To the Editor:
My name is Leo J. Smith, Jr. and I am running for a three-year term as a trustee for the Bayonne Board of Education. In recent weeks I have noticed a number of letters from other candidates that focus mainly on their accomplishments and experiences. While I do believe that prior experience is important, I would prefer to inform the citizens of Bayonne about what I would like to do if elected.
First and foremost, I will advocate for our fair share of state funding. Historically we have always been one of the most underfunded districts in the state. In addition to being
underfunded at the overall district level, the school district currently spends approximately $33 million a year on special education. It is money that is well spent. Unfortunately, the state’s contribution to that is only $9 million. I will advocate for additional state funding for these students.
As you know, universal Pre-Kindergarten for three- and four-year olds is a life-changing educational program. We currently do not meet the needs of all of our eligible Pre-K students. This is unfortunate. I will advocate for universal full-day Pre-K across the city.
In the area of facilities, the average age of our buildings is 83 years old. Our newest school is 20 years old. Other districts in Hudson county have had the ability to build new schools and facilities at a much quicker rate than we here in Bayonne. I will work with our state legislators and the school development authority to bring new school construction to Bayonne.
Next, I will advocate for fair, equitable, and timely settlements for all collective bargaining agreements. All of the staff members who work for the Bayonne School System deserve to have a financial sense of stability in regard to planning their futures.
Finally, the retirees who have so faithfully served the district deserve to have stability in regard to their pension and benefits. I will work to establish a Retiree Portal on the district website in order to inform retirees of any changes in medical insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and prescription services.
For my entire life of 65 plus years, I have lived in Bayonne and raised my children here where they attended grades Pre-K through 12 in Bayonne public schools. I have always taken great pride in this as do they. If you choose to vote for me, I promise to serve the taxpayers, citizens, staff, and most important the children of Bayonne with every ounce of my being.
LEO J. SMITH, JR.