Paterson teachers’ union inspections of school buildings uncover broken ventilation systems, old filters, says union chief
After inspecting the ventilation systems in several school buildings, the teachers’ union released a series of videos claiming to show broken and improperly installed heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and old air filters.
“Our videos, photos and testimonials from parents tell the truth about the neglect. We have discovered broken HVACs, filters with data from 2018 and HVAC units installed incorrectly, ”said John McEntee, Jr, president of the Paterson Education Association, the teachers’ union. “We also discovered what appears to have been manipulated Indoor Air Quality Log records and instances where filthy air filters were reused with new dates marked with a Sharpie marker.”
School officials initially barred the union from conducting inspections of ventilation systems and air filters on their previous walkthroughs ahead of a proposed reopening of school buildings on June 1 for all teachers and June 8 for special education and bilingual students. They only allowed the union to inspect the air systems after the teachers received a favorable decision from a national labor committee.
Chief Superintendent Eileen Shafer explained the problems discovered by the union at Frank Napier Academy and John F. Kennedy High School in a memorandum to the Board of Education dated March 25.
“Due to the condition of the filters at the Dr. Napier Academy, they were removed and units shut down in the week of April 19, 2021,” her memo read. She states that the Merv 8 filters were installed on May 24.
Her memo seems to undermine what she has said publicly. She publicly declared in March that schools would be safe and ready to reopen on May 3.
Her memo also states that a “Univent” shown in a video is installed through the design with a hole. Vents are intended to recirculate air in the room while dilating with outside air, the memo said. She says the device has been tested and is working properly.
Another video claimed to show a vent without a filter in the teachers’ room on the third floor of John F. Kennedy High School. The union representative made a mistake and did not correctly locate the area of the filter, the memo said. A custodian inspected the univent, after watching the video, and “positively identified the filter,” the memo said.
Shafer condemned the teachers’ union in a statement Friday for presenting a “pinprick perspective of construction conditions” by publishing its inspection videos.
“The NJ Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) has decided that Paterson Public Schools will open Tuesday and it will. The point about the district that PEA delegates could inspect air fans was that they told us what problems they may have found and where they are located. We have not received such communications from the PEA leadership. Instead, they used last week’s walkthroughs to create a few videos that pinpoint construction conditions and launched a social media campaign to scare both their members and their parents, ”said Shafer. “It is a shame that the PEA is working to unnecessarily raise people’s fears rather than working with the district to bring teachers and students together safely in classrooms where learning is best. The PEA does not tell parents the whole truth. “
Shafer noted that the school district spent $ 19.6 million to install “several layers of protection” for the safe reopening of school buildings.
Paterson schools have been closed since March 2020.
Union officials have pointed out that the district director, Neil Mapp, was on vacation during a crucial period before the reopening, suggesting that the district is not taking the safety of students and teachers in buildings seriously.
I’m not sure how Chief Shafer recovers from these photos and videos. The information discovered is extremely damaging to the Superintendent, her reopening plan, and endangers the lives of many. Shafer has lost all remaining credibility and in my opinion should resign immediately, ”said McEntee.
McEntee said the union might even consider passing a vote of no confidence against Shafer in June. Shafer’s predecessor, Donnie Evans, was voted suspicious by the union a year before the state decided not to renew his contract.
Shafer’s contract with the district expires in 2022.
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