After 30 years, Jersey City Public Schools take back local control from the state

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The New Jersey Department of Education took over control of Jersey City Public Schools on October 4, 1989 and the local district finally reclaimed ownership of their schools during a special meeting at Snyder High School last night.

After the signing, Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marcia Lyles talked about some of the steps and overriding elements the district will now be taking when full control returns officially on October 25.

“There are certain core fundamental elements to [the transition] of ethics training for the board and senior staff, professional development for the board and senior staff regarding governance best practices and strategic planning expectations,” Lyles said.

She added that the state DOE will be helping the district with the transition.

“Support and technical assistance from the state will be provided through the appointment of a highly skilled professional as well as the Comprehensive Accountability Office,” although the office, she said, isn’t up and running yet.

She warned however that there are consequences, such as the state taking back control, if the district doesn’t doesn’t do its part, but she expressed confidence that the district will excel at maintaining local control.

“But I am not going to discuss that because we are going to live up to our part, and we are going to go forward. I’d like to thank the thousands of people who over the last 30 years worked towards this; to make this special know that the journey is not finished, we’ve only just begun,” said Lyles.

During a break in the Board of Education meeting, we interviewed BOE President Sudhan Thomas about the steps taken by the district that finally convinced the state department of education to give back local control.

“Obviously, there was a metric assessment over governance, personnel, finance, instruction and curriculum, which the state has measured our progress over the last 11 years since the first step towards return of local control started, and obviously the state is satisfied that we’ve met those metrics,” Thomas said.

What must the board do to make sure that the state doesn’t retake control?

“We gotta make sure that we stay in our lanes, we have to make sure that the successes, gains and achievements of the last 11 years [that] we stick to the formula and stick to the script,” said Thomas.

“Importantly, we have to build on that because now we are truly self-reliant, we had an entity overseeing us but now we’re operating self-reliantly which is a major step. Just like every other public body we are governed by our ethics and code of conduct, and we want to make sure that our first priority is that the thorough and efficient education of our children is ultimately served.”

The full discussion streamed live on our Facebook page and can be viewed below: