Not So Fast with the “We” Word, Trenton Superintendent McDowell. You’re Leaving Out the Parents.

“We in Trenton are adamantly opposed to charter school expansion,” Trenton Superintendent Dr. Fred McDowell said Wednesday at a community meeting on the subject. “We are united in that statement.” Um, no, Dr. McDowell. I don’t know whom you are referring to when you say “We in Trenton” but it’s definitely not the Trenton parents I spoke to at last weekend’s NJ Parent Summit, where 250 parents, primarily single moms of color, primarily from Abbott …

Voices from the NJ Parent Summit: “As the Only Black Person in My Class, I Lost a Sense of Self.”

This is a love story. Twelve years ago, Shiana Torres was a student at Essex County Community College. She had grown up in Summit, a mostly white town where she often felt alienated. “I excelled academically,” she recalled, “so I was always the only Black person in my class. You lose a sense of self.” Suddenly she noticed a young man in a restaurant on Springfield Avenue in front of a Chinese restaurant and, well, …

Voices from the NJ Parent Summit: “There’s Proof That Charter Schools Work So Why Would You Stop?”

Jamila Jendayi-Scott, who attended Paterson Public Schools during the state takeover (from 1991 to this past May) and whose son attends the Paterson Arts and Science Charter School, is a firm believer in school choice. Her views stem not from politics but from personal experience. Her own experience within the traditional public system was just fine, by the way. Her Paterson school was not a part of the “paradigm program” that formed a portion of …

The Value of Anger and other Afternoon Notes from #NJ Parent Summit

I’m a sucker for word derivations. Did you know that the word “anger” is derived from an old Norse word meaning “grief?” What is grief? Mike Gecan, as we embark on the afternoon session of the Leadership Track, tells the packed room (I’m sitting on the floor typing this) that the word implies loss, either of of something that was once there but no longer exists or of something that one values but never existed, something you …

Voices from the NJ Parent Summit: Erica Explains It All!

Meet Erica Beverett of Lumberton, New Jersey. A Head Start teacher in Trenton, Erica is attending the NJ Parent Summit this weekend for the Leadership Track, which prepares parents to engage other parents in becoming strong advocates for their children. Erica didn’t use to live in Lumberton (Burlington County). She and her two children, now fourteen and thirteen, lived in Willingboro, about fifteen minutes away. On a personal note, I used to cover Willingboro on …

It’s Saturday Morning at the NJ Parent Summit and Future Leaders Are In School.

I’ve attended the NJ Parent Summit for two of its three years. (Last year the Summit coincided with my daughter’s wedding.) This year, for the first time, Summit organizers have initiated a “Leadership Track” which goes to the heart of one of the Summit’s goals: to help NJ parents become advocacy leaders in their communities and, in turn, train other parents as advocates. So on this Saturday morning I’m in a jam-packed conference room at …

It’s Time for the Third Annual NJ Parent Summit!

Today I head for Mt. Laurel, where 250 parents hailing from all over the state — Atlantic City, Camden, Jersey City, Newark, Passaic, Paterson, Plainfield, Trenton, Englewood —  will convene for the weekend to sharpen their advocacy skills. Session topics include”Choice and Healthy Competition: Demanding the Schools our Children Deserve,”  “Having the Right Conversations with the Right Staff in Your Child’s School,” “Advocating for Exceptional Students,” and a host of others, all focused on empowering …

Update on Firings at the NJ Department of Education: Staffers Respond

There’s been much interest in my post ten days ago about the firing of 40 staff members from the state Department of Education. Since the post went up I’ve received numerous emails from staff members, some who were fired and some still there. All  requested anonymity. Here’s a summary of what I’ve been told. In a sign of the personal and/or political nature of the firings, several days later the DOE put up postings to …

During KIPP’s “Summer Jump,” Kids with Disabilities Learn With Typical Kids. How Does This Work?

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicolina Abruzzese, Assistant Principal of Special Education at KIPP Bold Academy, a charter middle school in Newark that is part of the KIPP New Jersey charter school network. This is Nicolina’s fourth year with KIPPNJ and tenth year in education. She has worked as a Special Education coordinator, department chair and coach of special education teachers and  paraprofessionals, co-chair of the Child Study Team, and as a special education teacher in her …

Cheers All Around for New Jersey’s State Board of Education!

Today the New Jersey Board of Education took a courageous step towards maintaining high-quality schools for students and families. Instead of rubber-stamping Commissioner Repollet (and NJEA’s) recommendations for watering down standards (ex.: a student would be deemed eligible for a high school diploma by scoring a 440 on the math SAT section, which the College Board considers in the 25th percentile of a nationally representative sample), the Board decided to not take action today. Members …