Meet the School Board Candidates: Sterling Waterman and Hiral Patel

By • Apr 7th, 2010 • Category: Featured, News, Politics
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There are three open seats for three-year terms on the city’s Board of Education (BOE) up for grabs in this year’s election, which will take place on April 20 (polls are open from 2 to 9 pm). We reached out to all 16 candidates with our questionnaire, which asks about their backgrounds, their ideas about specific issues and what they would do if elected to the BOE. We are publishing them, two at a time, in the order in which we received them.

This is our third installment; you can read the first, with candidates Gerald Lyons and June Mulqueen, and the second, with candidates Carol Lester and Sebastian D’Amico, here and here.

STERLING WATERMAN

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

I have a son in the 2nd grade at PS 16. I also have many friends and neighbors with children in public schools. I am concerned about their opportunities to succeed in public school, now and in the future. This is because of the continuous failure of the superintendent and current Board of Education (BOE) in turning our schools around. (i.e., 25 of 38 schools, and 4 of 5 high schools, failing to meet adequate yearly progress goals for 7 yrs straight; high school graduation rate at 69 percent, the presence of many high paid administrators, special assistants, etc. when these monies can be put in classrooms.) In addition, with the school budget over $600 million and Jersey City residents’ taxes at more than 25 percent and climbing, we need to demand more success, transparency and accountability.

What qualifications would you bring to the position?

As it relates to the children, I am an involved parent and I belong to many education organizations. I have been my school’s Parent Council President for 2 years, I am on my school’s leadership committee, a member of Parents and Communities United for Education (PCUE), a member of the recess committee with the BOE and the head of the Coalition of PTO/PTA Presidents. I am also a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program. I have attended 99 percent of BOE meetings in the last 3 years and have witnessed the waste and poor decision making. I also have backgrounds in administration and managing budgets for companies.

If elected, how will you make yourself accessible to parents, students and teachers? Conversely, how will you keep abreast of the school communities’ needs and concerns?

Because I belong to many organizations now, I am constantly abreast of what is going on. I plan to continue with my current ventures. If I am fortunate to get elected, I will also create a website and post various information regarding the BOE so that the public is no longer kept in the dark. I will also attend neighborhood association meetings and other related gatherings.

What do you think are the three most pressing issues for Jersey City’s public schools right now?

Curriculum failures, a bloated budget and mismanagement, and the poor graduation rate.

What is your opinion on charter schools and how they fit — or don’t fit — into the overall mission of the Board of Education?

Charter schools have their place in education. I do think their funding should come from different resources.

Do you think the instruction at the schools can be improved, and if so, how?

Instruction has to be consistent and not change every other year. We must also decide on what’s been successful, either here or elsewhere, and move forward accordingly.

What will you do to cope with the cuts to education funding that are included in Gov. Christie’s proposed state budget for the 2011 fiscal year? How will you make the most of the reduced funding that Jersey City schools will receive?

First, I’d cut the fat at administration. Afterward, I’d root out and eliminate other waste and wasteful spending that’s become the norm.

Do you think Jersey City is currently faced with any unique opportunities or obstacles given Gov. Christie’s appointment of former Jersey City mayor Bret Schundler as the state’s education commissioner?

I believe it is still too early to tell, however, I remain optimistic.

What is your opinion of the teachers union contract that was recently rejected by the sitting Board of Education?

Well, I have heard various different views from those more involved and that have more information. With that said, I am still learning more and would be unable to comment at this time with the limited information I have.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes. This election is very important to the children and all of Jersey City’s residents, now and in the future, so I encourage all to come out and vote. We need to stop the bleeding and change the culture of the current administration of not doing enough. We need to elect independent people that will buck the current system and not indulge in the status quo.

HIRAL PATEL

Why do you want to serve on the school board?

