This year's Jersey City school board elections take place on April 17, with 11 candidates running for three seats. Voting will be held from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
One incumbent, Angel Valentin, is running again. Incumbents Jeffrey Dublin and Anthony Cruz are not.
The other 10 candidates are: Moses Ballon, Jenny Campbell, Terry Dehere, Michael Esposito, William Frasca, Jenny Garcia, Ben Lopez, Gerald McCann, Aida Sanchez, and Arnold Williams.
The board consists of nine members with three-year terms. Members take on an advisory role to state-appointed Schools Superintendent Charles Epps. The Jersey City school system is currently under state control and has been since 1989. But legislation was approved in 2005 that will start the process of moving control back into city supervision in the next couple of years.What the board will oversee
The board oversees one of the largest and most heavily funded school systems in New Jersey, with state aid of $425 million for the 2006-2007 school year, which will be decreased by over $3 million for the next school year. The total budget for the Jersey City school system is $591 million.
In the upcoming election, some of the issues that candidates will have to tackle include: * The state returning the school system to local control; * A $3.2 million decrease in state aid to the school system for the 2007-2008 school year;
* A state audit of the Jersey City that found millions of dollars wasted on salaries and outdated services;
* Improving students' test scores, and
* The uncertain future of new school construction funded by the state Schools Construction Corporation (SCC). The present board filed a lawsuit against the SCC in February to get repairs done in several Jersey City schools. Meet the candidates
Here are quotes from six of the candidates running for the board. They were asked why they are running and what issue they will tackle if elected. Moses M. Ballon Jr.
Ballon is a lifelong resident of Jersey City. He has been married for over 30 years and is the proud father of five children (one deceased), and eight grandchildren.
He is a currently a project monitor for the city's Division of Economic Opportunity. Also, he is a community activist, involved with and a member of several committees including the Martin Luther King Drive Redevelopment Plan Steering Committee, and the newly formed Jersey City A. Phillip Randolph Institute Chapter.
"I'm running because I have seen for too long the people who are representing us have been too conflicted politically."
"I think the first thing I would do is to let the people know what happened to the billions of dollars that Jersey City is supposed to receive for training people to work on school construction projects within the city." Jenny Campbell
Campbell is a unit director at the Boys and Girls of Hudson County in Jersey City. Married with four children, she has lived with her family in Jersey City since 1995.
She is also pursuing a degree in business administration at Montclair State University.
She is one of two candidates running this year for the board who ran last year (the other is Michael Esposito).
"The reason I'm running for the board is the same reason I ran last year - trying to finally get the politics out of the education system. Watching my children and their schools, the curriculum is a mess."
"The first thing I do is to get some parents motivated and empowered to make some changes in the school system. At the end of the day, it is about the children, not about who you know and what connections you have." Lennox 'Terry' Dehere
Dehere is the co-owner of the Blue Ribbon Restaurant in Jersey City.
He played for three NBA teams from 1993-1999, and is the former St. Anthony's High school basketball star of the late 1980s and all-time leading basketball scorer at Seton Hall University.
He is also the founder of the Jersey City Community Housing Corporation to build affordable housing, and Shining Star Productions, LLC to build market-rate housing.
"I am running because I believe the school board should be serving the kids, ensuring their education and safety."
"Being on the board would mean to me working toward getting more recreation programs in the schools. My experience as an athlete has shown me the benefits of organized recreation upon youth." Michael Esposito
Esposito was born and raised in Jersey City and is a graduate of the Jersey City public school system. He is vice chairman of the Jersey City Housing Authority Tenant Affairs/Resident Advisory Board, a president of the Hudson Gardens Council, and vice president of the Jimmy King Civic Association. Esposito currently works at Hudson City Savings Bank as a bank teller.
"Improve the schools system, to cut wasteful spending and bring good government back to the Board of Education."
"Safety would be the number one concern, especially around Dickinson High School and other schools in Jersey City. Also, I would bring back the truancy task force...kids can't walk to school and they don't want to go to school because they fear for their safety." William P. Frasca
Frasca is a retired supervisor from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. He's a graduate of Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University).
He is also a licensed realtor working with Frank Monaco Realty in Jersey City, and has been a notary public since 1985.
"First of all, I want to get involved to throw the state out. I feel the state of New Jersey had enough time in Jersey City. The residents of the city still can't vote for a budget."
"If I am elected, I will be a loud voice for that child who does not have a voice. I am going to work to get children and the parents more involved in the school system since I can't do it alone." Jenny Garcia
She is a mother of five children, four with learning disabilities, and all in the Jersey City public school system. She currently serves on the Parents Advisory Council for Special Needs for the Jersey City school system.
"I am running for the board to ensure that the voice of our parents is heard. As a parent with five children in the system, my husband and I, like many families, have a vested interest that not only our children, but all children, receive the best education possible."
"I would first take time to understand the workings of the school system. One cannot make good judgmental decisions without understanding the positives and negatives of anything that we are involved in. So I would spend some time moving about the district and learning the concerns of our PARENTS, TEACHERS AND ADMINISTRATORS." The rest of the candidates will be profiled next week. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Sidebar Public forum for Board of Education candidates
JC Families for Better Schools (JCFBS), a Downtown Jersey City-based parents group founded this year to deal with issues of education with the Jersey City school system, will hold a public forum for the Board of Education candidates this coming Thursday.
The forum starts at 7 p.m. and takes place at the Rafael Cordero Elementary School, 158 Erie Street.
JCFBS organized this question and answer session with the candidates to help the community be more informed for the April 17 Board of Education election.
"This is an opportunity for parents and community members to meet the candidates and make and informed a decision. It is an important first step in making a positive change in the public schools," says Shelley Skinner, JCFBS founder.
For further information about JCFBS please log on to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jcschools/ or email us at email@example.com. - RK