In a Bergen Community College Board of Trustees meeting held on September 6, 2023, members united in mourning and honoring the life and legacy of the late Steve Paulino, a former board member who served from November 2019 until his passing earlier this year. Alongside this, the board navigated discussions on new collaborations, celebrated student achievements, and steered the course for institutional accreditation.
Marissa Pearson took the oath as a new trustee of the board, pledging to uphold the constitutions of both the U.S. and New Jersey while conscientiously fulfilling her duties. Pearson was warmly received by her fellow members and was appointed to serve on the education and student affairs committee.
The emotional zenith of the meeting was reached as Dr. Friedman commemorated Paulino’s formidable career that spanned over four decades in legal sectors, notably representing several Bergen County entities. Speaking warmly of Paulino’s calm demeanor and significant contributions, a plaque honoring his dedication from 2019 to 2023 was presented to his family. Further, the board announced the establishment of a $1000 criminal justice scholarship in Paulino’s name, a gesture embracing his lasting impact on the community.
As members openly expressed their grief, sharing personal memories and hailing Paulino’s humility and effectiveness in service, the hall resonated with a collective sense of loss and reverence for the gentle giant that Paulino was known as.
Pivoting to operational matters, Dr. Friedman delineated an optimistic outlook for the fall semester, highlighting a significant uptick in student registrations and a successful kickoff of faculty and staff development day. The road to the middle states reaffirmation of accreditation also emerged as a significant focus. Friedman acknowledged the seven subcommittees working diligently to align the self-study report with the Middle States standards of excellence, a mission ingrained in the college’s ideology aiming for steering committee approval by the next year.
Dr. Friedman announced a partnership with Ramapo College to nurture paid work experiences for education degree aspirants in Bergen County School Districts. This initiative, grounded in fostering new talent, aims to combat the dwindling number of prospective K-12 teachers. Further, the college’s strides in securing a safe environment for LGBTQ students caught the spotlight, as Bergen clinched the highest score nationally on the Campus Pride Index.
The meeting resonated with praise for student Ricardo Santana, who etched history as the first from the college to clinch the 2023 Rick Sheets Outstanding Tutor Award, a prestigious recognition awarded by the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA). Dr. John Fedora applauded Santana’s empathy and substantial impact in the college and broader Bergen county community. Santana, who serves as a general studies student and a devoted tutor, expressed gratitude, underscoring the crucial role tutors play at the college.
Committee reports ensued with a series of resolutions contemplated, spanning various dimensions including education and student affairs, institutional policies, and strategic planning. Notably, a passionate appeal from recent graduate Lisa seeking the board’s approval for a second associate degree in game programming punctuated the discussion. The case, backed by her fulfillment of all requisite courses, posed a challenge to the existing policy mandating additional credits post-graduation for a second degree. Dr. Friedman took up the mantle to explore the nuances of Lisa’s well-documented case, ushering a promise of careful consideration.
Towards the end of the session, Steve Fisher, representing the biology/horticulture program, stepped forward to laud Dr. Friedman’s leadership. Fisher articulated his anticipation for future endeavors that would augment environmental awareness and local agriculture through possible grants, attributing the optimistic pathway to Friedman’s sustained support for green initiatives.