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, or scroll down for links to previously published interviews with other candidates.
What’s your full name and what relationship have you had with the Jersey City Public School system?
Mark Rowan Ed.S.
I recently retired from the Jersey City School District after 44 years. I have served as a teacher, District Coordinator of Alternative Education, Coordinator of the Juvenile Diversion Program, District Substance Awareness Coordinator and for the last 26 years, served as the Student Assistance Coordinator at Lincoln High School. I also served as a member of the District’s Emergency Response Team.
I am a graduate of Dickinson High School. I received my BA degree from St. Peter’s College, two MA degrees from Jersey City State College and an Educational Specialist degree from Rutgers University.
In what ways has the JCPS been successful? How can we enhance and expand upon those successes?
I feel that the Jersey City School District is in good condition. Are there issues, problems and concerns that need to be discussed and addressed? Of course, but graduation rates are up, drop out rates are down, out of school suspensions are down, and if you are current on positive activities in our schools, you know we have students and teachers who are striving for excellence and innovation.
We need to support our building administrators, classroom teachers and support personnel. We need to continue to provide professional development programs. We need to insure that all schools have a clean and safe educational environment. We need to communicate with our students, parents, staff and tax paying Jersey City citizens the strengths and weaknesses of our District and to work cooperatively to make our District better and stronger.
What challenges does the JCPS face? What steps need to be taken to overcome them? Tell me about your ideas regarding allocation of funds and the 600 million dollar budget. (Ed. Note: Mr. Rowan chose to answer these two questions together, so they’re placed together here.)
Money, money, money. We have to always look at the budget and monitor that it is being utilized to the best of our abilities. Fiscal responsibility is a major responsibility of any Board member. You also have to be realistic about financial limitations. A person may have a great idea but if there is not a funding source it will be hard to implement it. I would like the District is hire a grant writer, build better partnerships with the business community and improve our working relationships with the local universities.
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?
Testing is a tool. It can give benchmarks about a district, a school, a classroom or an individual student. But it is how we utilize those statistical findings, find patterns of success or concerns and adjust the curriculum and/or teaching methods if warranted to address those issues. I am against over testing students. I feel too much time is spent in teaching for the test or test taking skills. You also have to look at the individual student and the stresses and issues that affect our youth and utilize our support services to assist students and families deal with those issues. We have excellent teachers and with proper supervision and support from our administrators they will continue to educate our youth at the high level we expect.
This year, the school board regains control over the JCPS. What does that look like? What changes can we expect?
If the Board can prove to the State that it is a honest, transparent and professional Board working in a civil manner for the better of our students, I expect that the Jersey City School District should finally return to full local control. However, if the State feels that the Board is dysfunctional, I fear a return to local control could be delayed.
When the State took us over 28 years ago, they said there was a high degree of favoritism, nepotism and cronyism. I don’t want to return to the “bad old days” but I also fear political interference. Keeping politics out of education is easier said than done. That is one reason to look at independent candidates who don’t owe PACs or special interest groups.
And finally, safety. Parents talk to me about this all the time. Do our kids feel safe in school?
I am concerned about gangs, guns, drugs, violence and bullying in some of our schools. I have worked very closely with the JCPD School Resource Officers, probation officers, CITs, and administrators in finding ways to make our schools safer. The District’s Code of Conduct is a tool that helps all deal with safety issues. Increased professional training for our staffs in mediation and anger management techniques will help. I have also been active with the Avoiding the School to Prison Pipeline committee. I also believe if you have persistent cases that affect the educational climate of a classroom or a school that an alternative placement is warranted. We need to insure that every school has a safe, nurturing environment.
I thank you for this opportunity to express my views. I hope to earn your vote.
Read previously published interviews with other candidates: