Among those schools will be a new middle school in Jersey City Heights.
Also, as the district transitions from state control back to local control, the year will see a number of administrative changes.
The contract for School Superintendent Dr. Charles Epps, a longtime Jersey City educator who has held the post since 2000, is set to expire on June 30, 2008. His tenure has been marked by criticism of his lavish spending of school funds during a 2004 trip to England and a run for political office in 2005. The contract is currently under consideration by State Education Commissioner Lucille Davy.
A parents' group called JC Families for Better Schools has called for Epps to receive a one-year contract with renewal to be determined based on performance.
The Jersey City school system has been under state control since 1989. Legislation was approved in 2005 that will start the process of moving back to city supervision in the next couple of years.
In July, the state recommended the return of two out of five key areas to local control because those areas earned high scores during state monitoring, but the district will still have to improve in three other areas, including "instruction and program."
The total budget for the Jersey City school system for the 2007-2008 school year is $632 million.Can't wait for new school
Twelve-year-old Erin Wadley is looking forward to starting eighth grade in her new school in the Heights.
Heights Middle School 7 (also known as Franklin Williams Middle School) on Collard Street is finally opening. The school was slated to open last September, but was bogged down in construction-related delays.
According to Wadley's mother, Camille Tyler, this summer parents met with the new principal of the school, Susan Decker, who assured parents that the school would open.
"Once she told us, we felt confident that it would open," Tyler said. "I am happy that the school is opening for the kids."
Wadley will be one of nearly 1,000 students enrolled in the new school, which serves students in grades six through eight who come from nearby Public Schools 6, 8, and 25.
"Everyone has been talking about how we had to wait to get into our new school," Wadley said. "Now we are going and that's good."
Wadley was also able to meet her new classmates early. Last week, the students spent three days at the school for orientation before school officially starts. Seventy new teachers
Jersey City school district spokesperson Dr. Gerard Crisonino said there will be 70 new teachers in the school system, with many employees being reassigned to fill vacancies left behind by those who retired or decided to leave the system.
He also said last week that this year the district will study the implementation of the High School Initiative Program (HIP) for September 2008. The state-mandated program calls for the city's six high schools to be restructured so that students who want to learn a trade can take not only general high school classes, but also extra classes connected to their field of study.
This type of educational structure is also known as "small learning communities" or "schools within schools" that are organized around career themes. Crisonino said it would require upgrades to equipment in the schools.
"We're really trying to get our children prepared vocationally for some kind of post-secondary employment," Crisonino said. Small school moves
Another change in the district is that some schools have relocated.
Liberty High School, which has the smallest enrollment of the six city high schools, has moved from its former location in Journal Square to the former site of the Adult Education High School on Sip Avenue.
The Adult Education High School will move to the old School No. 3 building on Bright Street in downtown Jersey City. On the path to local control
Crisonino said a meeting is scheduled for this month for members of the school board, Epps, and Davy to discuss the process toward returning the district to local control. Then Epps will schedule an open forum with the public later in the month to explain the process.
Earlier this year, the school district underwent NJ QSAC (Quality Single Accountability Continuum) monitoring, a process in which the state checks for signs of progress in five areas: instruction and program, personnel, operations management, school governance, and fiscal management.
The Jersey City school system scored 89 percent in governance and 92 percent in fiscal management. But the district only met 57 percent of the indicators in instruction and program, 58 percent of the indicators in personnel, and 74 percent in operations management.
The state requires districts that receive between 50 percent and 80 percent to put together a corrective action plan for those areas by the middle of this month.
Regarding Epps' contract, Crisonino said Epps has not released any comments on his contract status and had not authorized Crisonino to make any comments. Epps earns approximately $225,000 a year, and will likely receive a three-year contract if it is renewed. Parents must get involved
"Parents must get involved beyond the bake sale." That was Elizabeth Perry's advice to parents for the upcoming school year.
Perry works for the Board of Education as a volunteer coordinator, helping to promote relationships with the community. In 2005 she founded Parents In Action, a grassroots organization that has advocated for more parental involvement in the schools and for school board meetings to be televised.
Perry is also the founder of the Kasserian Ingera Education Services, a for-profit company that puts together PowerPoint and DVD presentations to train school officials to work better with parents.
Perry is also the mother of two children - a daughter going into the eighth grade and a son who will be a junior in high school.
Perry said parents should be more involved in their children's schools, as they are offered many opportunities for involvement under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and state education rules such as school choice.
"The more the parents are involved, the better the education of their kids," Perry said. "What I have seen is one, the parents don't feel welcome, and two, the administrators are intimidated." Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com