Led by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31), more than 20 people lined up to speak on the unexpected vote by the Jersey City Board of Education that opposed renaming Public School No. 34 after President Barack Obama that occurred this past Tuesday, August 23.
Members of the attending public were taken by surprise when the board members voted on this measure at the Jersey Board of Education Caucus meeting on Tuesday August 23, instead of the regular meeting last night.
Trustees Lorenzo Richardson, Joel Torres, who did abstained from voting on the measure, and Gerald Lyons all stated that they were not aware of the meeting.
“No one ever told us about this board meeting. No one ever told us about this petition, this meeting to have a school after Barack Obama, who I am a huge supporter of,” stated Lyons.
Lyons, who proposed the school to be named after fellow board trustee Marilyn Roman, reminded everyone about the policy and procedure of renaming a school.
“Sec 2 B – the person may be living or deceased. It is encouraged that the person should have been a former Jersey City public school educator, or administrator or employee.”
“A local resident or a local civic leader of great promised whose educational contributions to Jersey City public schools has had significant beneficial effects on the public school system and its students.”
Lyons explained that Roman is the only female mayor of Jersey City, serving 5 months in 1992, and noted that she was also a city council president and council member.
Trustee Ellen Simon, who voted for the measure, suggested that the board reinstate the resolution so that the members of the public, and specifically teachers and students of P.S. 34, could speak on why they want the school named after the current President of the United States.
According to the Jersey City BOE Counsel Ramon Rivera, the motion to reinstate the resolution must be made by a member whose vote prevailed on Tuesday.
The resolution on renaming the school after Obama received a vote of 3-4(1), with Trustees Lyons, Richardson, Roman and Vice President John Reichart voting against the measure. Trustee Joel Torres abstained and Board President Vidya Gangadin was absent.
Following up with Simon’s suggestion, Richardson challenged the “democracy” of such an action since three other names are still waiting to be considered.
In addition to Marilyn Roman, other suggested names are the “Jersey City Veterans School” and the “Flip Wilson School,” after the famous the 1970’s variety show host.
McKnight, however, will be resubmitting Obama’s name and will stand with “children, with the staff, with the parents” who she says have worked together to collect over 1,000 signatures.
“Per the policy, I have 60 days to resubmit. So for the record, I will be resubmitting, I already to spoke to the principal [of PS 34] and we will be resubmitting, so that we can once again follow the policy from soup to nuts.”