Despite objections from union, Shafer forced Paterson teachers to appear in-person for preparation day | Paterson Times Paterson Times

Despite objections from union, Shafer forced Paterson teachers to appear in-person for preparation day

By Jayed Rahman
Published: September 2, 2020


Despite objections from the teachers’ union, superintendent Eileen Shafer had teachers and other employees report in-person to schools to prepare for the hybrid 2020-21 school year.

School officials said 77 percent of the district’s nearly 4,000 employees came to work on Tuesday. Some staff members, who feared getting infected with Covid-19, refused to show. Shafer had threatened to dock their pay if they refused to appear for preparation day.

Staff members reported issues at some sites. For example, staff members arrived at the New Roberto Clemente School and were allowed inside the building. The school’s principal later announced staff had to leave and wait until security arrived to conduct temperature checks, according to an account provided by a teacher.

Temperature should be taken prior to someone entering a building for it to be effective.

John McEntee, Jr., president of the Paterson Education Association, the teachers’ union, said this incident proves the district is “unable to properly protect” teachers and other staff members.

“Should the members at NRC have now been exposed to an asymptomatic colleague, they now chance community spread,” said McEntee.

School board president Kenneth Simmons on Tuesday morning said he was not aware of that incident.

Other officials confirmed the incident took place.

School officials said the district took precautions to avoid spread of the virus. Staff had to take a six-question survey asking them about symptoms. Those who answered negative to the six questions were allowed to enter the buildings. They also had to go through a temperature check, according to officials.

McEntee called Shafer’s move “misguided.” He said Shafer is ignoring the school board’s resolution that stated the district would be all-remote through November 1.

Shafer’s amended re-opening plan states nurses, guidance counselors, child study team members, principals, vice principals, supervisors, registrars, and school secretaries have to come in in-person.

Shafer’s spokesman, Paul Brubaker, did not respond to questions about the incident at the New Roberto Clemente School, on Tuesday morning.

It’s not clear how many other school buildings had similar problems.

McEntee said multiple sites had problems.

Shafer had teachers come in to prepare their rooms for opening of in-person instructions on November 2, take part in principal meetings, get classroom rosters and student contact information, and retrieve supplies and materials needed for remote instruction.

School officials will decide whether to resume in-person classes for students in late October.

Staff were given cloth masks on Tuesday. Cloth masks are considered inferior to N-95, but they do provide some protection when used properly.

Shafer barred teachers, who refused to appear in-person, from logging in remotely for the meetings, training, and professional development.

“Please be advised that there is no working from home tomorrow remotely. Therefore please do not provide staff with an option to log on remotely to your meetings, trainings or professional development. Tomorrow is an in person work day for all staff,” Shafer wrote to principals at 10:03 p.m. on Monday.

McEntee said that memorandum showed the district isn’t interested in preparing educators for students. He said it’s Shafer engaging in a “cruel vendetta” against teachers and staff for daring to speak up against unsafe working conditions.

“Not allowing educators to participate in these PD sessions hurts students,” said McEntee.

Shafer and the teachers union had been on good terms for the past three years, but that has changed as the district and the union argued over whether to have in-person classes.

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