Jumping in head first

New education board president has his work cut out for him, but is positive about schools’ future

New Bayonne Board of Education President Joseph Broderick knows he has his hands full with a majority board of new school trustees and myriad issues affecting the Bayonne district over the upcoming years. But that’s not slowing him down or dulling his spirit.
Broderick talked about the issues he sees the board and the district facing over the next three years, the duration of his first term as a trustee.
Even before he was elected president during the board’s Jan. 7 reorganization meeting, Broderick was part of history. He and four other trustees; Ava Finnerty, Christopher Munoz, Christopher Piechocki, and Denis Wilbeck were members of the first group of trustees in more than 35 years elected by voters rather than appointed by the sitting mayor.
Broderick stood out even more for another reason: His tally of 2,702 votes was more than any of the other Bayonne candidates received.
With that number of votes came a mandate from Bayonne’s residents, Broderick feels, and that mandate he said was to make change.
So he has used his nearly first month in office to begin learning the board and its processes to eventually effect positive change in the district.
He wants more transparency between the Bayonne School Board and its constituents; teachers, parents, and other residents.
“I hope to have the format of the meetings change,” he said. “I think you’ll see the formula different, as far as getting information from the board quicker.”
Broderick wants resolutions posted earlier than just minutes before a meeting begins, what some said was the past policy. He also wants feedback from residents.
“It’s a great thing to have elections,” he said. “The people, they gave us their voices. All of us on the board now are looking to give voice to people. We want everyone to know what they say is important to us.”
And he’d like to focus on the students, how they can be provided with programs that will help them as they depart the district, whether they’re going to college, technical school, the armed forces, or straight into the workforce.
“When I came on, I was thinking we want to see every child that graduates to come out with not just a diploma, but with a future, especially the ones that struggled,” Broderick said. ” You walk out the door and say what now? We have to look at what we want to do and what we have the background to do. We hope to strengthen the students a little more.”
To that end, Broderick has already spoken to Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Kenneth Kopacz to work on strategies for children at risk educationally, especially in elementary schools.
“We want to get them so when they get to high school, they are ready for success,” he said.
Broderick knows that doing better for the school district usually means having more money to put into it. Being one of the most underfunded districts does not help his cause.
Hoping to fix that problem, Broderick said he met with new 31st District Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti and asked him to bring Bayonne’s plea for more funding to Trenton. He hopes to meet with new Assemblywoman Angela McKnight as well. “I know they’re pushing every issue they can,” Broderick said.
He said the district is underfunded by at least a couple of thousand dollars per student, something he hopes to reverse.
“We’re trying to get our fair share,” Broderick said. “The state formula goes way back to when Bayonne didn’t become an Abbott district. That’s what’s really hurting us right now.”
Abbott districts were categorized in the mid-1980s and early 1990s as poorer public school districts which received substandard education unconstitutionally. To remedy the inequity, it was mandated that these districts should receive as much funding as the wealthiest in the state.
Until increased grants or other funding becomes a reality, the district will keep plugging along with the resources it has.
“We’ll give the very best education we can with the money we can afford,” he said.
Broderick credits the district’s administrators and teachers with doing a “terrific” job.
Along those lines, he would like to see an agreement soon between the Board of Education and teachers on a new contract. The trustees’ three-person teachers’ contract committee is composed of Finnerty, Munoz, and board veteran Mikel Lawandy.
“I think everyone wants to see that resolved,” Broderick said. “From what I’m hearing, the people who were negotiating did a great job, especially (former board of trustee) Mike Masone. I think they did everything they could.”
But he is hoping with new faces on the board, and new ideas, “something will click.”
Giving the best contract they can to the teachers while keeping taxpayers in mind will continue to be the balancing act. The first negotiating session with the new trustees attending was scheduled for Feb. 2.

Good people and lots of help

“We have a lot of talented people here,” Broderick said. “Ted (Garelick) has a lot of knowledge. Mike’s (Lawandy) a sharp guy, and then there’s (former teacher Chris) Piechocki. And there are the others.”
With the help of the veteran trustees and assistance of Bayonne Board of Education administration, Broderick feels a lot can be done to move the district forward.
“We’ve been working with the Central Office closely,” Broderick said. “Everyone’s been 100 percent cooperative so far. Dr. McGeehan and the other Central Office people have been patient with all our questions. They’ve been nothing but helpful. Dr. [Gary] Maita has been terrific.”

Well versed for his new post

Broderick, a former Bayonne educator and administrator said his overall experience should serve him well on the board.
“I think it’s a three-way thing; being a former teacher, former administrator, and being a parent helps,” he said. “My children went through the Bayonne school system and I see it from all sides. Also I look at things as a taxpayer. I think it’s a combination of everything. I feel for all the parts.”

Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.

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