My personal mission in life is to enrich and improve the lives of children and my community. I fulfill this by dedicating my time to tutoring, educating, and mentoring the youth. Growing up here in Paterson has had its challenges but I am still proud of who I am today. I know that I am an example of what Paterson has to offer. Education has always been my outlet and school was my happy place. With that, I find it to be my responsibility to run for Board of Education seat. With this position I can help ensure that the education given to the students of Paterson is of high quality and effective to overall growth and success in life.
There are many issues and components to the education system that needs to be addressed. However, I will share what my priority on issues are:
Funding and resources are a top priority to combat teacher layoffs, overcrowding classrooms, tax increases and outdated learning facilities. Paterson has one of the largest school districts with students and staff occupying the oldest buildings in the nation. The classrooms are filled beyond capacity with a lack of resources. There are no books, little technology and barely enough fulltime teachers and educators in the classrooms. Why are taxpayers paying more and the quality of education is getting worse?
Curriculum, instruction and job readiness needs to be reimagined for our children to compete in a global world. Due to the recent pandemic and Covid-19 restrictions, we must get creative with ways to teach. Outdoor learning can be a path for our students to connect with learning in their environments. Gov. Andrew Cuomo from New York talked about reimagining education. I envision learning pathways blending with virtual learning and hands on, project-based experiences. Special needs and various accommodations must be explored and readily available to students. Graduation rates must improve with college acceptances and/or job offers. All implementations should be research-based, and results driven. What have other urban school done to make a better impact on their students?
Mental, social and emotional wellness must be checked daily due to various outside trauma that our students face. Guidance counselors and mental health professionals should replace the school to prison mentality. Community organizations should be involved for additional resources and assistance. Art and recreational activities should be used as outlets and offered throughout our children’s day. Weekend hours and services can also be added to the education lifestyle to extend other services in collaboration with community organizations.
Health and safety concerns are at an all-time high with issues in school bussing and transportation. Parents should feel secure that their children arrive and return from work safely. They should always be in a positive and nurturing environment. School buildings and facilities should be up to date and up to health standards. With old buildings, there are problems with mold, poor air circulation and outdated structures. Security measures should be in place to ensure safety from drugs and weapons in schools. Bathrooms should be monitored and cleaned frequently with proper toiletries and hygiene products available. Fresh, farm to table nutrition should be implemented and served. Each school and community park should have a garden program operated by our children.
Educational relationships and partnerships are essential to build the whole child. It takes more than parents and teachers but also the community. We always say, “it takes a village to raise a child” and in today’s time, this remains true. There must be an understanding of how everyone has their role in this education system. Imagine a community where everyone is pouring into our children’s education. We need more parents and community members to stand up for our children (this is my first real step). We must acknowledge those hard-working teachers who go above and those who still work despite the lack of support they receive. We must track where funds are being used and if it is effective. How can we build relationships with the Board to Superintendent, from Superintendent to principals, from principals to teachers and directly to our children? What is the teacher’s Union’s strategic objectives and how can we work together to give our teachers what they need? How can we show our children everyone cares for them? We must hold each other accountable and figure out why our children are lacking. There should be no blame game. Just restoring, planning, and executing.
I do not have the answers to all the problems, but I am willing to learn and advocate for what is needed for our children. Politics should not come before our children. I am looking forward to creating educational goals based on the expectation of the community and needs of our children. I am ready to learn the roles and responsibilities needed to operate at a policy level with defined expected results, creating strong, clear, and measurable goals. This is the time to use our voices and put plans into action!
Written by Shanikwa Lemon, a potential candidate for Paterson school board in November.