The Jersey City Board of Education elected Trustee Natalia Ioffe, an outgoing vice president, as their president, with Trustee Noemi Velazquez elected vice president at last night’s reorganization meeting.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Trustee Lekendrick Shaw nominated Trustee Gina Verdibello, the outgoing instructional vice president, for president, which failed 5-4. Shaw, Verdibello, along with Trustees Lorenzo Richardson and Trustees Afaf Muhammed, voted yes.
Velazquez then nominated Ioffe, which was approved by the same close tally of 5-4. Ioffe and Velazquez were joined by Trustees Younass Barkouch, Christopher Tisdale, and Paula Jones-Watson in voting yes.
“First, I would like to say thank you very much. Thank you for your trust and I respect and acknowledge the dissenting voices and I vow to serve as best as I can and carry this team forward to our mutual goals,” Ioffe told her colleagues after assuming the board’s top leadership post.
Barkouch then nominated Velazquez for vice president, while Verdibello nominated Richardson.
Velazquez’s nomination was narrowly approved by the same 5-4 tally as Ioffe’s, with the same trustees voting yes and no.
During public portion, Jersey City Education Association President Ron Greco credited the board for not getting “bamboozled” by an ethics complaint against Ioffe filed by former employee and state monitor for the district Cathy Coyle.
“I’m glad that you weren’t bamboozled by a former employee of this district, a former employee of the department of ed who was a state monitor, a highly skilled professional – among many other titles – that was run out of this district by the JCEA after the 1998 strike,” Greco recalled.
“And was run out of the district again when Dr. Lyles didn’t listen to her and we had another strike. And then when we had an education commissioner that would meet with us, me and the NJEA, they removed her again because of all the interference.”
Greco also alleged that he had photos of Coyle campaigning for the “Change for Children” team last year.
“You want to talk unethical behavior? That person wrote the book on unethical behavior,” he asserted.
Ioffe did not address the complaint, which is still pending before the New Jersey School Ethics Commission, but acknowledged the bare-knuckle nature of politics while emphasizing that the board has mutual respect and common goals.
“Politics is a competitive sport and it’s always personal in Jersey City – and not just in Jersey City – but I’m glad to say that through history, we’ve always been able to compete with one another and work together without question,” she stated.
“We don’t have to agree, as Paula said, but we do have joint goals and a joint mission.”
Before the meeting concluded in just under two hours, Barkouch asked Board Counsel Michael Gross why the board was not proceeding with two vice presidents as they did last year (Ioffe was the non-instructional vice president).
“That was suspending our bylaw at that time, for that year, so we’d have two vice presidents. Right now, our bylaw doesn’t make reference to one, two, or 30,” Gross began.
“Certainly, if anyone wanted to do that at this meeting, or even at any subsequent meeting, you certainly have the ability and a right to do that and the majority of the board wants to proceed.”
The board adjourned without taking any action to appoint a second vice president.