By Gene Bouie
I write this as a Trenton resident and tax-paying homeowner, not in my role as a school board member. The opinions expressed herein are my own and not the Trenton Board of Education’s members’ views.
Last month I wrote an op-ed entitled, “Sounding the Alarm”. Since no action has been taken to date, I must call out the travesty again. First, we must ask the following questions:
• Why would a group of people in government leadership, with responsibilities for approving the City’s contribution to the education of the approximately 18,000 children in the City, not allow the school district budget to be placed on the City Council docket for a vote?
• What is the justification? • Who benefits from this tactic? • Who is the action directed against? The group negatively impacted can be defined in four words: the children of Trenton. The City Council President says the action is being taken because of low student performance and graduation rates. How does not funding the budget do anything except exacerbate the issue? Let’s evaluate the catastrophic risks associated with not approving the money for the school district. Internal and afterschool programs are at risk of being impacted. It negatively affects the students and their families and the organizations that partner with the District to provide wraparound services for the children. Below is a sampling of the District’s budgeted priorities for the 2022-2023 school year that may be affected by Council’s inaction:
New Math Adoption 7-12 • New Science Adoption 6-8 • New Language Arts Pilot Program K-8 • Learning Loss Teachers for all Elementary & Intermediate Schools • Expansion of Special Education Program Districtwide • Expansion of Bilingual Program Districtwide • Expansion of Professional Development Services • Expansion of Parent University • Continued support of our Adult Students • Hiring Safety Officers in Middle and High School I would like to ask our Council to compare the District’s productivity over the past 4 years to that of the productivity of the City.
Some of the school district’s progress: • Improving the QSAC performance on Curriculum and Instruction improved from a low of 27 percent in 2017 to a high of 70 percent in 2021. • The curriculum has been modified to adhere to the Amistad Act passed into law in 2002, requiring African American History to be taught in every school district in New Jersey. • For the past four years, the District has received the ASBO (Association for School Business Officials) award for excellence in financial accounting. • There is universal breakfast and lunch for all students. • After having only three school buses in the spring of 2017, and being at the mercy of transportation vendors, the District now owns nearly 40 school buses. • In 2019, to uncover the root causes of deficiencies in Special Education, the District collaborated with the ETS Quality Process Group to conduct a root cause analysis document to drive improvements. • Purchased 500 Perry St., the current location of the Ninth Grade Academy at a cost of $20M.
The District carries zero debt and there was no increase in the taxes of Trenton taxpayers to fund the acquisition. • In 2020, the State Monitor was removed. • In 2021, the District partnered with parents, Administrators, Teachers, stakeholders, and public officials to establish a 5-year strategic plan to drive the District’s direction in support of the Mission. • In 2021, the Trenton School was awarded a $700,000 grant over the next three years from an anonymous donor to completely overhaul the school district technology system with no expense to the District.
Putting the education of the children in Trenton in jeopardy is inexcusable. I pray that the Council will immediately add the school district’s tax levy to the docket. Stop playing politics with the lives of the Trenton school children by avoiding the vote for the budget. Every parent and relative of a Trenton student, teacher, school administrator, public official, non-profit organization, and the taxpayer should be outraged and demand immediate action.