There are concerns over the longstanding problems with school system, now entering its 18th year under state control.
In a recent report by the New Jersey Department of Education, 27 of 33 of the city's schools failed to meet education standards under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. And six of those 27 schools are being restructured because they have failed to meet standards for six consecutive years.
There is also a growing mistrust in the school system, as newspaper headlines have trumpeted the irresponsible spending of Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Epps during a trip to England, as well as his continued holding of two jobs. He also serves as a state assemblyman.
As for state school aid, especially for urban districts such Jersey City, state lawmakers are working on changing the state school funding formula to rely less on property taxes.Changes for the school year
Francis X. Dooley, deputy superintendent for Jersey City school district, said there will be several new wrinkles in the school system.
One is keeping high school freshmen in school for lunch. Dooley said this move came about after much discussion by the School Board during the summer, and that the incoming freshmen were already prepared for the change since elementary schools already have closed lunches.
"This is being done in response to the public over issues of safety for the children and it also makes sense since the 9th grade is the largest grade in the high schools," said Dooley.
There are future plans to have closed lunch for all high school grades.
There will also be efforts to increase parental involvement in the students' education. Among the initiatives are more communication between parents and teachers via e-mail, visits by teachers to students' homes, and training teachers in "family advocacy," which is referring parents and children to social service agencies to deal with problems outside school.
"My main concern is get parents involved in the education of their children," said Dooley. "Dr. Epps has said in the past that if he had 1,000 parents, he can change everything in the school system."
Dooley also spoke of restructuring public schools No. 14 on Union Street, No. 15 on Stegman Street, and No. 41 on Wilkinson Avenue.
No. 14 will be occupied with grades pre-K to 6 for this school year and pre-K to 5 in the 2007-2008 year. No. 15 will house pre-K to 6, then pre-K to 5 in 2007-2008. No. 41 will house grades 7 and 8 this year, and grade 6 will be added the year after.
Dooley also lauded the recently constructed Middle School No. 7, located on Collard Avenue in the Heights section of the city and expected to open in November.
"Changing the school so there are elementary and secondary schools will help transition kids in grades 7 and 8 for high school," said Dooley. From a whimper to a bang
The good, bad and even ugly aspects of the upcoming school year were tackled at the Jersey City Board of Education meeting on Thursday.
First there was the swearing-in of Anthony Cruz, an employee with nearly 20 years of governmental experience, including a stint as deputy mayor, as a new Board of Education member. Cruz was chosen to replace former board member Terrence Curran, who stepped down from his position to pursue work in the medical field.
Cruz said after the meeting, "I want to focus on the needs of the children and I will have an open door policy."
Resident Tearethea Sims, who has a child and grandchild in the school system, later questioned Cruz's selection. She wondered why a replacement was not chosen from some of the people who ran in the School Board election in April. Cruz responded that politics did not figure into his selection and that he has worked hard to serve all the children in the school district.
But then the meeting was ended abruptly after resident Dan Sicardi, whose daughter is attending high school this year, wanted to speak longer than the five-minute time limit allows for public comments.
Bill DeRosa, the chairman of the Jersey City Board of Education, requested that Sicardi ask all his questions within those five minutes. But Sicardi wanted five minutes for each of his five questions.
Board Member and Hudson County Freeholder Jeffrey Dublin tried to control the outburst and said that DeRosa was the school board chairman and is running the meeting. Then Sicardi responded that he is "a taxpayer."
That's when Dublin called for the meeting's adjournment, which the board agreed to. Some in the audience disapproved of the sudden ending, as they wanted the meeting to continue and Sicardi to be allowed to speak. Teacher is looking forward
A teacher wishing to remain unnamed, who has put in about 10 years in the Jersey City school system, will see a new change in the upcoming year.
She was formerly a teacher at School 41, but since that school is only dealing with 7th and 8th grade students whom she does not teach, she will relocate to School 15.
The teacher, who lives in Greenville, said she was somewhat hesitant about relocating but looks forward to the new challenge.
"I look forward to working as hard as I have been in past years," said the teacher. "And I expect my students, many whom had to relocate, to excel and I expect nothing less." Ricardo Kaulessar cand be reached at email@example.com