U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten and AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram visited Newark’s Oliver Street School on March 29 to highlight how American Rescue Plan funds have been implemented in the city’s public schools.

“Right here in your school district, you’ve used these ARP funds to provide extra tutoring to students, and that’s accelerating learning, and that’s accelerating recovery,” Marten said. “You provided every single student with a Chromebook computer, and you paid for unlimited Wi-Fi citywide so every student could have access to the internet. And you expanded your adaptive leadership coaching and high-quality professional development for the educators across the system. Because we can’t take exquisite care of our students if we don’t invest in our teachers, our school leaders and our staff.”

Marten took a moment to acknowledge the students in attendance who are part of the Newark-Montclair State University Red Hawks Rising teacher academy: “It is the definition of the grow-your-own program — and AFT is funding their stipends so these students can focus entirely on getting the training that they need, the training they need to be able to focus on becoming a teacher so they can serve the students right here in this community.”

After thanking his colleagues “for what you’re doing every day,” Ingram turned his attention to “these young people in [the Red Hawks Rising] program who want to be teachers: This is the best profession you will ever pick in your life. It is the most important thing that you will ever do in your life. Keep on keepin’ on because our colleagues here, just like you all will be, you are all the heroes and sheroes for the next decades. Children upon children and communities and families are going to rely on each and every one of you.”

Ingram thanked the Biden administration “for putting their money where their mouth is.”

“This administration has done something unique, done something historic, with the biggest infusion of funding that we’ve ever seen in our public schools in the history of America,” Ingram added. “I just want you all to know that from the American Federation of Teachers, we have tried to do exactly and be exactly what we say we are. We are putting our money where our mouth is. We believe that there is a teacher shortage in this country, and for the foreseeable future, that teacher shortage will be wide open. But it’s going to be young people who will fill that gap; [the Red Hawks Rising program] is helping us fill that gap.”

Among those in attendance were Newark Teachers Union President John M. Abeigon and AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera, who told students about her background teaching in Perth Amboy and listened to their stories about why they wanted to become educators.

“This has been probably my fourth or fifth time this year alone in this district, and every time I leave this district, I am blown away, and I am jealous,” Chiera said. “I wish the state of New Jersey, who always makes jokes about Newark, New Jersey, could be in this room today to see not only what the teachers — the professionals in this building — have given to this district, but the future of this district.”

Chiera concluded by saying she was proud to represent “the quality of professionals I see in this district, and the students [whose lives they’re] touching [daily]. Thank you for giving me that hope.”

Left to right: AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Fedrick Ingram and AFTNJ PreK-12 VP Silvia Pereira on March 29 in Newark.

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