The Jersey City Board of Education named Dr. Norma Fernandez, the acting superintendent since January 10th, the new head of the public schools at last night’s special meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
” … We’ve had mostly white people at the helm. We’ve had three, that I know of, African American superintendents at the helm,” noted Jersey City Education Association President Ron Greco.
“So it is time because we have someone in the position who, as I’ve said before, has the skillset, has the connection to the community, has their finger on the pulse, certainly has the pedigree as a quality human being.”
Greco has been a vocal supporter of Fernandez becoming the superintendent for months and said earlier this week that the board did not need to do a national search, even though they approved a resolution for one the same day Fernandez received the interim title.
Former BOE President Mussab Ali also spoke highly of Fernandez during his public remarks.
“I want to commend Dr. Fernandez, whose been an exemplary in her role as someone whose worked hand in hand with local stakeholders and the multitude of unions and create a positive culture. I want to thank you for your level of continued communication with our parents,” he said.
Hudson County Clerk E. Junior Maldonado also urged the board to vote to have Fernandez continue to lead the schools.
Prior to heading to executive session, Vice President Natalia Ioffe explained how the board ended up where the are from her perspective.
“There was a perception and a hope for certain track record, which promised efficiency and clarity. And then there was also an experience where there was a great value in a community attachment, legacy: all those things were important. And that was each for it’s time, we are now in a different time,” she said, also noting that the board considered all the requirements laid out by the state.
Additionally, Trustee Alexander Hamilton, who owns a recruitment firm, chided the board as a whole for not following up on the national search, saying that they failed for not doing one.
” … I look at this board and I think that as a collective board we failed on this issue because now it’s June and I made noise about this earlier and I got shot down for doing so – even after we passed the resolution,” he stated.
“… I’m not saying at the end of the day everybody that Dr. Fernandez is not qualified to do this job, because I think that she is, what I’m saying is if you don’t look you don’t know. I didn’t marry the first girl I kissed either, okay, and that’s funny, but still, you’ve gotta do your due diligence.”
Eventually, after about a 90-minute closed session, Trustee Noemi Velazquez nominated Fernandez, a motion that was seconded by Vice President Gina Verdibello.
The measure passed 8-0(1), with Trustee Paula Jones-Watson abstaining since she has family members who work in the district.
Fernandez’s contract starts today and will run through June 30th, 2025. The parameters of the agreements were not immediately available, though a pay raise approved in May had her salary at $185,583.