This week marks the conclusion of the 2013-14 year for Jersey City Public Schools. The last week of school is an opportunity to pause, reflect upon, and celebrate some of the highlights from the past ten months.
JCPS serves nearly 30,000 school children through 39 schools that operate on a budget of over $650 million. Jersey City is a growing community; according to US census data, the population grew nearly 4% from 2010 to 2013. The school system is part of that growth, with enrollment expected to increase 25% by 2017-18.
I culled the achievements listed below from the district’s Facebook page, and when available also provided links to local press reports. So without further ado, let’s celebrate…
McNair Academic HS was recognized as a Top 10 School by JerseyCAN for 2013, a nonprofit education research and advocacy schools-focused organization in New Jersey. McNair is a magnet public high school located in Hamilton Park.
Robert O’Donnell, Jr. of McAuliffe School (PS 28) won the Milken Educator Award, also known as “the Oscar of teaching.” The national Award is given to fewer than 40 teachers per year. Mr. O’Donnell worked with his students to “transform an abandoned local reservoir into an urban oasis and environmental learning center.”
Arian Montales, a 2nd grade student at Rafalides School (PS 33), “won a medal for her creativity in persuading other children to eat healthy fresh foods from local farms” as part of the NJ Agricultural Society 2013 Farm-City Poster Contest.
Ana Tejada of Zampella School (PS 27) took top prize in the PATH holiday poster contest. Her poster, which features Lady Liberty, was shown in PATH stations and on PATH cars throughout the holiday season. The contest is open each year for Jersey City elementary and middle school students and is a partnership between PATH and the Jersey City Board of Education’s Visual and Performing Arts Program.
Martin Luther King Jr. School (PS 11) took first place in the annual tree decorating “Snowflake Contest.” The winning students’ theme was “Anti-Bullying/Acceptance of All/Born this Way” with an emphasis on “being comfortable in one’s own skin.” The Dickinson H.S. ladies basketball team won the Newark Collegiate Academy Christmas Tournament.
Art students from McNair High School and Jersey City ARTS at Snyder High School received 56 total Scholastic Art & Writing Awards sponsored by the Montclair Art Museum (MAM). The Awards are a 91-year old national program that “recognizes outstanding creative teenagers.” JCPS awards included 20 Gold Keys, 18 Silver Keys, and 26 Honorable Mentions throughout JCPS. The MAM awards is nationally recognized, administered by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, and focuses on visual arts.
The City hosted the 19th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition to celebrate Black History Month. Six students from Jersey City elementary and middle schools took home top honors.
Tyler Ballon, a Snyder H.S. JC ARTS finalist in Young Arts, was accepted to attend a master workshop in New York City. The workshop entailed working with “masters in their field” such as Rosie Perez, Adina Hoffman, Michael Arad, and Dave Eggar, as well as presenting their work at the MoMA PS1.
Coach Matt Hogan of McNair H.S. received placement in the NJCSA Coaches Hall of Fame. Coach Hogan has won 8 NJSIAA state titles, 6 league titles, 6 Hudson County titles, and 10 Coach of the Year titles.
Students from Barnes School (PS 12) were selected for their high participation rate in the Breakfast Classroom Challenge program and Fuel Up to Play 60 to attend the JETS training facility in Florham Park, NJ. Students received “red carpet treatment” and participated in a panel on the importance of healthy breakfast and staying active.
The McNair Junior ROTC placed first in the overall “Mixed” category of the North Jersey Raider Championships. Events included the 3K Team Run, One-Rope Bridge, Team Physical Fitness Test, and the Cross Country Rescue and Gauntlet.
McNair H.S. was ranked 3rd in NJ by US News & World Report. It was also ranked #62 nationwide.
Snyder HS JC ARTS student Leon Valencia was nominated for “Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy” by Montclair University’s Theatre Night Awards for Leon’s work in the production of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”
Eswar Anandapadmanaban and Benjamin Mazel, two McNair H.S. juniors, were named Governor’s Scholars to each of two programs: the Governor’s School in the Sciences at Drew University and the Governor’s School of Engineering & Technology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The Governor’s School of New Jersey is a highly competitive, tuition-free, summer, residential program for high-achieving high school juniors who have an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects.
Students from Cordero School (PS 37) participated in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day with local chef Gabby Melian. This year 74 countries took part worldwide and the importance of cooking good food from scratch was emphasized.
Murray School (PS 38) Guidance Counselor Carla Perez was among 30 winners nationwide to receive a Farmers Insurance nationwide “Thank a Million” grants. The program enables anyone to “thank a teacher” on the Farmers Insurance site; once thanked, the teachers is then allowed to submit a proposal to benefit the school. Ms. Perez’s award-winning proposal suggested the start of a newsletter to disseminate information to parents and the community.
Dickinson High School, Barnes Elementary School (PS 12), and Nolan Middle School (MS 40) partnered with employees of Goldman Sachs Community Team Works to beautify the areas around their schools on Sustainability Day. At Dickinson H.S., volunteers and students from the Environmental Science class helped clean and plant flowers around the 9/11 memorial behind the school. At PS 12, volunteers and students from PreK through Grade 8 helped clean and plant in the community garden next to the school. And at MS 40, volunteers and 6th grade students cleared and planted flowers in the atrium and in front of the school; students will help with ongoing maintenance going forward.
Lincoln High School senior David Persaud won the Ann Marley Spirit Award, a City-wide achievement that recognizes artwork that promotes inclusion and respect. David organized and led his peers in the creation of a mural project that took 8 months to complete. Faculty and students pledged by signing the mural to end violence. David also created a canvas of handprints, each colored with the design of a different flag, which David said represented “the idea that no matter where you come from at the end of the day we are all the same and if we unify as one we are stronger.”
Martin Luther King Jr. School (PS 11) teacher Linda Fiore was awarded the Teacher Excellence Award from the NJ Division of Fire & Safety. Her student, Celina Calix, also received an award.
Liberty High School teacher Melissa Dossantos was selected as a Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction by the National Society of High School Scholars. Ms. Dossantos was nominated by one of her students for “outstanding dedication and commitment to excellence in the classroom.”
Webb Elementary School (PS 22) Principal Oscar Velez and local resident Brittani Bunney launched the “Book in a Basket” summer reading campaign. Through the campaign, books are donated to the school and then placed in baskets strategically located in local, participating businesses like laundromats, delis, and bodegas.
Neighborhood children are allowed to take the books for free to encourage reading for pleasure. The program aims to bridge the achievement gap between lower and middle income students by stemming the “summer slide.”
McNair High School’s graduating senior class achieved a 100% college acceptance rate. Over $9.2 million in scholarships was awarded, with students attending Princeton University, Columbia University, Barnard College, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Georgetown University, and many others. Forty percent of the class will be attending Rutgers University, many in the Honors College, School of Pharmacy, and School of Engineering.
Snyder High School’s JC ARTS Senior Visual Arts students collectively earned $1,820,000 in merit scholarships to Cooper Union, Rhode Island School of Design, Parsons the New School of Design, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Institute of Chicago, and others.
Behind the many achievements are teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, and most of all, kids who dare to try their best and reach for the stars. As the parent of a young child attending a Jersey City public school, I am grateful that these wonderful examples of excellence not only exist, but are cultivated on a daily basis within our public schools.
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