his view that the facility is in need of upgrades.
“North Bergen High School has received many awards and many honors,” said Tennaro, referencing the Blue Ribbon nomination the school earned last January.
“The reason is because of the excellent faculty,” continued Tennaro. “[Our] academic success is in spite of the facility drawback.”
“Like most 50 year olds, it [the high school] is in great need of physical improvement,” said Elizabeth Lynch, vice president of the North Bergen Federation of Teachers.
“We have an overcrowding problem that needs to be addressed,” continued Lynch. “We have an antiquated media center.”
Many students at the high school are forced to take classes in an annex due to overcrowding. According to former students, the classrooms within the annex are outdated.
“It’s definitely not where anyone would want to send their kids to learn,” said one former student.
Teachers, such as Laurie Troiano, insisted that although the Jobs Act could help assure that teaching jobs are safe, the main beneficiary would be the students.
“We don’t want this money for ourselves as teachers,” said Troiano. “We want this money so we can educate our students. So we can make them believe that they matter.”
“This money will give our kids the opportunity to better themselves and fulfill their own American dreams,” Troiano added.
The conference gains momentum
As keynote speakers Weingarten and Rothman took to the podium, emotions began to rise. Weingarten, who received a standing ovation, expressed her desire to fix the overcrowding issue and renovate the school facilities.
“I came here to focus on the needs of this school and other schools in New Jersey,” said Weingarten.
“We are trying to get you those resources,” she continued, beginning to yell over the crowd’s applause. “And I’m sorry, [but] I’m mad about it.”
Rothman ended the conference with a speech regarding the impact of education on the country as a whole.
“Will we continue to lead the world in innovation,” said Rothman, “or will we allow a small group in our society to withhold the resources from our children? Education is the ultimate tool by which our kids are going to make a life for themselves.”
Rothman also expressed his frustration with Republicans.
“Unfortunately, Republicans refuse to support President Obama’s efforts to invest in our future and provide our students with the schools they deserve,” said Rothman.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.