Hundreds rallying to save beloved East Brunswick educator’s job

Hundreds rallying to save beloved East Brunswick educator’s job

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. (PIX11) — Students, parents, and faculty members are showing support for East Brunswick Assistant Superintendent of Student Activities and Services Dr. Louis Figueroa, whose position is being eliminated due to budget cuts.

The East Brunswick School District is eliminating 51 employees as part of the cuts, which administrators blame on state aid reductions.

Dominic Sclafani, a 2021 East Brunswick High School graduate, created a petition for Dr. Figueroa. As of Wednesday evening, it had more than 960 signatures.

Sclafani said Figueroa is an integral part of the school community, overseeing counseling and mental health services.

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“The district’s losing its heart and soul, basically,” said Sclafani. “He’s the glue that holds this community together…I think he was the only administrator I’ve ever seen walk around a school, talk to the students and teachers, really be personable.”

Special Education teacher Nicolas Cabrera was another East Brunswick employee whose position was eliminated because of budget cuts.

Cabrera said he recently left a tenured teaching position in another district for the chance to teach in East Brunswick, where he lives and raises his family.

“I was here for three weeks,” said Cabrera. “Physically in the building for three weeks.”

The East Brunswick School District said the cuts are due to a loss of $1.3 million in state aid and increasing costs outside of its control, such as contractual salary raises and health benefits.

“The last thing anyone ever wanted to do was impact staff,” said Bernardo Giuliana, East Brunswick’s Assistant Superintendent of Business & Operations, during the April 25 Board of Education meeting.

“If you don’t think that our hearts are breaking for what is going on, I assure you they are,” said Board of Education President Laurie Lachs at the same meeting.

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Not everyone is expressing sympathy for the board. In March, Jeffrey Winston, an East Brunswick father, resigned from the Board of Education during his second term. Winston says board members budgeted for too much state aid, landing them in their current financial situation.

“It’s outright incompetence and mismanagement, unnecessary,” said Winston.

Winston believes cutting Figueroa’s position is a terrible mistake.

“Dr. Figueroa was exemplary when it came to having empathy for the students, the staff, the people,” said Winston. “Quite frankly, it’s a loss for East Brunswick totally to lose him. And the fact that he’s available for other districts when he lives and works here is just really a travesty. It was a terrible, terrible choice.”

Winston recently started a Facebook group for his grassroots movement to replace current board members. It has nearly 500 members.

“Our goal is to replace the board, change the culture, create change,” said Winston. “We want the board replaced. There are four open seats this year. We are looking to identify four viable candidates.”

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