Friday, May 21, 2010

How Do You Like That Jazz?

Photo: Big Joe Henry in New Orleans post Katrina

By Grace Cangemi

When it comes to putting a political agenda ahead of the well-being of our children, some NJEA members here in Monmouth County are leading by their shameful example. The victims this time are the children participating in the annual Basie Awards at the Count Basie Theatre.

The Basie Awards, acknowledging the achievement of local children in the performing arts, has been attacked by a Howell music teacher and her NJEA friends. This year's volunteer host, NJ 101.5 radio personality Big Joe Henry, has stepped down in the wake of a made up controversy masterminded by Regina McAllen and a few bullies from the NJEA. While Big Joe has never offered any comment about the NJEA, school boards or budgets, these folks have decided that fighting the presence of someone whose fellow employees have at times been critical of the NJEA is more important than supporting the kids they are paid to teach.

As a proponent of full disclosure, I must start off by saying that I have never worked with Regina McAllen and the NJEA to create a charity that returns over 97% of its fundraising to the New Jersey charities it supports. I have never spent the day before Christmas with Ms McAllen driving a rented UHaul full of toys to needy families in the heart of one of our poorest cities. I must say that I have never spent an evening with Ms. McAllen or the NJEA in 100 degree heat on the beach giving children a chance to sing their hearts out in a talent show that reaches thousands of people. I have never seen Regina McAllen and her union buddies spend hours in a hot, sweaty Santa suit bringing Christmas gifts to families that lost everything they had in Hurricane Katrina. Although it appears that Regina McAllen is a music teacher, I have not worked with her or the NJEA to found a scholarship to help a kid from New Jersey attend the Berklee College of Music, one of the most prestigious music schools in the country. I have seen Big Joe do all of that and more.

While Ms. McAllen and her NJEA pals were busy lobbying and collecting their paychecks, I watched Big Joe Henry and his radio station, NJ 101.5, stand beside us to help thousands of New Jersey kids as well as children all around the country.

Let me be clear. I admire the dedication and passion of many teachers. I stand in awe of what some of them have accomplished with their students (this is my little shout out to the Red Bank Middle School Band, their teachers, and all the other groups like them).

Politics has no place in academic achievement and recognition. The NJEA and Ms. McAllen have set an appalling example. In her published letters to the Count Basie Theatre, she has talked about the possibility of losing her job, but she never once mentioned her students. Good to know where the NJEA’s priorities stand.

Again, in the effort of full disclosure, I am a founding board member of the Rock and Roll Music Fund, as is Big Joe Henry. I am an avowed Republican – the only one on our board. Big Joe has never, to my knowledge (even though I goad him endlessly) taken a political position. Our membership tends to split firmly at 50% to each side of the aisle. And when it comes to helping kids, NOBODY CARES ABOUT POLITICAL AFFILIATION.

EXCEPT THE NJEA. Apparently, as Ms. McAllen would have you believe, simply knowing someone who disagrees with the NJEA makes you ineligible to help kids.

Forget that you do it for free.

Forget your exemplary record of service to your community.

Forget the hundreds of thousands of dollars you have helped raise.

Forget your hands on dedication to needy families.

Forget your ongoing support of police and firefighters.

You don’t count because you don’t pay dues to the NJEA.

What a disgrace.

The Basie Awards are a wonderful acknowledgement of the talented children in our area. Big Joe could have had a well-deserved night off instead of volunteering to host an event that honored these special kids. Instead, as I have seen him do time and time again, he offered his support.

And Regina McAllen and the NJEA say he’s not good enough. He works for NJ101.5 and some of their personalities (not Big Joe), publicly disagree with their union.

And that’s reason enough to toss the kids aside and take what should be a lovely and memorable event and turn it into a political hatchet job. Their bullying, “me first” tactics have once again put our kids last.

The children being awarded Basie Awards deserve a host as qualified, caring, and distinguished as Big Joe Henry.

The children who are seeking a future in music, theatre, and the performing arts deserve a champion as passionate as Big Joe Henry.

