Categorized | News, Schools

Board of Ed Meeting 3/3

PERTH AMBOY – Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janine Walker Caffrey presided over the community Board of Ed Forum Meeting held at the James J. Flynn School on Chamberlain Avenue. While the audience consisted mainly of educators and some former board members there was a very small group of residents in attendance from the neighborhood. Dr. Caffrey presented several slides outlining where students needed academic improvements in various subjects. The most glaring point of her presentation was that last year only 522 students graduated. At the beginning of their freshman year that class had over 700 students enrolled. The dropout rate of over 200 students was a focal point of this meeting and many in attendance suggested solutions to this problem.

Board Member Obi Gonzalez voiced her concerns of the lack of parents who were absent from this meeting especially since it was held on at a Saturday at 10 a.m. Several of those in attendance agreed that many students drop out of school because they need to work to help out their families financially.

Gonzalez continued, “I was a high school counselor but social workers are needed more because they have more specialized skills. That’s where the money should go. We need ongoing sustainable programs – not ones that come and go. (referring to the $39 million from the state) Programs are needed where the parents and students can participate together. Let’s open up the school libraries – especially on weekends so we can engage the parents social issues concerning them (for example housing and work issues). I am hoping with each subsequent Board of Education Forum Meetings that more parents will come out.”

A concerned parent who is also a substitute teacher said, “We should reach out to the churches and have these announcements made about these meetings. A lot of parents are very religious and this is a good way to communicate to them the importance to come to the regular school board meetings and these community forum meetings.

Mr. Cilia who is the Principal in the Flynn School stated, “I am a product of the Perth Amboy School System as is my mother. An extended school year and day would be welcomed by parents.” He offered up that he has been an educator for 29 years. “Our after-school programs has a waiting list. All of our activities presented in the evenings have a full house.”

Dr. Caffrey agreed, “We need to make up a lot of ground and the summer slide is where our kids fail. Because of our economic background we need 200 school days – not just 180.”

One teacher agreed with Cilia that we need to link with other schools to see what they are doing to have a large number of parents coming out to support their children in their after-school activities.”

Many classes have a high number of students where as the Richardson School is under enrolled. Board Member Milady Tejada said, “We need community inpu to discuss challenges and what this $39 million should be used for. The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) needs to be emphasized and also students should be taught to respect one another. She stated that when her son was in High School that two days before school started there was a program put in place where students were taught how to interact with one another in a respectable way.”

Educator Virginia Morales said, “There is something that happens to the students in the Middle School where they are growing up too fast. Fifth Grade is too young to be in a middle school setting and the students need to be monitored more closely. More parents are interested in prom issues instead of learning issues and I advise that more teamwork needs to be emphasized among the students.”

A young woman by the name of Damaris (a former participant in a DARE program under Kenneth Puccio) has a young daughter of her own now. She also is a community organizer in New York. “There are so many social issues going on outside the high school which is affecting the students behavior in school.” Damaris stated. “There should be more summer programs going on.” She said, “When I graduated high school, two days later I was attending Middlesex County College. A lot of students come to empty homes after school. My six year old comes home bored and says she would rather have me teach her. I take my special Ed son to New York.”

Tejeda said, “My son is also special Ed and we must encourage them to do better instead of lowering the bar for them.” To which Damaris agreed.

“There is an empowerment program in New Brunswick geared toward working toward special education student. They do a great job,” Damaris stated.

Board VP Kenneth Puccio acknowledged Virginia Morales and Damaris from when they attended the DARE program when both young women were students in the Perth Amboy School System. “I’m also a Juvenile Detective and it’s heart-retching to see what kids deal with and school is their sanctuary. Teachers are the most important part of this equation. If students are coming from abusive circumstances you have to tell them that you care – even putting your arms around them.”

Dave Benyola of the Department of Human Services in Perth Amboy stated that he knows how much kids worry about losing their homes because a lot of times when parents come into his office for housing assistance they were often accompanied by their children.

Virginia Morales agreed with Benyola. “There are also that a lot of parents are immigrants and they are afraid if they come into school about matters pertaining to their children’s education they fear that they will be deported.”

“You have to address personal problems that students have at home.” Puccio chimed in. He used himself and Edwin Nieves, Vice Principal of the High School as prime examples of having teachers who cared so much about them that it turned their lives around for the better. More Coverage of the meeting in the 3/21 issue of the Amboy Guardian

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WED. Sept. 27
• City Council, Regular,
7 p.m.
City Hall, High St.

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