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An apology for 'Old coots' comment

The president of the Mount Laurel (N.J.) Education Association has learned a lesson the hard way: If you can't say something nice, then it's probably best not to say anything at all.

In the February issue of the teachers' union newsletter, Chuck Fest used the term "old coots" in referring to the senior residents of the Burlington County community who could oppose a $28 million school bond. He since has issued a public apology.

The newsletter, published for the district's teachers, somehow found its way to the bulletin board of a seniors' community clubhouse.

In it, Mr. Fest warned that unless every parent in the Mount Laurel school district votes yes on the referendum, "we are going to get nailed by the senior citizen vote."

The newsletter also suggested handing the "coots" in question a roll of quarters and shipping them off to Atlantic City, famous for its casinos, on March 25, the day of the vote for the referendum.

The 54-year-old teacher formally apologized for his remarks at a school board meeting last month.

"I used some terms that I shouldn't have. I was wrong; I made a mistake," Mr. Fest said last week in an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper.

Ed Richardson of the New Jersey Education Association said last week that the state teachers' union had no comment on the actions of the local group's president because Mr. Fest immediately retracted his statement.

But despite the union leader's speedy apologies, his remarks just don't sit well with the town's older community members.

"It insulted a lot of us," Al Kaplan told The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Although he doesn't plan to vote for the bond, Mr. Kaplan said he resents the assumption that all senior citizens will oppose it.

Some of his friends, he said, originally planned to vote yes, but won't now because of Mr. Fest's remarks.

Approval of the bond would mean the construction of a new school and the addition of classrooms at three schools, among other improvements in the 4,030-student Mount Laurel district.


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