THE HISTORY OF THE ESSEX COUNTY EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
During the 1930’s, educators of Essex County were faced with salary problems. As a result of the depression there had been no increments and there were actual cuts. In addition, there were many classroom teachers who were aware of the professional duties should take them beyond the walls of the classroom to positions of leadership in educational organizations. Interest in legislation for education was a third area with which many were concerned. Over a period of time, there were many small meetings in the County where these problems were discussed. Finally, in 1939, a representative group was called together at East Orange High School by Newark teacher, Mr. William Devonald. He had been active in his local association, but felt that unity at the County would be more effective. This was the birth of the Essex County Education Association and ECEA was incorporated in 1939.
Meetings continued and by 1942, a constitution had been drafted and all local associations of the County, with the exceptions of Newark, Verona and Glen Ridge, had approved it. These districts joined shortly thereafter. Since there was almost complete approval, it was decided to elect permanent officers as provided for in the constitution. Mr. Frank Stover served as temporary chairman and called for nominations for President. Mr. Devonald, the only nominee, was unanimously elected. A bank account was opened at the Irvington National Bank for the convenience of the Treasurer, Miss Anita Lehlback, who lived in Irvington.
In March 1942, the constitution was submitted to NJEA for approval of standards. In May, the Association was informed by the NJEA Elections Committee that approval had been given to carry out NJEA nomination procedures in Essex County. Organization of the first nominating committee resulted. The purpose was to nominate candidates for the NJEA Delegate Assembly, Executive and Nomination Committees of the State Association.
The County was now in a position to serve as liaison between locals and the State Association (NJEA).
Dues were assessed at five cents per member, payable by local associations. They were raised to ten cents in 1945 and twenty-five cents in 1959. In 1963, they were again raised to fifty cents. By 1972, the assessment reached $5.00 per member and local associations made payment to the County Association (ECEA) for individual membership at regular intervals. In 1972, the Unification Program was introduced and educators realized the importance of joining all four associations – local, county (ECEA), state (NJEA) and the national (NEA). Update: 1989: Wendell Parr (Belleville), Membership Chair, headed a committee to study ECEA Dues. The Committee recommended that ECEA follow in NJEA’s footsteps by having the dues be raised automatically each year at a rate of 6% of NJEA’s dues increase (to the lowest 10 cents). It was passed by both the Executive Board and Rep. Council by secret ballot.
Interest in legislation has been a prime concern. The largest program of the yearly agenda is a dinner given in April to honor legislators of County, State and National office. This is now tradition which dates back to 1941. In 1955, it was decided that rather than limit the attendance to key people in each community, all educators would be included. This idea of an expanded dinner now places reservations at about 900. This affair is a formal with all gentlemen wearing suits and ladies in floor-length evening gowns. A two-tiered dais seats the ECEA officers, leaders and legislators. On two occasions, special centennial celebrations were included. NJEA in 1953 and NEA in 1956. In 1979, our ECEA Legislative Dinner was filmed by Suburban Cablevision (now Comcast).
From time to time, members have been encouraged to place their names in nomination for seats in the New Jersey Assembly. In 1955, lists were submitted to both political parties for consideration. In 1957, a single candidate was placed on the ticket, but was unsuccessful in the election.
Representatives attend conferences on State and county levels and all members of local associations have been kept informed by the ECEA legislative Committee as to pertinent legislation concerning education. In 1972, the very important Political Action Committee (PAC) was organized by NJEA and our County Association has been very active in this area.
The Constitution has been revised several times in order that all its provisions be up to date and in compliance with NJEA and NEA By-Laws. Calendar/Directories have been compiled each year so that it is possible to have records of local officers and committee chairmen for reference. Surveys and evaluations are conducted frequently in areas of interest. In 1954, the ECEA Essexchange was edited and it is the official news reporter of the Essex County Education Association.
The first ECEA “Open House” was initiated at the NJEA Convention in Atlantic City in 1959. The affair has developed to be a luncheon for Essex County Education Association members and their guests.
Yearly Professional Improvement Conferences have been conducted dealing with current topics of interest. Over the years, new committees and conferences have been set up when the need arises. Some of these are: Reaching the Public, Human Relations, Personnel & Property, Higher Education, and Environmental Education. Summer workshops train those in attendance for duties of the Association. ECEA, in cooperation with the NJEA-Retired Association, and the Essex County Retired Educators Association, presented a very successful program in 1975 dealing with “Preparation for Retirement”. Its purpose was to supply information for Essex County teachers contemplating retirement within the next five years.