Big Joe Henry has once again put children first by stepping down and trying to remove the controversy. He did it to preserve the integrity of an event that should focus on kids. I know Big Joe well enough to know that he would rather we leave this go and focus on the kids. And when the Basies are awarded, I hope that we will. But in the interim, it is vital that we step back and take a hard look at the NJEA and some of its members and realize who really puts our kids first.


You go, girl said...

Gracie, ya should've run for mayor: this could be the year.. still can write-in: give it a shot, what the hell??-the Peoples' Republic of RB, as you well know, is hankering for change, the R's usually just can't fight ol' Ed's goons' $40-50 grand to win a 2 sq. mile town gov't..but, all bets are off so far, for 2010!..

Anonymous said...

NJEA "dealers" do not belong near children. Isn't their exploitation of children, abusive? even more when it comes to monetary gain like the way NJEA benefits, from exploiting.

They also mentally abuse the children with their rhetoric; when the parents teach their children goals,values, and morals, they send them to school and the NJEA demands them to be taught otherwise, teaching them NJEA selfish goals and lies. How do they get away with this? Isn't there an attorney out there that can stop this damaging behavior, it's against the law. Really now, think about it, it's a form of abuse. Am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

Regina McAllen is the work of the devil. That damn Canadian is corrupting what should be special for the children and worrying about herself. I am actually looking forward to her losing her job and running back to her homeland, never to be heard from again. Her and her precious NJEA are so corrupt and dishonest that they need a reality check before someone runs her out of town.

Anonymous said...

she cant run for mayor cause shes a sell out whos BFF with pasquale 'make sure im in the picture' menna

Anonymous said...


you are a jackass. Grace never sold out to anyone. If she thinks Menna is doing a good job she will say it. She is a conservative republican with an honest view point. She will reach across party lines if she thinks she should. You can't buy her and you can't discredit her for saying what she believes in. We need more people like her.

Maureen Dunbar said...

I am infuriated that a local music teacher can convince other NJEA members to threaten a boycott of the Basie Awards if Big Joe Henry is the host.
I am honored to call Big Joe a friend and believe he is one of the most selfless, dedicated and caring talents to come along in NJ in a long time. I have worked on several charitable functions with him over the years and find his dedication to those in need to be unsurpassed. He is a saint and does not deserve this aggravation.

A few misguided teachers think that because Big Joe is employed by a media outlet which does not bow to their bullying tactics that they will cause trouble/boycott an event for "the Children" they profess to nurture.
How ridiculous!

I did see that the spokesman for the NJEA did not endorse this boycott issue.

Guess he took the Marketing 101 course, and realizes that this insult to Big Joe is awakening the Sleeping Giant---NJ's Tax Paying majority who are fed up with paying 100% of NJEA members Pension payments, Health Care premiums, and Social Security paycheck deductions.

Big Joe has a million fans listening every weekend---and NJEA, you do not.

Enough already---let's reinstate Big Joe and tell this Teacher/s to go to Time Out. Shame on them.

Politics and strange bedfellows said...

5:27, oh, come on: with that logic, our (likely) new county vice chair/"engineer-in-charge-of everything" is a partner in the (Dem) mayor's, while lots of folks think Pat's a nice enough guy, (and, God knows, a relief from loudmouth Eddie), someone like Grace can still run against Pat in a year of changeovers, to a more sane and financially-realistic way of running things..teamed up with the two nice young conservative guys, Lombardi and Mizzi, ol' Red Bank'd be back on track, with 3 of 7, in just 1 election!!

Anonymous said...

Please let's get back to the point! I personally know of dozens of things that Big Joe has done for kids which Grace did not enumerate. Joe does these things unselfishly and at great personal sacrifice -and he does them for FREE! Joe gives and gives, and never counts the cost.

Aside from this disaffected "teacher", the real villain here is the cowardly management of the Count Basie. It seems like they will fold to any contrived accusation coming from the like of a single foolish "teacher" who is more concerned with her paycheck than she is about the childeren she "teashes".

