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NJ gov to teachers: Convention canceled, so teach

By: ANGELA DELLI SANTI | Associated Press

Published: November 02, 2012 Updated: November 02, 2012 - 12:34 AM

MOONACHIE, N.J. --

MOONACHIE, N.J. (AP) Gov. Chris Christie strongly urged teachers on Thursday to voluntarily be back in the classroom next week on their canceled convention days and suggested he could force them back to school even though they are entitled to take the time off.

Students have missed too much class time already in the wake of widespread power outages and devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, Christie said at a storm-related news conference in Moonachie. The governor said he could order teachers to be in the classroom Nov. 8 and 9 but prefers not to invoke emergency powers.

"I would hope they would do it voluntarily, and I'm confident they will, but I would not hesitate to do what needed to be done to help our children get the education they need," Christie said.

The New Jersey Education Association had announced earlier Thursday it was canceling its annual convention for the first time in 158 years because of Sandy, which struck on Monday night. The convention, which was to be held next week in storm-ravaged Atlantic City, is too large to be rescheduled this year, the union said.

Union spokesman Steve Wollmer said some districts have decided not to hold classes Nov. 8 and 9 because significant numbers of parents and children already made plans to be away.

"We are urging districts to develop a solution that works for everybody," Wollmer said.

The decision to cancel the convention was made because of the statewide impact of the unprecedented storm, union President Barbara Keshishian said Thursday. It would be ill-advised for the tens of thousands of people who typically attend to drive to Atlantic City or use public transportation while utility crews are trying to restore power and basic services to residents, including NJEA members, she said.

Keshishian promised the convention would be back in Atlantic City next year, "bigger and stronger than ever."

The union has long ignored calls from parents who want the convention moved to summer, when teachers and kids are off because schools are already closed.

Some districts resumed classes on Thursday, but many schools remain closed because of the storm. The school year could stretch into summer to make up for lost time if officials are forced to close because of winter weather.

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"I would hope they would do it voluntarily, and I'm confident they will, but I would not hesitate to do what needed to be done to help our children get the education they need," Christie said.

I don't think the governor had to go there - many (if not most) of Kearny's teachers are looking forward to going to work next week.

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