Protection for our Association was insured by incorporation in 1962.
A member of the Essex County Education Association had been invited to sit at County Council meetings of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). When the ECEA was organized, meetings were held in schools around the County and officers kept supplies and records in their homes. In 1966, an office was rented in South Orange. In 1968, a secretary was hired.
Kay Mathesius 1968 – 1969
Andrea Elia 1969 – 1971
Sandra Linton 1971 –
In 1972, a Public Relations Coordinator was hired and added to the staff:
Paul Sandals-Lelling 1972 – 1975
Diane Moskowitz 1975 – 1983
In order to help cut down on work of officers and committee chairmen, a new position of Executive Director was created. In February of 1975, this position was filled by Max Kletter of Nutley. Max held this job for a couple of years and, our ECEA Secretary, Sandy Linton, was appointed to his job after he was let go.
In 1971, ECEA moved to one rented room in the bank building on 487 Pleasant Valley Way, West Orange. In 1973, a new building was being built on Northfield Avenue in West Orange. Sandy’s father-in-law was the plumber and told us about it. The officers toured the new building and decided to rent the first floor, left side. It was divided into four spaces – front room for reception and Sandy, President’s office, next room was for Treasurer, and a small conference room in the back. After three years, we were getting too big for our office. A court reporting company had the whole second floor and was going to move to Roseland. ECEA then moved upstairs and took over the whole 2nd floor. We stayed there until 2002. We tried to purchase the building we’d been in for over 25 years, but the owner wasn’t ready to sell. The hunt was on for a new ECEA building. We searched for quite a while and finally purchased 350 Main Street in West Orange.
In 1995, ECEA organized our Pride in Public Education Committee. We have held a Pride Expo at Livingston Mall for 24 years. In addition to displaying the arts and crafts of the Essex County students, we have live performances going on all week long. There is a Pride Essay Contest as the culmination of the Pride Expo.
In 2016, the officers of the ECEA (Anthony Rosamilia, President (Livingston); Jacqui Greadington, Vice-President (East Orange); Christine Candarella, Treasurer (Bloomfield); and Michael Rollins, Secretary (East Orange Secretaries Assoc.) and the newly-formed Building Committee, began looking for new offices for ECEA. The problem with 350 Main Street was the parking. We had plenty of room in the building, but only about 12 parking spaces. We couldn’t have any large meetings at the office and had to meet in restaurants all the time. This became extremely expensive. After a long search, the building committee found a double side-by-side office condo in Cedar Grove. The parking is almost unlimited. We figured that we could either rent out the second condo, or if times get rough, we could hold on to it for investment and sell it if we needed the money in the future. We moved into the office the end of October in 2016.
A blood bank for the convenience of our members was started and run by Caldwell-West Caldwell School Nurse, Eleanor Grunberg, and has been a very helpful benefit. An open meeting in May of each year for all educators of the County has been a highlight of the program.
In 1956, a committee was appointed to study the advisability of having a budget set up for ECEA. Regular yearly budgets have been prepared since.
The Associations has always been mindful that lay-persons interested in education have done much for the profession and for the boys and girls in our schools. At the first ECEA Legislative Dinner, every local association was asked to select an outstanding citizen from its community who had made a notable contribution to education and to escort them to the dinner to be appropriately recognized with an award by the ECEA. The names were placed on a Roll of Honor framed and delivered to Mr. Lawrence Chase, Essex County Superintendent of Schools, to place in the Hall of Records. Over the years the philosophy has changed to the idea of presenting one award for county-wide service to education. The recipients have been:
