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?
My name is Kimberly Goycochea and I am a product of the Jersey City Public School System. Before graduating from Snyder High School in 2015 in the top 10 percent of my class, I attended PS 38, PS 24 and MS 4. I am running on the Fix It Now Team with Mussab Ali.
In what ways has the JCPS been successful? How can we enhance and expand upon those successes?
One way I can say the JCPS has been successful is in the rise of success of students in some of the neediest schools due to the programs offered in schools and the opportunities given to these students that weren’t available such as the LEAP program which works with Hudson County Community College. If we give these students a vision of the future they could have, a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak, it gives them better motivation to succeed and also help them determine properly what they would like to pursue career-wise. I think many of these students face issues in and out of the classroom and allowing them to explore their options can help bring the light back into the children’s eyes, so to speak.
What challenges does the JCPS face? What steps need to be taken to overcome them?
The lack of parent involvement in PTA and Open House night is a problem, and it’s one that could be solved with two things. First, many of these parents do not understand/speak English, so they feel intimidated or useless going to Open House if they cannot know what is going on with their children. Some such as my mother, brought their own children as translators because they had no one else to turn to, and that could lead to miscommunication. While on the campaign trail I met a mom who told me that because she didn’t know English she wasn’t able to attend open house and when she did try to halfway through the year with a friend who could translate, she found out her son was failing and skipping school too late. These parents want to be involved and we should bridge these gaps for them because parent involvement evokes student success and the way to do so is by having honor society students volunteer as translators for community service hours and to make these parents feel welcomed into the school. The second solution is to have a showcase so they will be motivated to see their talented children before seeing grades.
Tell me about your ideas regarding allocation of funds and the 600 million dollar budget.
With a budget at 673 million dollars, we should be able to cover all schools and students in the classroom. Unfortunately that is not the case. Schools like Snyder are using old and abused books, and throughout the city there are infrastructure problems which should have been addressed previously, such as fixing water fountains. Students shouldn’t have to be lucky to drink water at their school, and having these decaying and forgotten schools imposes a culture that demean their students and makes them feel destined for failure. So my biggest concern is to bring that money back into the classroom and using the budget effectively and with transparency.
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?
Yes, the test that everyone is talking about now is PARCC, which knowing by talking to students all over Jersey City, not many approve of. The PARCC being used to determine if students are eligible to graduate is not something I would approve of as it disadvantages a large amount of students, especially those who are not testing savvy or have testing anxiety or have other outside forces that prevent then from being at focus in the classroom. Not all students are testing students and using their scores for teacher evaluations is also a problem because those scores don’t reflect the complete knowledge of the students and if they get lower scores it may not be the teacher.
This year, the school board regains control over the JCPS. What does that look like? What changes can we expect?
We still have one aspect which has not returned to local control which is curriculum and instruction and getting that is something that needs to be made a priority now. Once we get that we need to be open to different and creative way of instruction and incorporate student opinion and voice to know what is and is not working.
And finally, safety. Parents talk to me about this all the time. Do our kids feel safe in school?
From my experiences at Snyder there were times where no one felt safe at school, and during my candidacy I have met other students who felt the same way but it’s not a problem in all our schools. That does not mean it’s shouldn’t be addressed. Studies prove that if a student doesn’t feel safe they are more likely to fail, fall behind or engage in unsafe behavior and that needs to stop. Students need to lose this culture of instability, violence and dysfunction. Students need programs which make them feel welcome, safe and loved in their schools. Mentorship Programs to guide them towards a better future. Recreational Schools to keep students off the dangers in the streets. And to do this we need more contact and partnerships with the community.
Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you feel needs to also be addressed?
Students have been concerned about their school system for longer than people believe and the reason I am running is for that student voice. Students are the forgotten stakeholders in education. I fight everyday for them to be heard and to unite the community for one common goal: the education and well being of the students in the JCPS.
Read previously published interviews with other candidates: