JERSEY CITY AND BEYOND - By a vote of 6-3 the Jersey City Board of Education approved a resolution to begin salary and contract negotiations with Dr. Marcia Lyles,
one of two finalists who was under consideration for the vacant superintendent of schools job.
The decision essentially means the board has agreed to offer the school superintendent post to Lyles. Lyles is currently completing her third year as superintendent for the Christiana School District in Delaware. Lyles edged out Dr. Debra Brathwaite.
School board members Sterling Waterman, Angel Valentin, and Marilyn Roman voted against the resolution. The remaining board members - Suzanne Mack,
Carl Lester, Carol Harrison-Arnold, Sangeeta Ranade, Vidya Gangadin, Marvin Adames - voted to support Lyles.
The decision to select Lyles - in addition to public allegations made some board members - furthered charges that the New Jersey Department of Education and Acting Commissioner of Christopher Cerf applied pressure to the board to go with this choice.
Both Cerf and Lyles have an affiliation with the Board Superintendents Academy, a professional development organization for people in the education field. The academy is funded by private backers who favor school choice options, including charter schools and vouchers. Board's financial backers
have also opposed tenure for teachers and have advocated for merit pay, both of which have made teachers' unions skeptical of Broad and those who have been through the academy's training programs.
For the past month there has been speculation that Cerf and others at the state Department of Education were lobbying behind the scenes for Lyles to be selected. At a June 28 Board of Education meeting school trustees seemed to confirm these allegations.
Waterman said that people from Cerf's staff had contacted some board members and made clear, "pick Lyles, and the school board will regain control from the state." The selection of Brathwaite, Waterman stated, would mean the state would continue to monitor the local school district.
The fact that Lyles tendered her resignation from her current job in December also suggested to some, including Valentin, that she was promised the superintendent job in Jersey City. Of the eight semifinalists who were considered for the job, Valentin said, only two did not apply for other vacant superintendent jobs around the country: Interim Superintendent Franklin Walker, who has been the acting super for the past school year, and Marcia Lyles.
For more on this story, see this weekend's cover story in the Jersey City Reporter. - E. Assata Wright