Tell voters a little bit about your background and how it has prepared you to serve on the Board of Education.

I’m Sumit “Sam” Salia, a proud US Army veteran, a dedicated pharmacist by profession, a devoted parent to a six-year-old, a small business owner, a homeowner, and a steadfast Jersey City lover who has called it home for 15 years.

I was raised with a strong sense of responsibility towards the well-being of those around me. My service in the military instilled in me a sense of duty and a commitment to defending our nation, and now, I’m eager to serve my local community. With 20 years of education and multiple degrees under my belt, I understand the importance of a quality education. My own child is enrolled in Jersey City schools, making this issue incredibly personal for me. I am deeply rooted in Jersey City, where I have been a hardworking taxpayer for years. My goal is to selflessly work toward a brighter future for our community by establishing a school system that truly serves the needs of our children and ensures a brighter, more prosperous future for all Jersey City residents.

What inspired you to run for election?

The turning point that compelled me to step into politics was when my son entered Kindergarten at a public school in Heights. I was disheartened to witness the outdated infrastructure and inadequate resources in the school, considering the substantial taxes I had been contributing as a responsible taxpayer and property owner. Over the past few years, I had watched my tax dollars increase by 40% in the school budget, and it left me questioning the allocation of these funds. With the school board’s spending exceeding $1 billion and no substantial improvement in the education system while earlier we used to manage everything around $600-700 millions, I couldn’t help but ask: “What are we doing?” Despite having a consistent student population and no new schools built, we were providing more than $1 billion in taxes, and our school district was not even in the top 25 in the state. Having second highest school spending in NJ and more than any municipal budget, I felt a pressing need for greater transparency and third-party audits.

What would your priorities be during your term on the board?

My fight is for the future of not just my child, but for all children, including yours. As hardworking, middle-class Jersey City residents, we invest our sweat and money into local taxes, and we deserve to see tangible results in our children’s education system. Accountability and transparency in how our tax dollars are spent matter deeply to us. I’m committed to reforming our school system to ensure a better quality of education without burdening Jersey City taxpayers with additional costs. My priorities include: Elevating our school district’s ranking, implementing transparency and accountability measures, linking teacher benefits to school performance, and modernizing our existing schools to provide state-of-the-art facilities

School taxes have gone up sharply over the last five years. What would you do to control school spending?

When it comes to spending taxpayers money, I want transparent accountability of a more than $1B budget. In my understanding we don’t have enough third party audits regularly, last audit we had was in 2019 and their recommendation is still not executed and we are in 2023.

I would propose to audit every quarterly like publicly listed companies publish their earnings and spending report. To do that I will propose to hire third party auditors or tax professionals so they will give us every quarterly report that anyone can understand and we can trace each penny that has been spent with an audit trail.

Before voting on any bill I would ask two simple questions myself as I pledged in this campaign: Does it increase any tax burden? The answer has to be NO. Does it help in really improving school rating or directly help student performance? 

I think we have more than enough money to improve our school condition and student life. We don’t need any extra money unless we prove to taxpayers that we are on the right path and achieved our goals.

The graduation rate is low. What do you think can be done to improve it?

To improve graduation rate or improve overall SAT score we need to focus: the curriculum that is really targeted to give real world results, reward teachers who put extra effort to improve student outcomes especially the needy ones, also motivate and reward students as well in terms of scholarship programs.

I am not promising that I will do magic and I don’t want to give politically correct promises which voters like to hear but I am promising that I will give my 110% dedication and I am determined to bring changes that desperately we need.

Ryan Kilkenny was born and raised in New York. He graduated with a BS from Tulane University and a JD from Rutgers Law School. Ryan worked as an attorney for almost two years before switching careers and...