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Verdibello named to school board

Long time parent advocate got unanimous support

Gina Verdibello was appointed to Jersey City Board of Education

Parent and advocate Gina Verdibello was named to the Jersey City Board of Education (JCBOE) at a special meeting on Feb. 11.

Verdibello will replace Amy DeGise, who stepped down from the board on Feb. 1. The board voted unanimously for Verdibello after hearing pitches from about a dozen candidates for the vacancy – although two trustees were absent.

Verdibello ran unsuccessfully four times between 2013 and 2016, and some political observers attribute most of her losses due to lack of union support, although she did get union support in 2016 and still lost.

Verdibello allies claim she has emerged as a leading parents’ advocate over the last 10 years.

“She has single-handedly represented Jersey City in state SDA, Title 1 and State School Board meetings in Trenton, making the trip to Trenton at personal expense to advocate for Jersey City. Gina also received the Parent’s Award by the JCBOE in 2016,” said Board President Sudhan Thomas. “Gina and her parent’s action group took on food goliath ‘Preferred Food Inc.’ which serviced Jersey City for over 30 years, succeeding in replacing them in 2018. This was ultimately decided in the Superior Court when Preferred sued in court to be retained as the food vendor. Gina can take credit for that monumental victory, which ushered in a new era of accountability in food vendor contracting but [also] good, healthy, reliable food for the 30,000 children of Jersey City.”

The JCBOE board policy allows for the board to consider the runner up of an election to fill vacancy slots but Verdibello was overlooked in both 2017 and 2018. Verdibello has worked as a realtor in Jersey City in the Journal Square area over the last 15 years.

Commitment and character

Thomas brushed off criticism of the board for welcoming a candidate who lost four times.

“Gina had the courage to run four times, three times as an independent. This speaks of commitment and character to public education,” he said. “The trolls who have been active in the last two days on Twitter have never been seen in any school board meeting let alone evangelize for any of the JCBOE causes. One of them does not even live in Jersey City.

“Our policy allows for the board to consider runner ups and our actions are consistent with policy, but importantly, are reflective of the will of the board, who are the representatives of the people. The public will get to decide in the November election if Gina chooses to run. The public will have the final say on this matter. This is essentially an appointment to fill up the position through November of this year.”

Verdibello called herself “a consistent advocate for the children of Jersey City” as well as a supporter of the teachers.

She said DeGise has done an excellent job while on the board, but described this as a critical time to fill this seat and to look ahead to a time beyond DeGise’s remaining term.

In arguing her case before the board, Verdibello said it was important for the board to have selected someone who had the best interests of the children and teachers of the district at heart.

Chosen over union’s candidate

The Jersey City Education Association, the local teachers union, which refused to endorse her election in the past – even when endorsing her running mates – once again snubbed Verdibello. The union pushed for another candidate, retired teacher Gevonda Dupree, instead.

The vote for Verdibello was a surprise, since many of the trustees who voted for her over the union-supported candidate have had union support in the past.

Verdibello, 42, has been an outspoken parent’s advocate for improved facilities for years. She said improving the school facilities and bringing better meals to students is a big part of her personal agenda. She described herself as a stay-at-home parent by choice. She is a parent activist, a Girl Scout troop leader, and real estate agent. A graduate of Rutgers University, she used to be a grants administrator. Her three children currently attend Jersey City public schools.

She said she is looking forward to working with the board and the community to make a difference and to always keep the children first.

For updates on this and other stories keep checking www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Al Sullivan can be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com


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