LETTER: ‘Education Matters’ team will provide Jersey City BOE the leadership we need

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In a letter to the editor, Jersey City parent Liliana Santos says that the “Education Matters” team will provide the school board with the leadership that is necessary right now.

Facebook photo.

Dear Editor,

When Jersey City schools closed on March 16, 2020, I certainly did not expect to be here in early October – proctoring Zoom sessions for my 6-year-old twins in between juggling work assignments.

But here we are, in the middle of a world health crisis that has altered American lives in ways most of us found unimaginable only seven months ago. It is easy under these circumstances to point fingers and find faults, but not to single out merits or give credit.

But I write to you today to do just that.

Before COVID-19, I was, at best, mildly interested in our Board of Education and the inner workings of the Jersey City School District. With so much at stake, mildly interested was not going to cut it this year.

For the past seven months, I have forced myself to listen through each lengthy JCBOE meeting, gritting my teeth through the minutia, the time-consuming protocols; the unanswered and unanswerable questions; the frustration of parents and teachers alike; and the technical difficulties.

I expected contentious interactions, animosity, finger-pointing, and unworkability. What I heard was not that.

As I sit here, filling out my election ballot and reflecting on the Education Matters slate’s performance, I must give credit to their efforts, dedication, and commitment to Jersey
City’s children.

The Jersey City School District has had a long history of turmoil and inefficiencies. The
appointment of Franklin Walker as Superintendent put us on the right path.

There is much territory left to conquer in the District’s upward climb, but what I have witnessed over these months is a Superintendent interested in doing the climbing and a Board interested in working with him to put our children first.

Many might question Mr. Richardson, Mr. Shaw, and Ms. Verdibello’s vote to approve Superintendent Walker’s budget and raise the school tax levy earlier this year. Our own mayor has called the 9-0 vote “irresponsible.”

As a parent and a taxpayer, I call the action brave. It would have been easy to use a pandemic as an excuse to underfund our schools further and reduce critical personnel, to say again, “not the time,” “not essential.”

But what every parent across our nation has had to contend with this year is how much schools, teachers, school nurses, special educators, school janitors, proper running water, and safe infrastructure is, in fact, ESSENTIAL.

Mr. Richardson, Mr. Shaw, and Ms. Verdibello, with their long history and ties to the Jersey City community, understand that. Each understands that “easy” is not the path forward for our school district.

At every board meeting, community meeting, and direct interaction, I have experienced these three Board Members actively bringing the concerns of parents and teachers to the forefront – relying on their own experience as parents and members of this community to address those concerns and ensure the safety and future of our children.

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Richardson, Mr. Shaw, and Ms. Verdibello have been visiting our schools and observing the work happening to make the buildings safe for reopening.

It is easy to look at numbers and demand that schools reopen, but it takes a keen understanding of the myriad of issues plaguing our infrastructure to do so responsibly.

Their opponents may accuse them of supporting a “one-size all approach,” in reopening our
schools, I praise them for being willing to put ALL our children first and for their refusal to perpetuate further inequities.

I cast my vote for Gina, Lekendrick, and Lorenzo because I am confident that the Education Matters candidates will lead our District forward, both through this pandemic and beyond.

As an exhausted, tax-paying, working mom of 3 and long-term Jersey City resident, I want my children back in school; I want ALL of Jersey City’s children safely back in school.

Respectfully,
Liliana Santos
Parent at Frank R. Conwell School, aka Public School No. 3

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