District Seeks Donations to Memorialize Educator, Union Leader
Maria Pulice, who died in September 2011, taught in the Fort Lee district for 41 years and led the Fort Lee Education Association for seven.
A committee at Fort Lee School No. 1 is seeking donations to build a permanent memorial at the school in honor of a longtime teacher and former president of the Fort Lee Education Association (FLEA) who died last year.
Maria Pulice, who taught in the district for 41 years, died on September 30, 2011 at the age of 64, slightly more than a year after she retired.
“Recently, we lost a dear member of our Fort Lee family,” said Interim Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle Monday at the Fort Lee Board of Education meeting. “I certainly didn’t get as much time with Mrs. Pulice as I would like to have, but in the short time that I got to know her, we really did develop a terrific relationship, and I regret that I didn’t get to know her longer.”
Engravalle said two of Pulice’s “closest colleagues,” Diane Henry and Rose Cuccaro at School No. 1, are taking the lead on the project, heading up a committee to raise funds for some type of memorial, the final form of which has not yet been decided.
“They’re looking for donations of approximately $10, but certainly, you can donate more if you’re interested,” Engravalle said. “We think it’s a very important thing to recognize her service to the district, to FLEA, to Fort Lee and to education.”
Henry said Pulice began her career at School No. 1 as a fourth grade teacher, eventually going on to teach fifth and sixth grades.
“School No. 1 was Maria’s home school,” Henry said. “Our goal would be to memorialize her somewhere on School No. 1 property with a type of outdoor reading room or benches and a tree—someplace to be comfortable because Maria, in her latter years, was the reading teacher here in School 1.”
Henry added, “She made a difference in so many people’s lives.”
Current FLEA president Gary Novosielski wrote in a letter to the editor shortly after Pulice’s death that he was “honored to succeed her.”
“Maria was always a fierce and fearless advocate for the rights of her members, whom she made it a point never to refer to as ‘hers,’ believing that the leaders of the union should view themselves as belonging to the members, not the reverse,” Novosielski said. “Yet she looked out for all of them as if they were truly hers—her family.”
Also in a letter to the editor, Fort Lee Board of Education president Arthur Levine called negotiating with Pulice “a unique experience.”
“Fighting hard for her fellow teachers, she could be at times described as cantankerous,” Levine said. “It was never personal, as a day or so after our negotiation sessions, I would chat with her and gain some insight into someone who was a generous and caring human being.”
Henry said the fundraising committee hopes to be able to dedicate the memorial for Pulice, who served as FLEA president for the last seven years of her career, in September, as close to the anniversary of her death as possible.
School No. 1
c/o Maria Pulice Memorial Fund
250 Hoym Street
Fort Lee, NJ 07024
Checks should be made payable to “School One Teachers’ Fund.”