Hackensack School Board Welcomes New Members and Debates Meeting Schedules Amid Curriculum Concerns

The Hackensack School Board convened on January 4th, 2024, welcoming new members Mark Stein, Kenneth Martin, and Shivonnie Pringle into their ranks. The meeting, held at the Hackensack High School media center, saw a election that positioned Scott James-Vickery as board president and Lissette Cordero-Outen as vice president. Amidst the organization of the new board, discussion ensued regarding the meeting schedule’s potential shift from Monday to Wednesday, curriculum concerns, and the ethical responsibilities of board members.

The meeting schedule debate took center stage, with board members divided on whether to keep meetings on Mondays or move them to Wednesdays. Proponents of the change argued that an additional day would provide more time to review the agenda, which is typically released on Fridays. However, opposition cited scheduling conflicts for both board members and community stakeholders, noting that Wednesday evenings are traditionally busy. Despite concerns, a roll call vote led to a narrow majority favoring the shift to Wednesday meetings.

The dynamics of leadership and the importance of diversity within the board were also discussed, with members expressing a desire for change and rotation in leadership roles. The comments from board members following the public session underscored the need for effective communication and mutual respect to address the district’s challenges collaboratively.

Curriculum concerns were another focal point, with community members and educators raising issues regarding the effectiveness of the new reading and math programs. Particularly, the Reader’s Workshop method for reading instruction and the sequencing of the math curriculum were highlighted as areas needing review. Superintendent Dr. Thomas McBryde Jr. reassured the community of his commitment to evidence-based reading strategies and acknowledged the need for discussions on the reading program and math curriculum alignment.

Ethical conduct among board members was thoroughly examined, with emphasis on adherence to the School Ethics Act and code of ethics. The board was reminded of the penalties for violations and the need for mandatory governance training within 90 days of service. The board attorney, Jacqueline D’Armono, outlined the significance of understanding conflicts of interest, especially those involving relatives working within the district or in related governmental positions.

The board also addressed the role of board members in volunteering at schools, advising caution concerning their involvement and authority during such activities. Social media use by board members was discussed, stressing the importance of using disclaimers when communicating about school-related issues and avoiding language that could detract from the mission of the board.

During the public comments segment, community members extended New Year’s greetings and congratulations to the new board members and superintendent. Concerns regarding the scheduling of meetings and their conflict with church activities were voiced, as well as frustrations with the current curriculum and professional development sessions.

The new board members, upon being sworn in, shared their enthusiasm for their roles and the impact they hope to impart on the district. Mark Stein pledged to work diligently to make the district a model for New Jersey, while Lissette Cordero-Outen emphasized the importance of positive change and communication. Other board members, including Marlene Somerville and Shivonnie Pringle, voiced their dedication to education and their anticipation of working collaboratively with the superintendent and board to represent the community’s interests effectively.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Dr. Thomas McBryde, Jr.
School Board Officials:
Scott James-Vickery, Lissette Cordero-Outen, Demetrius Carroll, Jennifer Harris, Kenneth Martin, Lancelot Powell, Shivonnie Pringle, Marlene Somerville, Mark Stein, Julio Bendezu, Lydia Singh (School Business Administrator/Board Secretary), Dr. Thomas McBryde

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