Several members of the Board of Education expressed frustration with the schools’ administration during last night’s caucus after hearing renewed allegations of racism and favoritism in hiring and promotion.
Madonna Morris, a twenty-year employee in the the schools’ human resources department, singled out the director of human resources for criticism. “Most of us within and beyond the sound of my voice have experienced racism … peoples’ opportunities for education, employment, and even justice are even determined by the race and gender.” Cheryl Mays complained about African American women being “fired, suspended, or moved” by the district unfairly.
In response, Superintendent Norma Fernandez cautioned the board saying, “You empower employees to show up monthly, year after year, with personnel complaints. You allow them to provide a narrative of district administrators making decisions based on prejudice and racism. … Yet these are the same individuals repeatedly out of the 4,000 employees. The three former superintendents were African Americans and were not immune to similar comments.”
Two of the callers, Elizabeth Perry and Sabrina Harrold, had also charged at the March 23 meeting that racism and favoritism were influencing hiring and promotion.
Responding to Fernandez, Trustee Lorenzo Richardson said, “When trust is eroded, all that you say means nothing.”
Trustee Christopher Tisdale echoed Richardson saying, “Trust is not given or built or earned when we are clouded by some of the things that are presented.” Trusteee Afaf Muhammad agreed.
Girls’ Preparatory Academy
The board members were also given a progress report on Jersey City’s first all-girls public school, “Girls’ Preparatory Academy.” Two speakers from New York City-based Young Women’s Leadership Network presented a slide show and video.
According to the speakers, the Young Women’s Leadership Network, which was hired to set up the school, has achieved superior student outcomes, including a college graduation rate four times that of the students’ peers at co-ed schools.
Trustee Tisdale questioned the use of P.S. 39 for the school, adding “With the children in the building during renovations, I have a problem with that.”
Fernandez said the board chose P.S. 39 because “enrollment in that building has dwindled over the years … no one wants to share their building … it’s either we close that school and use the building (for another school) or keep that school for children in the community and share the building.”
The school will begin accepting students this fall for the sixth and seventh grades. Parents who are interested in the school for their daughters can attend an open house this weekend from 9 to 11 a.m. at P.S. 39 at 214 Plainfield Ave. Admissions will be open to all students and, if over-subscribed, subject to a lottery. Applications will be due on May 19.
Cheryl Mays said, “It’s a well known fact in our Black communities that young African American girls go to college much more than African American boys. So, why isn’t there a program for them?”
Yonkers Partners in Education
Yonkers Partners in Education presented its program to assist Jersey City students with college “readiness,” access and “persistence.”
After looking at eight other cities for expansion, the 25-year-old program chose Jersey City based on its demographic similarity to Yonkers.
Funded entirely through grants, YPIE will work with students and existing guidance counselors to help students in the middle of the grading curve prepare for and succeed in college. The program will begin working with students who are in 9th grade and follow them through their sophomore year of college.