The Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Dec. 21 largely featured farewell speeches of two departing members: board president Gerald Lyons and trustee Alexander Hamilton. During public comment, residents rose to talk about the district’s human resources policy among other topics.
Lyons, who has been on the board for nine years, thanked his fellow trustees for their time and dedication to the city’s schools and noted, “We learned how to work through a pandemic together. We weren’t perfect but we did it together.”
Said Hamilton, “It’s been an honor to serve on this board for the last three years …I’m looking forward to keeping a watchful eye from things in the distance. But I wish the winners of the election success because the most important thing is the kids.”
In 2023, Afaf Muhammad and Christopher Tisdale will be joining the board after winning the November 2022 election. The board will select either current vice presidents Natalia Ioffe or Gina Verdibello to replace Lyons as president.
Public comments heard during the meeting covered a range of topics.
MaDonna Morris, Pamela Felts, Elizabeth Perry, and others spoke about alleged mishandling of promotions based on Civil Service testing and hiring. According to Morris, the board failed to follow the “Rule of Three,” which allows an “appointing authority” to appoint any one of the top three eligible certified candidates to a permanent position. Instead, the commenters said the people who scored in the top three were ignored in favor of people Human Resources knew and had hand selected.
Edwin Rivera, the Director of Human Resources, said that the district had indeed abided by the Rule of Three policy.
“You may certainly appoint number one and bypass number two and three, and appoint the two PAs, which are number 4 and 5,” Rivera said he had been told by the supervisor of the certification unit.
Resident Melissa Yabut complained to the board about the continued closure of the swimming pool at Dickinson High School. Routed to the pool at Ferris High School instead, she said Dickinson’s swim team members have lost practice time and failed to get proper equipment. She also noted that some of the team had quit, finding that they had to walk home at around 8 p.m. from Ferris to West Side Avenue, approximately 35 minutes away. Finally, she said, Ferris’ pool was often too cold for the swimmers.
“Meaningful effort must be made to provide equitable distribution of funds to the much lesser-known sports of Jersey City,” said Yabut.
Schools superintendent Dr. Norma Fernandez told Yabut that Ferris’ swimming pool had been fixed. That said, she added that many of the district’s pools still need costly maintenance or repairs. President Lyons recommended reaching out to some of the local colleges to potentially use their pools for practices.