In reality, McAllen's real target is the Governor and his program to restore fiscal stability to NJ. The spoiled teachers and their union, have benefitted for so long from the guilt they place on everyone that they can't believe that they will have to live in the same world we all do. For many years they have tried to make us feel guilty if we voted against anything they wanted. They said it was "for the kids" when it was always for themselves and the NJEA. Now, when it is truly "for the kids" they want to discredit the person who has arguably given the most "to the kids" - ALL kids! And his crime is NOT what he has said or done but the fact that he works for a radio station which has several employees who favor the Governor.

There is more than enough shame in this affair to go around. McAllen is certainly entitled to her opinion, stupid as it may be, and the Count Basie management is entitled to bend over and grab their ankles in response. Both parties have embarrased and disgracwed them selves.

I would bet anyone anything that this will not dissuade Big Joe from continuing his great work for his "New Jersey kids". Go Big Joe. We appreciate what you do and respect you for it.

there are several points here! said...

what's to be debated?..NJEA:largest union in NJ..pandered to by decades of spineless politicians.. Gov.: trying to keep state from becoming California 2..NJEA: resorting to the usual tactics in fear of losing their dominance/ what else is new?..Gov.: trying to force some understanding of the greater good, to the many pockets of special interests, (read; votes), that have been isolated and pitted against one another, in every district, for the sake of elective incumbency,(read: it's all about ME syndrome), certainly not the kids OR the taxpayers..Grace: a bright lady who wrote this piece to inspire debate, and who ought to think about stepping up and trying again, to help a town that thinks it's back in the happy economic times of the 90's, and is unrelentenly killing it's residents with increased taxes, rates, fees, and every other usual Dem quick-fix and trick! and, yes, I also love Big Joe, a great example of caring and humor we sorely need in this annoying, expensive, crowded, "me-first" state!!

Anonymous said...

McAllen works for the FRHSD. This is the district that pissed away over 1/2 million on legal fees defending the Administrators who bought fake degrees and had lawyers subpeona a website for bloggers names, this is the school district who took money earmarked for special ed kids to pay the lawyers for this crap. This is the school district that wasted tax $ leasing a luxury SUV for the crooked supt. at a monthly cost higher than my monthly mortgage pymt!!! This is the school district that had 4 teachers arrested in the past two years for things like a principal driving drunk with a minor in the car, a teacher selling grades for cash, etc...

Ms McALLEN, WAKE UP! - THERE WAS NO WAY THE BUDGET WAS EVER GOING TO PASS IN YOUR DISTRICT - no matter what was said on 101.5 - you would be facing the same cuts!!! There is nothing 101.5 said or could have said to change your fate. Wasser sealed that deal for you and everyone in the district. Why don't you attack him? yeah....that is what I thought....Not one teacher had the guts to stand up and admonish the superintendent and others who duped the district. Not one teacher spoke out when fake degrees were being purchased with tax dollars. Please do not try to act like you have a moral compass. Your leadership make a mockery of education and you say nothing. If you ever cared about the students, you would have spoken out about Wasser and would have left the kids alone. You picked the wrong fight!

You know what they say about people in glass houses.....

Shame on you for taking this budget fight to the kids.
Shame Shame Shame

Anonymous said...

This teacher wrote a PRIVATE letter that was made public - indication she could not participate in this program. She is not the NJEA. She did not promote a boycott. She did not initiate a protest. If you actually READ her letter, she did none of the things she is being accused of.
You don't deserve her!
She is still preparing the her students and program for the awards, so that they CAN participate and enjoy their acconplishments.

Anonymous said...

Dear previous poster, in the words of Ms. McAllen: "that is hardly a convincing statement." She sent more than one letter, just so you know, and her allusion to the supposed growing boycott of the station was crystal clear. She also made her position known: her participation would be compromised if Big Joe was included. She's taken the displeasure towards the actions of the Governor, the voters, the school administrations and the station's commentators out on one generous and gracious man. She is not only factually inaccurate throughout her published letter, she is hypocritical. She admonishes the station by way of a children's awards show function while simultaneously complaining of the misdirected impact of budget cuts for arts programs in schools. Inadvertently, she has proven herself the shining example of what is wrong with this very dialogue: hypocrisy, misdirected blame and lack of accountability. She should take her issues up with the Howell school administration, the program directors of 101.5fm and the voters in her district. She shouldn't, however, punish her students by sullying their awards show.

