School Board Candidate: Gina Verdibello

As we close in on Election Day, we took some time to interview the Jersey City School Board candidates. Stay tuned in the upcoming days for additional candidates answering the same questions.

What’s your full name and what relationship have you had with the Jersey City Public School system?

My name is Gina Verdibello, and I have three children that attend the Jersey City Public Schools.

I have been very active in the district for the last seven (7) years. During this time, I have been elected as the Vice President P.S. 17 Parent Council, I have served as the Title One Representative for P.S. 17, and I have been a member of the Early Childhood Committee. In 2015, I received the Parent Leadership Award. I also consistently attend and speak at the monthly local school board meetings, and I have attended and spoken at the state board of education meetings in Trenton regarding the over-use of standardized testing in the district, and the need for additional funds to improve our public school facilities.

In what ways has the JCPS been successful? How can we enhance and expand upon those successes?

The main reason I send my children to my district public school is because of the outstanding teachers we have in our district. I know they work hard and care about every single child that walks into their classrooms. We also have fantastic programs. Currently my 10 year old daughter participates in the Lego robotics team with science teacher Mr. Hassanien. This after school program is free. The program teaches computer coding and STEM related subjects. These types of programs enrich the education experience of the children and provide a safe after school environment for continued extra-curricular learning.

We need to have more of these programs, especially after school programs that interest our children and encourage their continued interest in education.

What challenges does the JCPS face? What steps need to be taken to overcome them?

Communication has been a big problem in the district. We are a large district with approximately 38,000 students from Pre-K to High School. Parents want and need access to information regarding everything from how to enroll a child in school to the various programs that are available. The district website needs major improvements and I think if you had an individual acting as a β€œhelp desk” (fielding calls at the district and directing you to correct person to talk to) that would provide a tremendous service to parents. I always wanted there to be mobile app that parents could report issues/problems especially facilities or food issues.

Tell me about your ideas regarding allocation of funds and the 600 million dollar budget.

We need to start thinking about the possibility of our funds being cut by the State based on the student ratio formula. I believe the district should hire a grants department to pursue educational grants from various foundations and corporations to help attract additional funds to be used to benefit the students. I would like to see an increase in the food budget so that the district can improve the food quality for our students. If necessary, spending should be cut in certain areas where overspending can be identified. This may require a forensic audit of the monies that the district receives from the city, state and county.

Many parents are concerned about testing as a primary (and in some cases singular) tool for evaluation of students, teachers, and schools. Can you speak to that?

I’ve testified in front of the New Jersey State Board of Education on several occasions in opposition to the PARCC test. I do not think that the PARCC is a fair evaluation of the teachers, or of the students. Based on numerous concerns I have regarding the test, it should not be a requirement to graduate High School. While testing is important, it should not take away from valuable instruction time.

This year, the school board regains control over the JCPS. What does that look like? What changes can we expect?

Local control was supposed to be returned to the City of Jersey City in the Spring of 2016, but our test scores are still low. All that is remaining for local control is curriculum and instruction. These are extremely important for the future of the district as this will allow for the district to devise and implement additional programs that the state currently has eliminated such as vocational training and cursive writing.

And finally, safety. Parents talk to me about this all the time. Do our kids feel safe in school?

My concern as a parent is when there are school lockdowns parents receive no formal notice from the either the school or the district; rather we tend to find out from our children. It should be a requirement that we receive letters or some kind of formal notice that something occurred that day in school.

Schools are a safe haven thanks to the security guards who do a great job keeping our children safe. There are concerns as to what can happen when they walk between home and school. We need a partnership between the community, the district, the police, and local merchants to ensure that there are safe corridors for our children to travel to and from school.

Posted by

Mel Kozakiewicz a professor, editor, writer, and mother of two.

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