Jersey City United, a three-person team of Matt Schapiro, Luis Felipe Hernandez and Asmaa Abdalla, has come out as the first slate to oppose the Jersey City Education Association-backed Education Matters ticket in the city board of education race.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“As a parent of three young children, I am intensely focused on the quality of Jersey City Public Schools. We have seen great improvements but there is still a long way to go,” Schapiro said in a statement issued this afternoon.
“I will be proud to help lead this district to one where every single child in our city has access to the same outstanding education.”
A longtime operative for the Parents for Progress slate, 2016 marks the first time Schapiro has put his name on the ballot. A father of three, including a second grader attending Jersey City Public Schools, he has previously served on the boards for the Liberty Humane Society and the city’s parking authority.
“Being the first Muslim-American to serve on Jersey City’s Board of Education would be a huge honor. Our united slate honors the rich diversity of our city and celebrates the importance of mutual respect and understanding,” Abdalla said in a prepared statement.
“I am so proud to be part of this team and hope for the opportunity to serve Jersey City families and all our great communities.”
In a recent interview with Hudson County View, Abdalla, a product of the Jersey City public schools who currently attends Kean University, spoke about improving graduation rates and eliminating school suspensions.
“We define our slate under the word unity because to serve our children we must be willing to come together, to listen to each other, to respect each other and to put our future ahead of self interest,” added Fernandez, the lead pastor at Salvation Church.
“We represent the people of Jersey City, not its politicians and we hope all three of us can prove to be the example for a new way if doing things in the City we love. Jersey City can succeed when we work together. This is the time when we must put our children ahead of politics.”
Fernandez, who lives in Greenville with his wife and two children, is also a graduate of the Devos Urban Youth Leadership Initiative and is finishing a Certificate in Urban Youth Ministry from Fuller Seminary.
Speaking over the phone, Schapiro further explained the mindset of Jersey City United.
“We have a long way to go in this district, but there are definitive improvements in effect. I look forward to being one of the leaders that is pushing for more.”
“We are running an independent campaign based on the strength of our relationships in this community, in this city,” clarifying that the group does not plan on explicitly seeking out any endorsements during this election cycle.
He also said that each and every student deserves “a world class education,” regardless of their background or upbringing.
When questioned if Mayor Steven Fulop’s disgraced former Chief of Staff Muhammed Akil, now the executive director of the Newark-based Parent Coalition for Excellent Education, had any role in the campaign, Shapiro responded that he did not: “he has no role whatsoever.”
In total, 11 candidates are seeking three, three-year terms in the November 8 election.