The huge crowd and about 20 speakers of students, parents, administrators, concerned residents and city and state officials convinced the Jersey City Board of Education to unanimously vote yes to the first reading of renaming Public School No. 34 after President Barack Obama.
“We should not be fighting with children, with the community that wants to name their school after Barack Obama. This should not even be a fight because the school wants this,” stated Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-31).
It was board member Ellen Simon who wanted to remind everyone of the process of bringing back the resolution to the agenda.
“If one of the board member who voted against Barack last time, moves to resubmit it tonight, we can vote on it tonight. Otherwise we have to begin the process all over again. And I think people have spoken and spoken beautifully,” she said
Jersey City BOE Vice President John Reichart motioned to add the resolution of renaming the P.S. 34 back on the agenda for a first reading.
It was during this discussion of adding the resolution when things got heated amongst the board members
First, Trustee Gerald Lyons announced that he is withdrawing his nomination to rename the school after Marilyn Roman.
Then, Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marcia Lyles fired back at Trustee Roman’s earlier remarks on the low percentages of passing students in the seventh and eighth grade in math and English subjects, especially in the Greenville area of Jersey City.
Trustee Roman shared that “last year in the 7th grade in the math program, zero percent of the students passed the math. This year, seven percent of the students passed the math.”
“Now, if you think those scores are good enough, then we don’t need to see you here anymore. In the 8th grade this year, it was only two percent. So if only two percent of the, passed in 8th grade, what are they going to do in high school?”
Lyles fired back at Roman, stating “quite frankly, what I looked at and when I talked about the scores, I said to people, take a look at where they are at the third grade, and lets project forward. So last year, P.S. 34 in mathematics, only 12% where proficient, this year at P.S. 34, 43% were proficient.”
Lyles explained that the third grade increase in proficiency is proof that the students are on their way to being prepared for advance placement tests and high school education.
Jersey City BOE President Vidya Gangadin interrupted Lyles and said they should stick to the matter at hand.
And when Trustee Lorenzo Richardson was explaining his concerns about the vents in P.S. 34, Simon told Gangadin: “I’m sorry you cut off the superintendent, fair enough, let’s keep it on the matter at hand.”
The final vote of first reading was unanimous (9-0) and the second reading will be held on October 20.
McKnight led the charge against the BOE last month when they voted against renaming P.S. 34 after Obama during their August caucus meeting.