Based on the experience gathered, I bring with me a fresher and newer outlook on the development of testing and scoring systems. In fact, even the BOE doesn’t have a testing and scoring monitoring committee. This is the first thing on my “to do” list once I am elected. Jersey City is a very vibrant, multicultured society, the essence of which should be reflected in the BOE board. I am running to make sure that there is diverse representation.

What qualifications would you bring to the position?

Education: I attended Hudson County Community College in Jersey City and got my associate’s degree in computer science. I have completed my bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and master’s in Information Technology and M.B.A. in finance from New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

Experience:

  • Worked with a team to implement an efficient Testing and Scoring system for New York State Board of Education (1500 schools) around 2 years.
  • Worked as Teaching Assistant at Hudson County Community College for around 4 years.
  • Worked as an intern for Journal Square Restoration Corporation, Special improvement district.

If elected, how will you make yourself accessible to parents, students and teachers? Conversely, how will you keep abreast of the school communities’ needs and concerns?

I have determined to setup a Yahoo group for Jersey City residents. This virtual space will act as a platform for concerned citizens to voice their questions, suggestions and carry on discussions. The issues will be addressed based on the truthfulness of matter and urgency of situation.

I can also be reached at 201-217-1333 or via email electpatel2jcboe (at) gmail.com.

What do you think are the three most pressing issues for Jersey City’s public schools right now?

Improving the testing system; the teachers’ contract, optimizing the budget and layoffs; and reducing plant operations and maintenance costs using green technologies.

What is your opinion on charter schools and how they fit — or don’t fit — into the overall mission of the Board of Education?

Jersey City public schools are having good and healthy competition against charter schools. I have pointed out few issues as below:

  • Charter schools should not run for political reasons.
  • Charter schools must accept special ed. and ESL students like any public schools.
  • Business administrators should be qualified ones and not family appointed ones getting a big pay from taxpayers.
  • The BOE can’t open schools in many places; at this point charter schools can help offering the same commitment to public as public schools. We have around 25 failing schools in Jersey City. Charter schools can play a role constructively here.

Do you think the instruction at the schools can be improved, and if so, how?

This is an area in which the BOE has been failing every year. Without proper planning new syllabus and books are introduced; teachers are not trained on this. Scalable testing systems can plan a vital role here. Micro-level testing is also a tool for learning. There is not any creativity in current testing pattern. Simply a bonus question, like giving a solution and asking the students to construct a question, can improve student’s creativity. It is very unfortunate that, this great country’s future kids are taught today with yesterday’s class instruction.

What will you do to cope with the cuts to education funding that are included in Gov. Christie’s proposed state budget for the 2011 fiscal year? How will you make the most of the reduced funding that Jersey City schools will receive?

The BOE has enough scope to optimize the budget. They can survive without even getting $10 million new tax levy money. If staff agrees for a wage freeze the state will provide more money/funds.

Do you think Jersey City is currently faced with any unique opportunities or obstacles given Gov. Christie’s appointment of former Jersey City mayor Bret Schundler as the state’s education commissioner?

I personally believe this decision is great for Jersey City. Mayor Schundler has good amount of knowledge on education system and it will be great opportunity for me if I have to work with him in future. There may be some differences in the area of charter schools, special activities, etc., but the BOE will largely gain from his expertise.

What is your opinion of the teachers’ union contract that was recently rejected by the sitting Board of Education?

They must have a new contract that addresses their needs in this new economy. It will be completely inequitable to compare their unique situation to other taxpayers’ situation. But on the other end, the union must understand the way the BOE is operating. In the forthcoming years, there will be a big deficit to operate the school at a point where the federal and state governments are pushing their agenda to cut funds while Jersey City is struggling to sustain itself.

Teachers pay $700 per year to the union. I don’t think they and the taxpayers get the services that they deserve.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The budget they passed doesn’t address and enforce green schools; this is an area that the BOE continues to ignore while paying more in plant operations and maintenance.

Teaching ethics and yoga an hour per week will definitely result in a future society with less crime.

The taxpayers need a new vibrant generation like me to offer and implement new ideas.



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