The three Jersey City Board of Education (BOE) trustees elected on November 8, as well as the newly appointed Trustee Amy DeGise, were sworn in at last night’s reorganization meeting which also named a new president and vice president.
The Jersey Board of Education reorganization meeting began with the three new trustees taking oath.
Both Pastor Luis Felipe Fernandez and Angel Valentin took their oath of allegiance with Jersey City Board of Education Business Administrator Luiggi Campana, while Thomas took his oath with Assemblyman Raj Mukherji of the 33rd District.
The board’s nomination for both president and vice president took an interesting turn with Trustee Vidya Gangadin abstaining on Joel Torres for school president and Thomas for vice president.
Joel Torres was nominated as Jersey City BOE President with an 7-0-1 vote. It was Trustee Gerald Lyons who nominated his name and was seconded by Trustee Lorenzo Richardson.
No one else was nominated for the seat.
“First of all to be a leader, you must prove that you are. You must reach out across the aisle regardless of your difference of opinion. Unfortunately Mr. Torres, you have not done so,” stated Gangadin before she voted.
Torres was filled with emotion as he thanked his family and then noted that it was the first time in Jersey City BOE history that three Hispanics held seats simultaneously.
Thomas also received an 7-0-1 vote for his seat as Jersey City BOE Vice President. Thomas was nominated by Torres and was seconded by Roman.
Gangadin’s motion to nominate Trustee Lorenzo Richardson failed.
Before abstaining, Gangadin explained, “being the vice president is key to the president. Having served on this board, one time as the vice president and two times as the president, it’s a major role and it needs a lot of experience.”
“It’s not something I fully support, having a new board member being a vice president.”
The former Jersey City BOE president pointed out their experience with John Reichart who unexpectedly resigned shortly after the November 8 election.
Thomas cited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his speech after taking the vice president seat.
“And like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, 50 years ago, that ‘we’ve come in and cash the check’ we have to make sure that the check holds good for our children and that the promise of public education remains.”
As for the final seat that needed to be filled to replace Reichart, Gina Verdibello, who ran under the Education Matters slate with Vice President Thomas and Trustee Valentin, explained why she belonged alongside her team on the board.
“I dedicated time and put myself out there to fight for a chance to be on this board and not for political reasons. If I wasn’t so dedicated I would have given up already. I know the parents and the community and they know me,” shared Verdibello, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the board four years in a row.
“I would want someone who is approachable especially if there are issues that need to be addressed,” she declared.
However, despite receiving a nomination, the board never took a vote on Verdibello’s appointment.
Instead, Torres nominated Amy DeGise, daughter of Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and a teacher at Hudson County Prep High School.
Although Richardson nominated Verdibello, DeGise received a 5-1-2 vote with Trustee Fernandez against and Trustees Richardson and Lyons abstaining.
In attendance for the reorganization meeting were Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Jersey City Freeholder Bill O’Dea (D-2), Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano, JCEA President Ron Greco and former candidates for the board Mussab Ali and Natalia Ioffe – the latter two hoping to be selected for the vacant seat.