“Voices for Progress,” a group of four professionals with various skill sets from education, tax law, community advocacy and corporate and individual financial investment, are running in the Tuesday, November 8 election for the Bayonne Board of Education.
The ticket consists of Saverio “Sam” Maggio, Angelique Jackson-Belle, Gina Irizarry, and Ali Hassan. They are 4I, 5I, 6I, and 9I on the ballot, respectively.
Three seats are available for a term of three years each. The terms of Trustees Lisa Burke, Jan Patrick Egan, and Denis Wilbeck are expiring and none are running for re-election.
Along with those three seats, there is another board seat available for a term of one year. Trustee Hector Gonzalez, Jr.’s term is expiring after he was appointed in January of this year.
The “Voices for Progress” slate is running on a platform of responsibility, accountability, and support. The slate told the Bayonne Community News why they’re running, what their platform is, and answered other questions pertinent to the race.
What’s their platform?
The ticket seeks to create a long term strategic plan that will be revisited annually to insure that it meet its objectives. “Voices for Progress” also wants facilities improvement which includes additional new facilities and existing renovations.
The slate wants to assess the teacher retention issues in order to provide the support needed by educators for successful careers and successful student progress. They also want to develop stakeholder relationships to include partnerships with local companies and corporations for support in the way of internship opportunities and apprenticeships or training for students. Recognizing teachers with formal appreciation is also important to “Voices for Progress.”
“The Bayonne Voices for Progress team are proven problem solvers who consistently produce results,” they said. “Our hard working, determined slate will ensure our students, teachers and stakeholders are being advocated for on a daily basis.”
Another part of the “Voices for Progress” platform is seeking to close the gap between home and school. They want to offer opportunities for parents to gather and learn about current curriculum initiatives, safety concerns, ideas for supporting their child with homework and social issues.
In addition, “Voices for Progress” values equity. They will recognize cultural norms and traditions of all of community members and initiate programs to bring families together. The slate wants to bring mindfulness of economic and social backgrounds of students when making decisions and in opening dialogue.
“Our belief in equity is a paramount aspect of our teams vision for the Bayonne schools,” the slate said. “Understanding, respecting and listening to our students, teachers and stakeholders will help to provide the Equity all of those groups deserve from their Board of Education members, as well as give us the insight and information we need to properly help improve lives.”
“Voices for Progress” is running on responsibility. To them, that means building a stronger relationship between the district and the stakeholders, strengthening mental support systems for students, teachers, staff and parents, prioritizing fiscal accountability to taxpayers, and improving the safety of all schools and communities.
“The Bayonne Voices for Progress team are committed to answering directly to the stakeholders, teachers, students and parents who are directly or indirectly connected to our Bayonne Schools,” they said.
Saverio “Sam” Maggio
Number 4I on the November 8th ballot is Saverio “Sam” Maggio. Maggio is retired Bayonne public school teacher and athletic coach with nearly 40 years of experience working within our community. He has served on numerous boards and is currently the President of the Board of Trustees at the Bayonne Community Day Nursery and the Bayonne School Employees Credit Union.
Maggio is passionate about the district creating a climate of a quality learning environment that is safe and supportive for all students. He proposes that stakeholders must be included in discussions of board policies and pass budgets that satisfy all students’ and teachers’ needs while not putting more burden on taxpayers. Maggio said this is something he understands from being in all three positions throughout his life. He wants to bring a strong voice to the board and be an advocate for students, families and teachers.
Number 5I on the ballot is Angelique Jackson-Belle. Jackson-Belle is the President of the Bayonne Youth Center following a family legacy and providing after school enrichment programs and a safe haven for many students who otherwise may not be able to access expensive programs. Her dedication to the community is seen in the many community initiatives, drives and fundraising she coordinates to obtain food, uniforms, shoes and holiday gifts to those in need.
As a board member, Jackson-Belle also volunteers her expertise as a Trustee for her Alumnae St. Dominic Academy, to The Community Day Nursery, a non profit that is another staple of the community, and a current member of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) within the Board of Education. She is a steadfast advocate for educational excellence in both Bayonne and Hudson County, by seeking to give all children access to a fair, equitable, and high-quality education.
In addition to all of her philanthropic work, Jackson-Belle has a 20 year career as a legal tax consultant and has assisted countless residents with property tax concerns and appeals throughout New Jersey. She said her skill set and professional level of understanding tax law, asset management and valuation, property tax dollar recovery, and high level negotiations will be the exact type of experience the Board of Education needs.
Jackson-Belle said she will fight for the students and faculty while protecting all community stakeholders’ best interests from day one. She seeks to bring strong knowledge and experience of grant opportunities as well as enrichment program opportunities to the Board of Education.
Number 6I on the ballot is Gina Irizarry. Irizarry works professionally as a middle school language arts teacher at P.S. 17 in Jersey City and is a previous candidate who came within hundreds of votes of winning a seat in 2021. She has eighteen years of experience combined as an educator, vice principal, curriculum writer and supervisor and department chair, and parent special education advocate. She holds several content certifications, Masters Degrees and is currently pursuing a further degree.
