First African American teacher at Dickinson High School

Funeral services took place Oct. 12 at Mt. Pisgah A.M.E. Church, Jersey City, for Dr. Edith Byrtel Bland-Phillips, the first African American teacher at Dickinson High School and the first African American Administrator to be appointed to the Jersey City Board of Education. She passed away peacefully on Sept. 30 in Frisco, Texas. Edith was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as the firstborn child of the late Viola (Burke) and Ambrose Bland. At the age of 7 moved to Jersey City, where her family became members of Mt. Pisgah A.M.E. Church. She excelled in P.S. 14, Lincoln High School and went on to obtain her undergraduate degree from Jersey City State Teachers College. With the gift of teaching and the love of music, she went on to obtain master’s degrees at Columbia University, in New York City, the famed Julliard School of Music and The Union Theological Seminary, along with a Doctor of Music. In 1951, she was joined in holy matrimony at this very same church with Oscar Jerome Phillips, they were married 63 years until his passing in 2014, from this union one son, Jerome Conrad Phillips was born. Edie, affectionately called by family and close friends, shared her learned knowledge with all whom she encountered. Seemingly fearless to most during her earlier years, she was known as somewhat of a barrier breaker. In 1955, Dr. Phillips was the first African American teacher at Dickinson High School and the first African American Administrator to be appointed to the Jersey City Board of Education with 33 elementary schools and four high schools under her supervision. She created piano labs at both Ferris and Dickinson High Schools, input steel drum into the curriculum at P.S.17, 28 and Ferris High School. Dr. Phillips was the co-founder of The Visual Performing Arts Magnet School of what is now New Jersey City University. In 1978, she was the recipient of the Jersey Journal Women of Achievement Award and in 1979, was awarded The Jersey City State College Outstanding Alumnus Award in Mathematics and Music. In 1997, honoring her tireless commitment to her community, a park was  on her street of 61 years and in 2005, again, was honored with The Community Hero and Heroine Appreciation Award. Dr. Phillips was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, North Jersey Alumnae Chapter and Phi Delta Kappa Sorority (teaching). Dr. Phillips in her busy schedule found time to teach piano and voice lessons to countless community children and teens, played the piano and organ for several churches including Mt. Pisgah A.M.E. Church, Lafayette Presbyterian Church and Monumental Baptist Church, to name a few. Edith loved the serenity of Christian hymns. Edith was a  wife, mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, godmother and mentor. She leaves behind a legacy and will be honored as such. She leaves to cherish her memory, one son, Jerome, his wife Jenny, three granddaughters Kiara, Tenaya and Shiloh, two sisters, Gwendolyn Bland McClow-Carroll, Alice Bland-Logan, one brother-in-law, Dana Carroll, one sister-in-law, Dr. Inez Phillips-Durham, a host of nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews and kind  friends in abundance, continue to appreciate the music of her life. Services arranged by the Jackson Funeral Residence, Jersey City.