When the Bayonne Public School Administrators Association (BPSAA) vowed to cease participation in extracurricular activities in retaliation for layoffs made by the Bayonne Board of Education (BBOED) in January and February, school administrators and community traditions collided. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade scheduled for March 19 was poised to be the first casualty.
The St. Patrick’s Parade Committee, an independent organization tasked with coordinating Bayonne’s annual Irish celebration, took to social media on Monday, March 6, to issue a letter expressing “great dismay” over the BPSAA’s withdrawals of elementary schoolapplications for the parade, and the lower participation expected as a result.
Normally, the BPSAA organizes elementary students into marching groups in the parade. The marching band and various sports teams are still planning to march because they have separate applications that have not been withdrawn. The withdrawal of elementary school applications prompted the committee to ask in its letter that “schools reconsider their respective withdrawals from the Parade.”
As quickly as the controversy started, it was resolved. The two sides met on Wednesday, March 8, with the BPSAA agreeing to facilitate and encourage elementary schoolparticipation in the parade, but employees of the school district are sticking to their non-participation pledge.
BPSAA President Tim Craig said the organization’s decision to withdraw applications was “never intended to disrupt the parade or compromise the good they do for our community.”
“My goal here is to have all the kids marching in the parade. I don’t want to get political about it.” – Sean Neary
The ripple effect
The dustup over students’ participation in the parade reflects persisting, and worsening, tensions in the Bayonne School District.Members of the BPSAA are fighting for their jobs amid a serious budget crisis in the school district that has left a cloud of uncertainty over Bayonne educators.After 16 district employees were laid off and six others demoted at January’s meeting, BBOED trustees voted to lay off two teachers and a guidance counselor, while two assistant principals and the Athletic Director were reassigned at their last meeting on February 28.
“When [Board President Joseph] Broderick said he needed to us to step up after he laid off three teachers, we said that’s enough,” said Craig referring to a comment Broderick made before the board voted on layoffs that was intended to be encouraging.
“Are we going to expect our administrators to step up to a greater degree? Absolutely, we’re going to have to,” said Broderick at the February 28 meeting.“Teachers are going to be down to the best teachers we can possibly have. There are no exceptions here. Everything is going to have to tighten up. We have to have the best of the best. Our custodians are going to have to work extremely hard to keep our facilities clean.”
Craig and his fellow administrators do not seem encouraged. “We’re not going to keep on giving back to a board that doesn’t appreciate their teachers and students,” Craig said, adding that he feels teachers and administrators are paying for someone else’s mistakes. “This budget crisis isn’t our fault,” said Craig. “We were willing to work with the board and make concessions, but the board doesn’t want to do that.”
“I think it’s a terrific thing for our children to take part in any of the civic things, like parades,” Broderick said. “It’s a good thing for the entire city. But the administrators have a right to decide on their own what’s the right decision. I think I’ve gone out of the way to explain our fiscal situation to everyone and why things are being done the way they are being done.”
Back to the Parade
“My goal here is to have all the kids marching in the parade. I don’t want to get political about it,” said Sean Neary, President of the St. Patrick’s Parade Committee, while acknowledging the validity of the BPSAA’s political fracas with the BBOED. “I see their point 100 percent.”
Since the BPSAA withdrew its applications, the parade committee has been coordinating with various parent teacher groups at elementary schools in the district to encourage self-organizing, as well as staying true to the parade’s mission to celebrate Irish heritage and culture in Bayonne.
In a statement, the parade committee said: “Students interested in participating who do not have a marching unit as a result of the schools’ application being withdrawn should contact the Parade Committee at email@example.com. We will make every effort to ensure that our students and families are included in the event. We wish you all a very happy Saint Patrick’s Day filled with good health, Irish luck, and happiness today and everyday.”
Rory Pasquariello may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.