Op-Ed: It’s time for the Jersey City BOE to prioritize progress over politics


In an editorial, former Jersey City Student Trustee Miriam Tawfiles explains why she feels the board of education needs to prioritize progress over politics.

The Jersey City Board of Education Headquarters at 346 Claremont Ave. Photo via Google Maps.

As a former student trustee on the Jersey City Board of Education, I’ve had a unique vantage point, witnessing both the promise and the pitfalls of educational governance.

It’s a perspective that underscores a simple yet profound truth: the duty of the board should be to prioritize the needs of students above all else.

Jersey City, with its diverse population and vibrant community, must have trustees that reflect our population and understand the importance of demonstrating a dynamic commitment to excellence.

It’s disappointing to see that the current reality doesn’t match our ideal. Due to the numerous internal conflicts that are currently a monthly occurrence on the board, the pressing issues facing our education system are being neglected.

Rather than advocating for students, it seems like the board is tangled up in internal politics, bureaucratic obstacles, and personal agendas removing the focus from crucial issues such as the persistent achievement gap, chronic budget deficits, elevated absenteeism, and the lack of transparency and accountability.

Young people in Jersey City are keen observers of the world around them, especially when it comes to decisions affecting their education. They look up to the leaders in our community for guidance and inspiration.

For the young minds watching, this disconnect is disheartening. It teaches them that politics and personal agendas often overshadow the needs of those they’re supposed to serve.

It can breed feelings of distrust in the systems meant to protect and support them. When transparency and accountability take a backseat, it sends a message to our youth that honesty and responsibility are negotiable.

Further, the recent implementation of a new format for accepting public comments during board meetings has severely restricted students’ ability to provide their input, as well as stifled voices from the general public.

By limiting the time allotted for public comment and imposing strict rules on participation, the JCBOE inadvertently excludes the perspectives of those who are most directly impacted by their decisions—our students.

Moreover, the apparent reluctance of the JCBOE president to embrace feedback further exacerbates this issue.

When leaders demonstrate a lack of openness to constructive criticism, it sends a dangerous message to members of our community, particularly our youth, that their opinions are not valued or welcomed.

This not only undermines the principles of democracy but also perpetuates a sense of disempowerment among those whose voices deserve to be heard and respected.

It’s essential for the JCBOE to recognize the importance of fostering an inclusive and open environment where all viewpoints are acknowledged and considered.

In observing the recent meetings of the JCBOE, it’s become distastefully evident that the focus has shifted away from students, which directly contradicts the fundamental purpose that the JCBOE serves.

Instead of prioritizing the needs and concerns of students, discussions often veer into digressive matters or become consumed by internal politics.

This shift in focus not only undermines the core mission of the JCBOE but also neglects the very individuals whom the board is meant to serve.

Students should be at the forefront of every decision and policy made by the JCBOE, as they are the primary stakeholders in the educational system.

It’s essential for the board to realign its priorities and refocus its efforts on ensuring that every decision made is in the best interest of the students, their education, and their future.

Anything less is a disservice to the community and a betrayal of the trust placed in the JCBOE.

Miriam Tawfiles
Jersey City resident

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  1. Based upon what I’ve observed of these meetings, Ms. Tawfiles raises some very valid points. It’s no secret that school board members in many jurisdictions often don’t see eye-to-eye, but respect for the opinions of others and proper decorum are paramount to public meetings. It’s no secret this current board is fractured and until they can mend their personal differences, the losers here will be our Jersey City students.