1952 Dr. Theresa Fitzpatrick, Newark Board of Education
1953 Mrs. Parker O’ Griffith, Cultural
1959 Senator Donald C. Fox, Legislator
1960 Mr. Gregory Hewlett, Newspaper Editor
1961 Essex County Parent Teacher Association
1962 Mr. Elmer M. Matthews, Legislator
1963 Mrs. Arthur L. Davis, President, New Jersey P.T.A.
1964 Mrs. Levon Khachadourian, President, Essex County P.T.A.
1965 Mr. C. Stewart Hausmann, Irvington Board of Education
1966 Mr. Edward J. Lenihan, Nutley Board of Education
Mrs. Frank H. Calioto, Bloomfield
1967 Senator Nicholas Fernicola, Legislator
1968 Mrs. George D. Brown, President, Essex County P.T.A.
1969 Mrs. Mary B. burch, Civic Leader
1970 Mrs. Hilda L. Jaffee, Verona Board of Education
1971 Mr. Alexander J. Matturi, Legislator
Mr. Kenneth Wilson, Legislator
1972 Mr. Thomas Kean, Legislator
1973 No award given
1974 Mr. Frank Dodd, Legislator
1975 Emil Oxfeld, Esq., Attorney
1976 Congressman Joseph G. Minish, Legislator
1977 Congressman Peter Rodino, Legislator
1978 Senator Wynona Lipman, Legislator
1979 Assemblyman Willie B. Brown, Legislator
1980 No award given
1981 No award given
1982 George Branch, Newark Civic Leader
1983 No award given
1984 Morton Reinhart, NJEA Staff Member
1985 Sen. Carmen Orechio, Nutley – legislator
1986 Jerome Grecco, Verona – Freeholder President
1987 Assemblyman James Zangari, Legislator
1988 Assemblyman John V. Kelly, Legislator
1989 Assemblywoman Marion Crecco, Legislator
1990 Frank Lautenberg, U.S. Senator, Legislator
1991 Thomas J. D’Alessio, Essex County Executive
1992 Wakefern – ShopRite Supermarkets
1993 Assemblyman Paul DiGaetano, Legislator
1994 Senator Ronald Rice, Legislator
1995 Congressman Donald Payne, Legislator
1996 No award given
1997 Assemblywoman Nia Gill, Legislator
1998 Assemblyman Gerald Zecker, Legislator
1999 Senator Richard Codey, Legislator
2000 Assemblyman LeRoy Jones, Legislator
Assemblyman Craig Stanley, Legislator
2001 No award given
2002 Appreciation Award for Outgoing Assemblymen:
John V. Kelly and Gerald Zecker
2003 Jim Quinn, West Orange, Civic Leader
2004 Assemblyman Donald Tucker, Legislator
2005 Jerry Eisenberg, Star Ledger Reporter
2006 Senator Ronald Rice, Legislator
2007 Assemblywoman Oadline Truitt, Legislator
2008 Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, Legislator
2009-2018 No award given
2019 Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, Legislator
In 1969, the Awards Committee was asked to select an educator of Essex County, who through a sincere interest, unselfish devotion and personal dedication, had made some notable or outstanding contributions toward the improvement of public education. This is known as the “Award for Distinguished Service to Educator”. The recipients have been:
