In a historic night, the Jersey City Board of Education (BOE) renamed of Public School No. 34 after President Barack Obama, which prompted members of the community to remind trustees of their responsibility to promote the schools mission to “ envision excellence equity everywhere.”
The meeting began with Jersey City BOE Counsel Ramon Rivera reading the requirements set forth by the board per state law, specifically Section E of the Code of ethics.
This requires that board members treat each other with “respect, due to their office, demonstrating courtesy, decorum and fair play at all public meetings and in all public statements.”
In the communications portion of the agenda, Jersey City BOE President Vidya Gangadin read a letter written by Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31), Councilwoman-at-Large Joyce Watterman and Ward F Councilwoman Diane Coleman stating that boarding members should adhere to its mission, “That Jersey City Public Schools equitably educates ALL students to become responsible fulfilled and successful global citizens.”
Despite the victorious 7-0-1 vote with Trustee Lorenzo Richardson abstaining and Vice President John Reichart absent, the community had much more to address, mainly the constant bickering amongst the board in public.
First, McKnight told Richardson that she was “very disappointed” in him for abstaining because it is a “no to the children” who wanted the school named after our current president.
The Assemblywoman also explained that the letter was essential because the board seemed to be constantly fighting in front of their constituents.
‘We fight in our caucus down in Trenton, but people don’t know that we fight because we have mutual respect for each other. And when we are out in public, we do what’s right for the people and would love for everyone on this board to just think about the children and all of your constituents,” she explained.
Matthew Shapiro, a candidate for Jersey City BOE, echoed McKnight’s sentiment: “The only way to end the neglect of our city is to move towards success together,” he said.
Jordan Shaw, a senior at Dickinson High School, shared a different concern regarding the board’s behavior.
He aimed at Jersey City BOE Trustee Marilyn Roman’s remarks on the low 7th and 8th grade PARCC scores for English and Math.
“Being an educator and board of education member, how can you say that the children won’t be able to take accelerated classes? Don’t you know the first rule as an educator, is never, and I mean never, discourage children? I am honestly very disappointed,” expressed Shaw.
Yet another criticism on the board’s recently behavior was from Pamela Johnson, the executive director of the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement.
She challenged the board on what they would do based on Jersey City BOE Vice President John Reichart’s controversial Facebook post regarding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Elizabeth bomber on September 29.
Johnson reminded everyone that Kaepernick stood against police brutality and to place him next to the alleged Chelsea bomber was wrong.
“It look like it’s not necessarily befitting of the board. I definitely think as vice president of the Jersey City School Board, in one of the most diverse cities in the country, that something should be done about that,” stated Johnson.
After public comments, Roman let it be known that her remarks taken out of context and its purpose was to encourage parents to get the “best education for your children”.
The low scores would make it difficult for students to handle accelerated courses and something must be done to improve this.
“I’m very sorry but I cannot apologize for wanting more for your children,” explained Roman.