MCCEA’s First Friends of Public Education Celebration
Last fall I met with Uniserv Field Representatives and some members of the NJEA staff to discuss ways in which our association could engage area communities in a new way. Too often, the wonderful people who are integral to the education of our children do not receive the recognition that they so deserve. Too often, we forget to celebrate the great things that our schools do and why our communities need to see the true value in what our schools provide. We are a vital and central part of what makes each community survive and thrive. And it goes without saying that the better our schools, the better our real estate values. How could we get this message across? A community celebration was decided upon, and MCCEA undertook this venture with Ginny Osborne and myself in charge.
Meadow Wood Manor in Randolph was the setting for the Morris County Council of Education Associations first Friends of Public Education Celebration and Reception.
Held on March 15, this event had over 200 Teachers, Support Staff, Mayors, Superintendents, Board of Education members and Home and School leaders. Each district was invited to send their President, town Mayor, Superintendent, Board President and PTA/HSA leader. Other guests were invited at cost.
Guests were treated to an incredible feast, and the Meadow Wood staff was exceptional in providing the food and venue. During the early part of the evening, guests were entertained by the Morris Hills Regional High School Jazz Band under the direction of Michael Sopko. Their performance was phenomenal.
The program began at 7 PM with the flag salute and singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Third grade Normandy Park student, Danielle Becht, sang superbly and received an incredible ovation from everyone. Danielle’s Mom, Teacher, and Principal all attended.
We were thrilled to have Senator Robert Menendez join us and speak to those gathered. He spoke about the importance of our public education system and related our wonderful schools to his own personal experience. As he so eloquently put it, where else would the son of poor immigrants receive such a terrific education and wind up as one of 100 Senators in Washington D.C.? He praised New Jersey’s public schools and is concerned for their future. He spoke of his work as a Senator and the high priority he attaches to educational issues. And he is proud to have a 100% voting record with the NEA. As he often does, Senator Menendez closed with the story of his speech teacher in high school who worked with him to overcome his shyness. Incidentally, the Senator is an eloquent public speaker who speaks from the heart and does not use notes. He attributes all of this to his teacher. The Senator spent the evening with us and had wonderful conversations with Danielle Becht, our third grade vocalist, who was thrilled to meet a real Senator.
The purpose of the event was to present awards to people who have made an impact in their educational community. The awards were mahogany plaques with brass plates in the shape of Morris County. They were engraved with each honorees’ name and the words, “Congratulations, Morris County Council of Education Associations Friend of Public Education.” Each was also presented with a citation from the New Jersey Legislature, and were courtesy of Assemblyman Anthony Bucco. Several of our state legislators were slated to attend but were unable because of the late voting session in Trenton.
Awards were based on letters of application sent by local presidents explaining in detail why the candidate was worthy of the award. Many applications were received and a committee of members judged the entries.
The award categories and winners names are as follows:
Tri-Co Federal Credit Union
Home & School Association –
Carol Strowbridge, Principal,
Randolph Middle School
Mary Anne Abazia, Pequannock
Rosemary McHugh, Jefferson
Town of Denville
Governor Richard Codey,
Assemblywoman Mila Jasey,
Assemblyman John McKeon
Tri-Co has always been a friend of education for Morris County. Our credit union began 73 years ago in a closet in Morristown High School. Tri-Co gives a $1000 annual scholarship through MCCEA. They also help with printing of our poster award winner’s calendars, notecards and prizes. Tri-Co comes to all our events, is very helpful and deserves our sincere appreciation.
Legislative District 27 is new to Morris County, but former Governor Richard Codey, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, and Assemblyman John McKeon have consistently come to our events and have voted favorably on all of our issues. We look forward to continued involvement with them.
The program concluded with Danielle singing “Tomorrow,” accompanied by Skip Yingling, a graduate of Morristown High School and music director for the theater program there. Skip also provided music during the fabulous dessert portion of the evening.
MCCEA’s first Friends of Education Celebration was a huge success, and hopefully, it is only the beginning. We have received such wonderful compliments from superintendents, mayors and members all praising the event. It was an evening where all stakeholders in the education community could celebrate one another.