Edwin Rodriguez, a 17-year-old junior at Ferris High, had seen plenty of fights. But when someone started throwing bottles as students were shuffled from one darkened building to another during a May power outage, he had seen enough.
"I just went home," Rodriguez said. "It was chaos. It was just gangster there."
The decision to send students into darkened classrooms at Ferris on the Monday following a weekend power outage is just one instance of what's happened in the district in the absence of a permanent superintendent.
The 28,000 children in Jersey City public schools have been waiting since January for a new leader. School opens in less than three weeks and teachers are waiting by their phones to see what school they'll be assigned to and what grade they'll be teaching.
Our schools are failing our children. In our district, 29 of 38 schools failed federal education benchmarks in 2011. We spend $1,477 per pupil on administrative salaries but only $80 per pupil on extracurricular activities, according to budget data filed with the state. Snyder High School graduates only 52% of students who enter as freshman; at Lincoln High, only 55% graduate, according to state data.
Turning these schools around will be a herculean task. With 4,800 employees, the Jersey City schools are the largest employer in the city. The new super will manage a budget of $630 million, more than the budget for the entire city.
We cannot ask our children to wait another day for real leadership. We implore the Board of Education to come together and usher in the change they have promised voters in every election for the past three years.
School starts Sept. 5. We've missed the opportunity to give a new super the summer to prepare for the first day of school. We seem poised to miss the opportunity to give her even a day to prepare for school to start.
Members of the Jersey City Board of Education, if we start the school year without new leadership, it is on your shoulders. We implore you to approve her contract now.