PERTH AMBOY — Donna Chiera, who is president of both the statewide American Federation of Teachers affiliate and the Perth Amboy Federation, said the union representing district teachers and other Board of Education staff members has endorsed Billy Delgado’s team for mayor and council, as well as the three incumbent Board of Education incumbents, and Anton Massopust, who is seeking a two-year unexpired term on the school board.
Chiera said the motion to endorse Delgado — as well as Samuel Lebrault, Obdulia Gonzalez and Kenneth Puccio — was supported by 90 percent of the union’s membership.
“Billy Delgado is the overwhelming choice of the membership,” said Chiera, a 30-plus year elementary special education teacher. “Billy has a deep commitment to education and the children of Perth Amboy and wants to put the needs of our children first. He opposes efforts by the Christie Administration to privatize education and open it up to corporate greed.”
The endorsement was at least partially stimulated by the political alliance of Republican Gov. Chris Christie, Mayor Wilda Diaz and Superintendent Janine Walker Caffrey, who support neoconservative policies that could destroy public schools, such as tuition vouchers, privatization and union-busting legislation to weaken tenure protections, which would allow administrators to threaten teachers’ jobs for political reasons.
“I feel a lot of this has become political, and she clearly has some political views the same as the (Christie) administration,” Chiera said of Caffrey, who has been publicly criticizing teachers in the district.
“Billy respects teachers and education workers, understanding that we have the best interests of the children at heart and the experience to know what really works,” Chiera added.
Delgado expressed gratitude for the endorsement. “The Christie Administration, strongly supported by Mayor Wilda Diaz, has for too long depicted teachers as villains. The teachers of Perth Amboy are part of the solution not part of the problem. They need to be recognized for the quiet heroes that they are. My administration will work to strengthen the public schools not look for reasons to tear them down.”
“This is the most important endorsement of the campaign up to this point. It indicates a growing momentum for my candidacy,” Delgado added. “I sense the excitement as I go door-to-door on a daily basis. It is the excitement brought about by the coming change in city leadership.”
Although the endorsement is unusual, local leaders say it is appropriate for teachers and other community leaders who care about children to speak out about this election.
“Billy Delgado laid out a blueprint for how to put people back to work and strengthen the middle-class,” said Councilman Fernando Gonzalez, who was elected with Diaz four years ago, but now says she does not deserve a second term.
“As mayor, Delgado will continue working with President Obama to pass the American Jobs Act and put more teachers, cops, and firefighters on the job in New Jersey,” Gonzalez said.
Former Councilman Dave Szilagyi has also endorsed Billy Delgado, Jose Santos and Ana Mascenik.
“It would be difficult to find someone who feels that things are better now, than they were four years ago or that they are even moving in the right direction,” said Szilagyi. “It is clear that the time has come for a change.”