Irizarry has broad experience in school accreditation practices as she was the coordinator of the Middle States Team for Kenmare High School. Additionally, she has led several evaluation teams for schools across New Jersey seeking accreditation.
Her work in the non-profit sector includes former parliamentarian for Dress For Success of Hudson County and she is the community liaison for The Golden Door International Film Festival, which she said is the only film festival that has an arm dedicated to autism awareness. She wants to bring strong curriculum knowledge, legal knowledge under the IDEA, gifted and talented and STEM knowledge. Irizarry said she will be a strong supporter to families, teachers, students and stake holders.
Number 9I on the ballot is Ali Hassan. From a young age, Hassan has been a community leader within Bayonne. He was captain of the Bayonne High School Swim team where he brought multiple championships home for the Bees. His hard work and dedication extend beyond the pool.
Hassan is active in philanthropic and charitable work around the city. Whether it is fundraising for the Bayonne Muslims welfare programs or actively working to help settle Syrian refugee families safely within the United States, Hassan’s drive to advocate for those who need it most has always been a hallmark of his character.
Hassan is a seasoned businessman who has worked on Wall Street with industry giants in the financial sector such as Goldman Sachs and Fairview Capital Partners. He is also the co-founder of hedge fund Perceptive Capital.
Hassan married his college sweetheart Natali Hassan and they have two sons together who will soon enter the Bayonne school system. He owns three homes in Bayonne and said he is running to effectuate the change he wants to see.
Hassan’s goal is to bring disciplined fiscal responsibility and reduce waste in the school system. He said his intelligence, dedication, and natural talent for disciplined financial decision making will prove to be important assets in the Board of Education’s tool belt.
On the campaign trail
The campaign for the school board seats has been relatively quiet in October. That’s when the “Voices for Progress” ticket had their first fundraiser on October 4 at Villa Maria.
Following that in October, the slate has been knocking on doors, walking around the city and meeting with residents. They launched their official campaign website on October 12 at bayonne-voices-for-progress.web.app.
They later attended Davis’ Annual Fall Gala fundraiser on October 13 at the Chandelier Restaurant. Meanwhile, they continued to make their rounds both knocking on doors and at local events, such as the Italian Flag Raising on October 16.
The continued to meet with residents for local festivities including the Color Run on October 16 as at the Bayonne Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Annual Freedom Fund Dinner also on October 16. They thanked residents for the outpouring of support in the campaign thus far.
“In between the festivities, we have been knocking on doors and speaking to voters about the importance of this election cycle and our plans to improve the Board of Education,” the slate said.
The “Voices for Progress” ticket had a booth at the Bergen Point Fall Festival on October 22, where they chatted with residents. Prizes were also given out to lucky residents. Now they look forward to the candidate forum to be hosted by the Bayonne Education Association at Bayonne High School’s Alexander X. O’Connor Auditorium on November 2 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. moderated by TAPinto Bayonne’s Al Sullivan.
Mayor Davis backs ‘Voices for Progress’ this election
Mayor James Davis endorsed the slate on September 21, the first time he had backed candidates in a school board race since 2020 and a departure from backing the “Together We Can” slate as he had in consecutive years past. Davis said he considers electing the “Voices for Progress” ticket among his top priorities for his third term.
On October 25, the Bayonne Education Association backed the “Voices for Progress” slate, stating: “Thank you for sharing your ideas with our committee because, as you know, our student’s learning conditions, are our working conditions. We look forward to working with you after the election.”
Outgoing Trustee and former City Council At-Large candidate Denis Wilbeck gave his backing to the state on October 26. Their latest endorsement is Assemblyman William Sampson on October 27.
Although not issuing an official endorsement, the slate has also seen support from City Council President Gary La Pelusa, City Councilman At-Large Loyad Booker, City Councilman At-Large Juan Perez, and First Ward City Councilman Neil Carroll.
Racking up the endorsements
The “Voices for Progress” ticket faces off against the “Together We Can” slate consisting of: Gonzalez; former Board of Education Trustee and former City Councilwoman Mary Jane Desmond; Miriam Bechay, a junior at NJIT majoring in Biomedical Engineering who has worked on political campaigns in the city; and William Young, a Financial Services and Registered Representative for New York Life Insurance Company.
The “Together We Can” ticket has seen support from other incumbent Trustees including Jodi Casais, Vice President Christopher Munoz, and President Maria Valado. Also backed by former City Council President and mayoral candidate Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski, it appears the election is somewhat of a proxy war between factions remaining from the May municipal election.
Bechay and Hassan are seeking the one-year term while the others on their respective slates are seeking the three-year terms. Running independent of a slate on the “Education is Freedom” ticket is Jahnbaz Almas, a board member of the Bayonne Education Foundation who is running for a three-year term.
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.