7 vie for seats on Pleasantville school board

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PLEASANTVILLE – A crowded field of seven candidates, including three incumbents and two former members, are vying for three seats on the city’s nine-member Board of Education.
Longtime board President Doris Graves, along with Vice President Melanie Griffin and board member Johnny McClellan, are seeking re-election to three-year terms.
They are challenged by former school board President Jerome Page and former board member Harriet Jackson, along with Michael Bright and Lawrence A. Davenport.


Graves, Griffin, McClellan and Davenport did not respond to requests made by The Current to provide biographical information for this article.
Jerome M. Page
Page, 52, and his wife, Celeste, have been married 28 years and have three children, Vanual, Ty’Shan and April, and six grandchildren.
Page has lived in Pleasantville more than 35 years. He attended Pleasantville High School and the Atlantic County Vocational School chef apprenticeship training program.
He retired after serving 25 years as a chef; and was a bus driver for New Jersey Transit for seven years.
He is an ordained deacon for Mount Zion Baptist Church in Pleasantville and a member of the Resurrection New Covenant Church.
Page, a certified master school board member, served on the Pleasantville school board from 1995-2008, and was board president five times.
He received the Pleasantville-Mainland Branch of the NAACP community service award and was education chairman of the branch.
Page said he would bring years of school board experience and community involvement to the board of education.
He lists one of his main goals for running as using his skills to work with other board members to solve the problems that the state-appointed monitor brought to the board’s attention.
Page said the board needs to work together “so that the monitor can report back to the state with a final exit report. This written report will have addressed all deficiencies.”
Page said he wants to move forward in educating our children.
“For the past three years the school district has been at a standstill – no movement with educating our children,” he said. “At June’s Pleasantville Board of Education meeting the superintendent reported ‘Out of 216 students taking the HSPA test, 75 students passed both parts.’ I asked the superintendent what’s the next step for 141 students to qualify for their diploma. The superintendent stated that she didn’t know what the next step would be and that we needed to celebrate the 75 students who passed. The superintendent’s answer is unacceptable.”
Page, who is a master certified school board member, said all school board members should be certified by the end of their first term.
“This is not the case with the present board,” he said. “I will in the policy committee to set new policy for the full board that will keep them accountable to complete all training classes—certified board member, certified master board member—and last board certifications can be reached by following the Accountability Act. 
“I would have worked hard on the policy committee in setting new policies and regulations that would support the state-appointed monitor’s recommendations,” he said. “I want to bring down administrative costs, ending the many lawsuits by correcting administrative practices, and training board members on how to make informed, cost-effective decisions relating to staff and children,” he continued.
Page said he would have helped the board focus on the vision statement: “All Pleasantville students will graduate as competent, critical thinkers with a wide range of options that prepare them to be leaders for tomorrow and lifelong learners.”
“This would have been read at every board meeting and would allow the full board members to remember why they are sitting on the board,” he said.
Board members should recognize the enormous responsibility they have in setting the course for the district and strive to make informed decisions, he said.
“The board members’ responsibilities include setting policy, establishing goals and adopting yearly operating budgets for the school district. Board members are not responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school,” he pointed out.
Page said that if elected, he would end the board’s micromanagement practices.
“I would like to continue with a student representative sitting on the board during board meetings per board policy,” he said. “At the present time the board is not aware of student morale in the high school because there have been no student representatives. When asked why, the board president stated students are not interested. New leadership will get students interested by believing in them.”
School boards need effective leadership, Page said.
“It takes leadership that shifts expectations to higher levels. It takes dramatic changes in instruction that produce new results. It takes new forms of professional development to help teachers develop skills to reach struggling learners. It takes assessment systems that help us diagnose and improve, not rank and penalize. It takes greater levels of parent and community engagement that creates a support system for every child. It takes you the voter to make that happened by electing Page, Jackson and Bright to the Pleasantville Board of Education. It’s time to move forward.”
Harriet Jackson
Jackson has been a Pleasantville resident more than 40 years. She and her husband, Frank A. Jackson Sr., have two children, Juan and Sonji, and five grandchildren.
Jackson retired from Prudential Insurance Company after 22 years of service. She was a Pleasantville school board member for nine years, serving three three-year terms from 2003-2011. She is a certified master board member.
Jackson attended Atlantic Cape Community College for culinary arts and management, and has certification in both food service sanitation and management. She received the Pleasantville-Mainland NAACP community service award in 2011, and is a past vice president of the board of directors for Parents and Friends Association.
She is a member of Community Baptist Church of Atlantic City and a member of the Southern Jersey Ushers Fellowship of Atlantic City.
Jackson said she wants to help the district climb out from underneath the watchful eye of the state monitor.
“While the state-appointed monitor is still in the school district making over $600 a day, I would work with my fellow board members in evaluating the progress of the monitor’s performance when resolving the district’s many finance problems and very high administration costs,” she said. “The business administrator and the superintendent should be held accountable.”
She said she also wants the full board to help deal with the problem caused by a recent announcement that landfill gases were found underneath two Pleasantville schools.
“This is a very serious problem, and we must be ready to discuss what we need to do as a full board,” she said. “There are many questions that need to be answered – not just from the board but staff, parents and the community. The board needs to review the facilities five-year master plan.”
She wants to encourage other board members to become more efficient and effective by becoming certified.
“If new board members want to do their best they must know what their role is as school board member.”
Jackson said that if she were already on the school board, every decision would have been made with the children’s best interests first.
“Come back to educating children and stop the lawsuits,” she said. “Let us start fighting for our students – help knock down the walls that keep our children from learning.”
The board needs to improve student achievement and performance at all levels by setting board policies and procedures, she said.
“The new Board of Education needs recruit, retain, and support high quality staff, by setting board policy and procedures. The new Board of Education needs to strengthen the lines of communication and partnerships with parents, churches, business, and community members to improve educational quality within the schools, by setting policies and procedures,” she said.
Michael Bright
Bright, 48, has been a resident since 1990. He and his wife, Daisy have three children, Raymond, Jasmine and Fantazi.
He has three years college, attending Montclair State and Hudson County Community College, and attended New Jersey Military Academy in Sea Girt.
He received the Andrew Young Black Male Achievement Award, the Army Good Conduct Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon, Multinational Force and Observers Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Combat Lifesaver award.
He is a member of the VFW, American Legion Post No. 81 in Pleasantville, and IBPO Elks of the World Lighthouse Lodge 9, Atlantic City.
Bright said that making dramatic improvements in urban schools should be a concern to all residents.
“Our urban school systems face daunting challenges to close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates and more,” he said. “The present board must stop hating on each other and focus on educating our children. Leadership of this board must stop micromanagement.”
Bright said community involvement in education reform is crucial to its success.
“The Pleasantville School District needs increased support from more parents, especially within the High School and the Middle School,” he said. “I would like to be assigned to the policy committee that will help in the above areas.”
Better relationships, in turn, help create more stable conditions for consistent school and district leadership, Bright said.
“Our school board should have a trusting, collaborative relationship with the superintendent and fellow board members,” he continued. “What I see and here is not the case with the present leadership on the board. This needs to change, now is the time.”
He said that if he were already in office, he would have helped in setting board policies and procedures that the state appointed monitor would have approved.
“This would have allowed for the monitor to exit the school district and put back the $650 a day into the classroom,” he said.
Bright said the board’s policy committee is most important.
“Policy committee is one of the most important board standing committees that I believe should be recommended by the board president to a ‘board as a whole’ committee,” he said “This would allow all board members to learn how board policies are set in the school district. Change is needed now.”


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