Anonymous said...

Stop putting words in the students mouths. I am a student and Mrs. McAllen is an amazing teacher and all of us stand behind her. We don't do theatre for awards, we do it because we love it.

Anonymous said...

I am upset that Regina’s letter has caused Big Joe Henry to step down from hosting the Basie Awards, especially since he strays away from stating anything related to politics. However, Regina does have a very good point. Why should NJ 101.5 ask one of their hosts to represent arts education when they also asked the public to vote against it? It doesn’t make sense. Also, her letter is not lashing out at Big Joe Henry- but rather the station itself. Furthermore, it is a professional and cordial statement.

Put yourself in Regina’s shoes before jumping ahead and making her seem like the bad guy here. I have known Regina since age eleven. She is one of the most talented and hardworking teachers I have ever had. If she were only out for money, she would not care about her job as much as she does. She goes above and beyond for each and every student. I admire her strict but benevolent demeanor, and have always stopped at nothing to treat her with the utmost respect that she deserves. I would have never had success as a performing artist and musician without her coaching and expertise. Regina is a force to be reckoned with- she has transformed the Performing Arts Department at Howell High School and continues to inspire young people every day- all while exquisitely raising two young children (one with autism, might I add).

I also know that Big Joe Henry is a caring and influential individual. That became obvious to me the first time I met him. He may even be embarrassed to have his name linked with this chaotic situation. However, the station itself needs to remember that people have feelings. And as Mrs. McAllen’s oldest student, please appreciate my candor when I say that she is not out for herself.

I have been infuriated with NJ 101.5 for quite some time now, and this is definitely the straw that broke the camel’s back. NJ 101.5 used to be very special to me. In fact, I grew up listening to the station each morning on my way to preschool with my late father, who was also a big fan. In high school, I had a wonderful time performing in the annual beach talent show hosted by Big Joe Henry himself.

I was a fan of the station until I became a state titleholder who became a victim of a serious blackmail crime. When I refused to be interviewed by 101.5, they became disgruntled and made fun of me. I find it funny how they did this AFTER I refused to be interviewed by them. Furthermore, they went ahead and interviewed the number one suspect linked to my blackmail crime instead. Hmm…

NJ 101.5, please keep in mind that Mrs. McAllen wrote you a private letter. She did not ask for a boycott or protest against your radio station. She did not ask to be ridiculed and subjected to slander. Some of these comments on here are really mean- Regina is the work of the devil? You people don’t even know her! She is the one of the most heartfelt individuals I have ever met. If you met her without knowing about this situation, I know you would agree with me. What you hear on the radio station (that has a marketing and advertising team) is not always true. So don’t believe everything you hear without meeting someone first. Also, shoving all of Big Joe Henry’s acts of kindness in our faces has nothing to do with this situation…

Jessica said...

Regina is one of the most amazing and heloful people i know. She will stand and fight for anything she believes in and i support her 100% of the way! She has given so much to me and was an amazing teacher and an even better person!

Anonymous said...

Regina mcAllen is a wonderful lady and i think that all you people saying horrible things about her need to just cut it out. It was a private matter and you are blowing it all out of proportion and need to stop. Stop acting like children by using profanity because it freaking ridulous. She has done nothing to hurt her students since i am one of them so don't disrespect my teacher otherwise i'll be really pissed off at you. So you all need to leave her alone because your acting retarded and don't threaten her anymore because she's got 2 kids to worry about.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. McAllen is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever encountered. Her letter was not meant to start anything, it was simply to express her views. There's something called freedom of speech, and if you don't like what she has to say, then don't listen. There is no need for slander. And if you're going to write an article bashing her, at least get your facts right. She is part of FRHSD, and she does in fact do a lot for her students. In case you didn't know, she gives out scholarships every year for music schools. Just because you haven't seen at the charity events you participate in doesn't mean she doesn't do any charity work at all.