NJEA ACCESS celebrates end of school year

The NJEA ACCESS Model was created as a support system for schools designated as priority and focus schools under the No Child Left Behind Act. ACCESS stands for A Community Collective for Equitable and Sustainable Schools.

At the end of each school year, the NJEA ACCESS program celebrates schools that are graduating from the program and consultants who are retiring. The evening session, which was held at Lambertville Station in Lambertville on June 10, was a wonderful event that brought people together to share the end of another successful school year.  

Dr. Chrissi Miles, NJEA Professional Development and Instruction Issues Director and Amanda Adams, NJEA ACCESS Director, addressed the gathering to set the stage for the planned activities.

This year, the graduating school was Riletta T. Cream Elementary in Camden. Their ACCESS consultant is Linda Thomas who summarized the accomplishments of the school and the program over the past several years. The principal and all the school staff members who spoke thanked Thomas for her help and dedication to them during her tenure with them.

This year, a special honoree was included in the celebration. Carol Feinstein, NJEA Field Representative for many years, was honored and thanked for her contributions to – and support of – all NJEA ACCESS’s programs. Feinstein is nearing the end of her amazing multi-decade career at NJEA after a successful teaching career.

One consultant was also honored for his successful seven-year career. Brian McLaughlin began as a Priority Schools consultant on July 1, 2017, transferring over to ACCESS when the program changed focus a few years ago. McLaughlin was and is the only male consultant to be a part of the Priority/ACCESS family. He recalled in his brief remarks how that unique situation brought on some unusual activities during his time. One of the first, was the first meeting he walked into in July 2017 where the director at the time, Pam Garber, gave her typical greeting of “OK ladies, let’s get started!”

When McLaughlin began this second career, the focus of the Priority Schools program was very elementary and very basic reading and basic math focused.  McLaughlin, being a high school technology teacher for most of his career had no elementary background. But, with the help of colleagues, he survived. Starting the second year, Adams realized that his skills were not being used and created the position of statewide education technology consultant.  During the pandemic years, these skills became very useful in helping consultants and teachers use Zoom, Google Docs and Google Classroom and assisting with other tech issues.

McLaughlin spoke about the ACCESS family very fondly. He had a great career as an NJEA consultant and looks forward to new challenges heading forward. Brian serves as the GR chair for the Monmouth County Retired Educators Association.