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Fort Lee Education Association Mourns Passing of Maria Pulice

Letter to the editor from FLEA president Gary Novosielski

To the Editor:

The Fort Lee school community mourns the passing of Maria Pulice, who passed away Friday.  Maria was a teacher in the Fort Lee schools for nearly 40 years, where her dedication and love for her students was always evident, even on the toughest of days.

I knew her best in her role as president of the Fort Lee Education Association, and I am honored to succeed her in that office.  She served proudly in union leadership for many years, the last seven years as president, until her retirement in 2010, and then for an additional year as immediate past president, where she continued to share her valuable knowledge and experience with those who carry on after 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.  Yet she looked out for all of them as if they were truly hers--her family.

There are many who viewed her as a high-profile president, and she was certainly vocal in her advocacy for her members.  She never kept her opinion on issues a secret, and her friends and opponents alike always knew where she stood.  And for her tenacity and her fairness and skill at negotiation and her leadership by example, every member now and for years to come will owe her a debt that is obvious.

But as her friend and adviser during her presidency, I knew of countless times when she extended herself privately for teachers and support professionals, anyone who needed help, professionally or personally.  She would go to bat for them, with no fanfare, and do whatever she could, which was usually substantial, and sometimes truly vital.  I would try to convince her that she should toot her own horn a little bit, and take credit for the hard work and personal sacrifices she made.  But she would have none of it.  She always felt she could do more with a low profile behind the scenes, even if it meant never being recognized or applauded.  And when she was unable to help she took it to heart as a personal failure, though in truth she accomplished more than any three other humans could have done.

We will, all of us--“her” members, her colleagues, and especially her students--be poorer for her passing, but so much richer for having known her. Her legacy lives.

Fort Lee Education Association

Gary Novosielski, President

Letters to the editor can be emailed to erik.wander@patch.com.

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