There has recently been a public outcry regarding the Jersey City Board of Education and its 6:3 decisions to enter contract negotiations with a new superintendent. The hostility, rudeness, and personal attacks that the board members have endured from the public in the course of this selection process have been an absolute embarrassment for our city.
I think that there is a fundamental disconnect between the expectations of these upset citizens and the actual system within which we are operating. Many angry people seem to believe that the public at large should have direct say in the selection of appointees. Further they feel disenfranchised because a majority of the board made a decision that they disagree with.
My understanding of our government is that the role of the public is to vote for elected officials. It’s great to see such passion in delivering feedback and communicating priorities and considerations that the public feel should be factored in a decision made by the elected officials. That being said, we need to all understand that this has in fact been a very open and successful public comment process and is not a failed attempt to involve the public in the decision.
It’s the job of the Board of Education to make the decision. We all hope that they have duly weighed the criteria and priorities so vocally expressed by the public, alongside the qualitative issues, political considerations, and other factors inherent in such an important political appointment. Nine people are charged with making that decision but only five have to agree. Getting six of nine to agree in this highly charged climate is a firm decision. Like the board, the public is divided and some people are unhappy with the decision.
If you are being disrespectful, hurling insults, or making personal attack then you are debasing the political process that you claim to be supporting. If you really care about our kids, then put your energy into supporting the new superintendent so she has a chance to succeed. Continuing to foster strife will set our schools back a few more years and will hurt our kids.
In less than one year there will be an election for three seats on the Board of Education and the public at large will once again have an opportunity to vote. If you’ve disagreed with the decisions made by current members, you may have an opportunity to choose new board members who you think better represent your opinion. Until that time, please afford a bit of respect to the elected school board members who have been put in office by the voters of Jersey City and who volunteer an excessive amount of their personal time (without pay) for our kids’ benefit.
When that next election arrives, go out and vote. Go get other people to vote. Even better, go run for office yourself so you can see what it’s like to be in the hot seat and make difficult, divisive, and unpopular decisions.