Jersey City School Superintendent Norma Fernandez
Jersey City School Superintendent Norma Fernandez

The Jersey City Board of Education appointed Dr. Norma Fernandez interim superintendent of Jersey City Public Schools at a Monday night special meeting.

The appointment is effective immediately and runs through June 20, 2023.

“I’m honored to be part of this district,” Fernandez said. This is my 40th year in the district; I worked with many of you over the years and together; I know we can continue to move this district in a positive way and for the betterment of our children to get them ready to have a world-class education.”

Most recently, Fernandez served as Deputy Superintendent and took over posting messages to parents on the district’s website after the retirement of former superintendent Franklin Walker.

The school board took nominations for the interim superintendent position after a brief public comment and a closed executive session on Monday,

Board Trustee Noemi Velazquez nominated Fernandez. No other nominations or discussion points were put forward.

Eight of the nine board trustees voted in favor of Fernandez’s appointment. Newly-elected trustee Paula Jones-Watson abstained.

A resolution read by board counsel Michael Gross includes “the condition that the interim superintendent appointment shall be a minimum of six months with a 30-day notice of termination provision.”

While Fernandez is interim superintendent, the board will conduct a national search for its next superintendent.

Board trustee Lorenzo Richardson requested the board look to the National School Boards Association as they conduct the search.

“Not only can they give us information, but they can help us educate us in the process,” she said.

Board President Gerald Lyons said the board would also consider existing employees and Fernandez herself, should she so wish.

Lyons said the board will develop a search committee, gather input from all trustees, and look into the NJSBA and other organizations. In the end, the trustees approved a second resolution to hire a search firm or other organization to identify candidates.

As Fernandez steps into her new role, she pledged to return to in-person instruction after schools were closed for a second week this year, from Jan. 10 to 17.

“Students return to school next Tuesday, Jan. 18,” Fernandez said. “We all understand that aside from the child’s home, no other setting influences a child’s health and well-being more than their school.”

Fernandez said that since Friday, the total number of school staff and students testing positive for Covid-19 each day has decreased. Those who tested positive going into last week — 490 staff members and 310 students — will be finished with their isolation and quarantine by next week, she added.

The district is working with a vendor to make Covid-19 testing available for students in two phases. Testing will be available for schools in the first phase the week of January 18.

Testing for students will be voluntary and will involve the collection of saliva, according to the interim superintendent. The option to register children for Covid-19 testing will remain open throughout the school year.

Andrea Crowley-Hughes is a writer and media maker motivated by chronicling and sustaining communities. Her reporting on education, sustainability and the restaurant industry has recently been featured...