Coronavirus continues to wreck havoc in schools across New Jersey, upsetting parents, students and teachers alike.
In Atlantic City, hundreds of school teachers called out sick this week and planned to stay out until working conditions improve, union leaders said.
Simmering COVID-19 tensions among teachers and administrators hit a boiling point Tuesday night, when a microphone captured an inflammatory remark by the school district's superintendent.
“Bring your asses back to work,” Superintendent Barry Caldwell is heard saying during the public comment portion of a virtual staff meeting, streamed online via Zoom.
Caldwell later apologized, saying he had stepped out of the Zoom meeting and was in his office on his cell phone, repeating a conversation on the phone.
That didn’t stop “get your asses back to work” from becoming a new battle cry for the Atlantic City Education Association, whose teachers continue working without a contract.
Meanwhile, the Zoom meeting maxed out at 300 attendees, temporarily blocking some school board members and prompting about 60 teachers to log out.
That's when the superintendent apparently was overheard during a side discussion in his adjoining office.
“It was inappropriate, it as unprofessional and it was conduct unbecoming,” Caldwell said. “I’d like to apologize to everyone who was on this meeting. This was not directed toward the staff or anyone in this room. It was something that should not have been said.”
Regardless, the Atlantic City Education Association’s Executive Committee said the language “shows his character and lack of care from our district leadership.”
The union issued a letter urging its members to take another sick day in protest of having students return to in-person learning with unsafe conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.
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