NEWARK, NJ – Eight Newark School Board candidates vying for 3-year and 1-year terms stood out during a moderated forum hosted by the Newark Trust for Education on Tuesday.
While residents focus on voting on 20 engagement between parents and board members and the digital divide.
This election season, Newark Public Schools students are preparing to return to class this month with new COVID protocols and safety measures. Separated from the classroom for over a year, implementing effective policies to assist teachers and students in transitioning back to school could be an important factor for the board heading into the 2021-22 school year.
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To learn more about each candidate in this year’s voting, visit TAPinto Newark’s “Meet the Candidates” post here.
Each of the eight candidates in attendance was asked to study and express their views on various subjects in the Newark District Schools.
The order of the speakers was randomized.
Here are some highlights from the forum:
Based on his work experience at the CTE, Phillip Wilson advocated that the Newark Public Schools reintroduce vocational and technical training into the school system.
“My thing is to push CTE as far as possible,” he said. “Not all kids can go to college, and I think if they learn a profession they will do better here in Newark City and find work here in Newark City.”
Given the significant learning disabilities due to the pandemic, candidates discussed their attitudes on how to ensure that students receive fair education. Sheila Montague said she would specifically address this issue by advocating for better social behavior patterns among students in order to create a better work environment for educators.
“One way to do this is to do our best to be kind, kind, and considerate to teachers who come to work and show up every day, because when teachers are not happy we see what we have now – a constant rotation of people leaving. “,” She said. “To make our children happy, to make sure they get the best education, and to stand up honestly for them, we need the persistence of good teachers.”
Among the topics discussed during the debate, the candidates brought up their ideas in order to build a collaborative relationship between the community and the school board aimed at solving problems within Newark Public Schools. Dawn Haynes said one way to achieve this is to encourage more contact with the community through the board of directors.
“We need to be able to ensure that our administrators, as well as our parents and the people we come in contact with, are comfortable talking to us about what is happening so that we can solve the current problems with solution-oriented goals “, she said. “It’s part of our strategic plan and one of our priorities is to make sure we create environments where people can talk to us.”
With the aim of increasing transparency between the board and the community in order to involve parents more in the development of schools and the education of students, Nadirah Brown advocated more parent-teacher workshops.
“It is very important to get involved with the community. Every school should have one [Parent Teacher Association]”She said.” We need involvement, but part of the problem in the system is that a lot of parents don’t get the information. ”
In order to close the digital divide at Newark Public Schools exacerbated by the pandemic, Daniel Gonzalez addressed this particular topic and advocated allocating more funds in the school budget to educators and students with the necessary technological equipment.
“School districts have been forced to teach at different times, so we need to invest in technology to make sure the right resources are in place, to ensure that all teachers have the right resources to implement their lesson plans,” he said . “On the other hand, students also need to have the right resources and technology to learn.”
Another topic discussed during the debate was filling vacancies on the school committee, an issue that arose this year after board member Tave Padilla passed away in 2020. After several parishioners criticized the board appointment process to fill the vacant seat earlier this year, Yolanda Johnson campaigned for more ways to get the public involved in the process.
“I’ll be working with the community on a progressive agenda by simply using the partnership with the city to send a blast of email in different languages - using the digital tools we have like email and text messaging “, she said. “I will send mailings to each individual home so that we can weigh the community either through virtual meetings or a survey.”
In addition to discussing current issues facing the school board, the forum also enabled candidates to pursue a short and long-term goal in their election. During their opportunity to speak, Asia Norton stated that her short-term goal was to come up with a plan for students with learning disabilities to help them return to the classroom. Her long-term goal called for a greater focus on special needs education in the district, starting with more training for educators.
“Over the past few weeks I have had discussions with various parents and community organizations that have a focus on this area,” she said. “This is how we ensure that we provide our teachers with the appropriate training and resources for our special school population.”
Born to immigrant Dominican parents, Vereliz Santana found that one of her long-term goals was to provide more equitable learning opportunities for students.
“I would love to provide translation services and broadcasting needs in multiple languages and in American sign language just to bring this equity back home as it is part of our 10-year strategic plan,” she said.