Joining the governor at separate groundbreaking ceremonies were New Jersey Teacher of the Year Elspeth Corrigan-Moore (from West New York), State Assembly Speaker and West New York Mayor Albio Sires, and Union City Mayor Brian Stack as well as many other prominent local officials including State Commissioner of Education William L. Librera.
Librera said in his opening remarks at Memorial High School Field in West New York, "This is a great day to celebrate a whole host of things. This groundbreaking is a tribute to the planning and vision of many people."
Schools to help with overcrowding
Each town will get a new middle school that will house grades six through eight. This will, in theory, alleviate classroom overcrowding, a problem that both districts face.
According to Anthony Yankovich, West New York superintendent of schools, the West New York facility, located on Broadway between 54th and 57th streets, will house 900 students and contain special education classes as well as Gifted and Talented programs. Said Yankovich, "This will take all the seventh and eighth graders out of the elementary schools and allow us to have Pre-K through fifth grades in the elementary schools. There is a five-year plan to replace five of the six elementary schools [with new ones]."
Added the governor in his speech, "This will relieve overcrowding, enhance science and technology and most importantly, will provide a great education to ensure that the kids are prepared for the twenty-first century."
Sires gets emotional
While speaking about the years of work it has taken to see this project to fruition, Sires said, "I cannot tell you how thrilled I am. But if it wasn't for the fact that you, governor, made education the keystone of your administration, we wouldn't be breaking ground here today." Added the mayor, "We were and are overcrowded. This school will alleviate it a bit. I want to thank all the people that worked so hard on this process: the Board of Education, my lovely wife and most of all-the teachers."
Sires, a former teacher at Memorial High School, welled up with emotion at the mention of the city's teachers and joked that he would stop speaking before he got "more emotional."
In an interview conducted after the ceremony, Sires said, "This is a dream come true for West New York. The kids will be the ones who benefit. The governor has made school construction a top priority. It's a great thing."
UC school to feature library, health center
Minutes after breaking ground in West New York, Gov. McGreevey found himself standing in another field, in front of another backhoe in Union City. Mayor Brian Stack welcomed the assembled crowd, this one boasting a Marine ROTC contingent. He gave special thanks to the governor, stating, "This is a historic moment. No other governor in the history of New Jersey has been as committed to children and education than Governor McGreevey."
The Union City school will be located on Summit Avenue between 18th and 21st streets and will feature a "state-of-the-art" library for the whole community as well as a health center. According to Stanley Sanger, assistant superintendent of schools, the facility will be more than just a building. He stated, "The concept behind this is that it will be open till 9 or 10 p.m. most days of the week. The extended times will have a positive effect not just on students, but on the community as a whole."
School construction windfall
County officials said that the state will spend $721 million on aid for school construction in Hudson County. The West New York middle school will cost $29.8 million and the Union City project will cost $24.7 million. Both projects are being financed and constructed through the Schools Construction Corporation (SCC). SCC will cover 100 percent of the cost, according to an official press release.
Said Al McNeill, CEO of School Construction Corporation, "This groundbreaking is yet another example of the progress made in the implementation of the historic school construction initiative."
The Union City Board of Education will be kicking in $1.2 million towards the building of that town's facility as well.
William L. Librera, state commissioner of education, said, "Union City and West New York are districts that work. There are other communities that are arguing about what wing to put where, but here in Union City and West New York, you have people doing real work and making real decisions. We want to showcase the places where people work, to celebrate these grand achievements."
At the West New York ceremony, McGreevey thanked all the officials, designers, architects and politicians who were present and jokingly welcomed the assembled crowd to the "Robert Menendez Memorial School." He also made special mention for the small contingent of Latino senior citizens that were guests of Mayor Sires.
Then, he spoke about the importance of education in Hudson County. He said, "Education must be the cornerstone of our future. West New York's future and the country's future." He then quoted from the Bible: "Ye shall reap what ye sow."