To the Editor:
An October 7, 2015, article referenced my speech at the Bayonne Rotary Club Education Forum regarding “how to bring Bayonne schools back to an upper tier district in Hudson County and the state” and “creating an education blueprint for 2025.” The real concern is taxpayers are demanding a greater return on investment from our schools, and many parents are worried about their children being “college ready” when they graduate.
As residents, we must elect a new school board that will keep the 13-year promise of preparing all students to be career and college ready. For example, a child born in 2015 may enter kindergarten in 2020 and graduate from high school in 2032. As an education system, we imply that our schools are “future smart,” capable of preparing children to be career and college ready for the 21st century when they graduate after 13 years of public-school education.
Recent data on Bayonne High School showed an alarming fact. The school ranked number 303 in New Jersey and U.S. News & World Report reported a College Readiness Index of 12.9. In comparison, the same report listed Biotechnology HS of Freehold, NJ as number one in the state with a College Readiness Index of 99.1 and a national ranking of number 19. Nearby, Dr. Ronald McNair HS of Jersey City demonstrated a College Readiness Index of 90.9 and a ranking of number 43 in the country. In fairness, the College Readiness Index is one of many data points used to rank a school. But, are we happy with an index score of 12.9?
If the answer is “No,” then the change we need requires visionary leadership and guts to (a) face brutal facts, (b) reveal the truth, and (c) do something. Ultimately, the team we elect on Tuesday, November 3, must prepare to cope with the complexity of governing a district and fundamental changes required to set the organization on a path of becoming an upper-tier school district.
As a 35-year career educator, my candidacy brings a proven record of school turnaround experience, education reform knowledge, and policy design experience. The work is supported by a Bachelor of Science in Education, Master of Science in Education Administration, and Doctorate in Education Leadership. I hold New Jersey certifications as a teacher, school principal, and superintendent and currently serve as Executive Director and CEO of an $8.2 million education and arts-based nonprofit in New York City.
If elected, my two-year tenure will involve a policy and action-based approach to foster the conditions to achieve annual improvements in student achievement. Specifically, I will propose a subcommittee to assess current capacity related to (1) curriculum quality, (2) instructional practices, (3) use of standardized tests, (4) school leadership (5), fiscal controls, (6) board policies, (7) effective governance, (8) parental engagement, and (9) facilities needs. We will translate the findings into a 2025 Blueprint for Educational Excellence that prioritizes a set of one-, three-, and five-year action items and goals, to be reevaluated annually.
Finally, if elected, the 2025 Blueprint for Educational Excellence will be one of many effective strategies used to articulate a clear vision and end an era of competing priorities without a resolution. Your vote for my candidacy is a vote for the spirit of educational excellence for all children in Bayonne. If we don’t put “Kids First,” then who will?
Vote 12-D on Tuesday, November 3.
THOMAS HOWARD, JR. , PhD.