Just say no to an elected school board in Trenton, NJ

Guest Editorial By Gene Bouie and Austin Edwards

Although we are members of the Trenton Board of Education, this article is not authorized by or being made on behalf of the Trenton School Board but in our capacity as private citizens, taxpayers and as advocates of Trenton Public School students.

We need to, “JUST SAY NO” to an elected school board in Trenton, NJ. The question we have to ask ourselves is, “Why would a City Council that voted down the resolution for an elected school board a year ago, in March decide to raise the issue again?” What changed? The City of Trenton was once a Type I, elected school board, which begs the question: “Why did Mayor Holland and the residents of Trenton in 1988 decide that an elected school board was not in the best interest of Trenton students?”

What I find puzzling is that a group of people that have demonstrated extremely poor decision making and have clearly been the barriers to the progress of Trenton, now present themselves as a group that knows what’s best for Trenton students. Is Trenton Public Schools still classified as a low performing school district? The answer is yes. The reality of classification of a low performing school district dates back nearly 50 years and now significant progress is being made. How would electing politicians drive accelerated improvement? IT WON’T!!! What evidence is there to prove that hypothesis? ABSOLUTELY NONE!!!

As both taxpaying residents of Trenton and a great-grandparent of a Trenton student, we would like to take a minute to compare the productivity of Trenton Public Schools to the productivity of the current City Council. This comparison should be crucial in your decision making. Let’s review district progress over the past four years (same period of time as the current Council has been seated).

TRENTON PUBLIC SCHOOLS:

Teaching and Learning

  • QSAC (The New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum NJQSAC) is the Department of Education's monitoring and district self-evaluation system for public school districts.
  • Scores in Instruction & Programs went from a low of 27% in 2017 to 70% in 2021; the current QSAC scores on Governance is 95%. The minimum score target is 80%.
  • Throughout the years of 2018 & 2019, nine schools came out of status, which means they are no longer subject to state directed interventions.
  • The curriculum is now aligned with State standards.
  • Since 2017, a reading intervention collaboration targeted at ensuring students are reading at grade level by 3rd grade has continued between Trenton Public Schools and the Trenton Literacy Movement (TLM). For the 2022 – 2023 school year, TLM is donating over $150,000 to this effort and nearly 400 students will benefit from the program.
  • In 2022, the District started the Dual Language Immersion (DLI) pilot program for grades K-1 in 4 locations: Franklin Elementary School, P.J. Hill Elementary School, Robbins Elementary School and Rivera Elementary School. DLI program allows a full immersion of two languages: students' home language (Spanish) and the second language (English).
  • In 2022, a total of 80 students were awarded the New Jersey State Seal of Biliteracy. The award is given to students who attain and demonstrate proficiency in one language in addition to English by high school graduation. In addition to English proficiency, 78 students demonstrated proficiency in Spanish, one student demonstrated proficiency in Yoruba (African dialect), and one student demonstrated proficiency in French.
  • In 2022, over 20 Corrective Action Plans resolved and closed in our Special Education Department. Also, the department increased the number of Child Study Teams.

Fiscal Management

  • The Finance QSAC score based on 2021 data was 100%
  • For the past four years, the district has received the ASBO (Association for School Business Officials) award for excellence in financial accounting.
  • There is universal breakfast and lunch for all students.
  • After having only three school buses in the spring of 2017, and being at the mercy of transportation vendors, the district now owns nearly 40 state-of-the-art school buses.
  • Purchased 500 Perry St., the current location of the Ninth Grade Academy at a cost of $20M. The district carries zero debt and there was no increase in the taxes of Trenton taxpayers to fund the acquisition.

Infrastructure

  • In 2021, the Trenton School district was awarded a $700,000 grant from an anonymous donor to completely overhaul the school district technology system with no expense to the district
  • The District has also reopened 5 schools across the city to address classroom overcrowding

Culture

  • The curriculum has been modified to adhere with the Amistad Act passed into law in 2002, requiring African American History be taught in every school district in New Jersey.
  • Two elementary schools name changes; Wilson Elementary is now McKnight Elementary and Columbus Elementary is now Copeland Elementary both named after African American local heroes.
  • This list of items, not at all-inclusive, demonstrates the significant progress of Trenton Public Schools under the existing structure of an appointed Board.

More importantly, the district now has a comprehensive five-year strategic plan that ensures that students and student achievement is at the heart of all District initiatives and investments. Trenton Public Schools acknowledges the dedication of community members, teachers, administrators, and Board Members who volunteered their time in the development of the Strategic Plan for 2021-2026.

What accomplishments can the City Council point to over the same period of time?

CITY COUNCIL:

  • Has repeated used, defended, then quietly “apologized” for their anti-Hispanic, racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic remarks requiring Gov. Phil Murphy, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, and the entire twelve-member New Jersey House delegation to force them to either apologize or resign!
  • Blocked hundreds of jobs and businesses from coming to and benefitting the City!
  • Is so dysfunctional and created such a crisis that even the State’s Department of Community Affairs won’t touch them!

What has this City Council done to improve the learning of nearly 18,000 Trenton students?

As the City struggles and they withhold funds from our children’s schools, Council asks YOU the taxpayer to increase their salaries to up to $45,000 a year! That’s right; they have refused to fund our children’s education and decided to fund their own pockets!

Now imagine the dysfunction a politically-motivated, irresponsible, unresponsive, elected school board would cause! As for the Trenton School Board, there are open seats on the Trenton School Board even to this day. We actively look for and encourage people to join the Board to be a part of the solution in the city, and for our children. You can apply for free today!

Why vote for ANOTHER malfunctioning government body? Every parent, teacher, administrator and taxpayer should be very concerned about moving to an elected, politically-controlled school board and should, “JUST SAY NO” when going to the voting booth on November 8, 2022.

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