1969 Malcolm U. McClinchie, Teacher
1970 Mrs. Florence “Pepper” Phraner, Retired Teacher (Cald-W. Cald.)
1971 Miss Gladys Geer, Retired Teacher
1972 Michael Rosamilia, Assistant Superintendent
1973 William Devonald, Retired Teacher
1974 Frank Stover, Bloomfield Superintendent (Posthumously)
1975 Ralph Mazzocchi, Retired Teacher (West Orange)
1976 John A. Thornton, NJEA UniServ Field Rep. (Reg. 21)
1977 Mrs. Mollye Spruel, Retired Teacher (Montclair)
1978 Mrs. Virginia M. Klumb, Retired Teacher (Cald-W. Cald)
1979 Walter J. O’Brien, NJEA Government Relations Director
1980 Miss Rita Hogan, Retired Teacher (Montclair)
1981 Miss Florence M. Mallinson, Retired Teacher (Newark)
1982 Morgan T. Loesch, East Orange Assistant Superintendent
1983 Ms. Barbara Harris, Past President of Newark Teachers’ Assoc.
1984 Ms. Mary Dell Morrison, So. Orange-Maplewood Teacher
1985 William C. Little, Past ECEA President, S.Or-Maplewood Teacher
1986 Katherine J. Weidemann, Past ECEA President, W. Essex Teacher
1987 Ruth Buehrer-Palmer, Past ECEA President, Newark Teacher
1988 Mrs. Eleanor Arthur, Belleville Teacher
1989 Bruce Gettle, North Caldwell Teacher
Robert Neff, Past ECEA President and Verona Teacher
1990 Dr. Elena Scambio, Essex County Superintendent of Schools
1991 Wendell Parr, Belleville Teacher
1992 Nicholas M. Galante, West Orange Teacher
1993 Ms. Lorena E. Tyson, Montclair Teacher
1994 Mrs. Kathy Hayser, Montclair Teacher
1995 Martin Lang, Belleville Teacher
1996 No award given
1997 Thomas Testa, Past ECEA President, Belleville Teacher
Joan Richardson, East Orange Teacher
1998 Thomas Cusick, Past ECEA President, Nutley Teacher
1999 Ms. Gloria Amatrudi, Montclair Teacher
2000 Ms. Dorothy Grisby, Newark School Nurse
2001 Brenda Hofler-Battle, Newark Teacher
2002 Joseph Macaluso, Montclair Teacher
2003 Roseann Tangorra, Nutley Teacher
2004 Sally Tallmadge, So. Orange-Maplewood teacher
2005 Jacqui Greadington, East Orange Teacher
2006 Juanita Benjamin, Past ECEA President, Livingston teacher
2007 Eileen Gilbert, Montclair Teacher
2008 Geraldine Cohens-Headley, Orange Teacher
2009-2018 No award given
2019 – Peter Blodnik, Belleville Teacher
An important objective and activity has been to render service to locals on salary matters. As stated in the introduction, the desire for the improved economic well-being of the county’s teachers was one of the reasons for founding the County Association. From 1947, when the first Salary Committee was organized, this service consisted of meetings for salary chairmen. Confidential information was exchanged in regard to salary requests and guides. In 1956 services were expanded. Local officers and salary committee members joined chairpersons where workshops, including dinner, heard authorities discuss effective techniques in areas of mutual concern. Some of these were:
∙ Ways in which to work with administrators, the Board and the public
∙ Needs for and ways of affecting placement of all on the salary guide
∙ Good guide patterns
∙ Importance of high goals
∙ Use of research materials
∙ Merit pay
∙ State minimum salary campaign
∙ Teacher-Board relations
NJEA and NEA gave generous and valuable assistance. Much credit and thanks must be recorded for Miss Gladys Geer for her untiring efforts.Throughout its history, the County Association has rendered invaluable help to local associations on salary information and know-how without becoming involved in local activities. The Association has been a pioneer in this field and many counties in the state have started similar clinics.
As a result of the dedication and loyalty of the members of our profession, we have enjoyed the reputation of having a good County Association. Committee-members and officers over the years have shown fine leadership. They have served not only the County and local associations, but have had responsible positions on state and national committees. Many, many hours of study and preparation have been donated by members, plus miles of night and weekend travel to meetings. Patience, understanding and hard work of truly-dedicated professional members have built this Essex County Education Association.
Note: A majority of the above information was written by Florence “Pepper” Phraner, ECEA Historian and retired teacher from Caldwell-West Caldwell in 1966. ECEA Executive Director, Sandy Linton, has updated this from 1975.
Mr. William Devonald
Mr. Harold Wells
Dr. Frank Stover
Miss Kathryne McAuliffe
Dr. Howard Fehr
Miss Ethel Sheldon
Mr. William Fenstermaker
Mrs. Evelyn Chester
Mr. Charles Leske
Miss Ethel Wille
Mr. Matthew Smith
Dr. Harry Jellinek, Newark
Mr. Bert Card
Mr. Ray Ast
Miss Florence Phraner, Caldwell-West Caldwell
Miss Carolyn Cassini
Mr. Robert Hilton
Mr. Stephen Stripp
Mr. Allan Davenport, Caldwell-West Caldwell
Mr. LeRue “Skip” Stellfox
Mr. Ralph Mazzocchi, West Orange
Miss Janet Campbell, Caldwell-West Caldwell
Ms. Ruth M. Buehrer (Palmer), Newark
Mr. Robert Neff, Verona
Ms. Katherine J. Weidemann, West Essex Regional
Mr. William C. Little, So. Orange-Maplewood
Mr. James Casalino, Irvington
Mr. John Griwert, Nutley
Mr. Don Nicolato, Montclair
Mr. Thomas Testa, Belleville
Mr. Thomas Cusick, Nutley
Mr. John Coulter, Caldwell-West Caldwell
Mrs. Juanita Benjamin, Livingston
Mr. Anthony Salese, Belleville
Mr. Anthony Rosamilia, Livingston