The Portrait of an Urban District 'in Decay'
Following are excerpts from the state compliance report on the Jersey City School District.
On Personnel Matters
- Jersey City's mayor stated that he personally recommended individuals for district jobs ranging from assistant superintendent of schools, to bookkeeper. ... The board was a knowing and willing participant in this political intrusion.
- The district's process for hiring non-instructional support staff is admittedly geared more toward employing friends and relatives when possible than to identifying the most qualified applicants.
- The personnel department has used transfers as a means of punishing individuals who are associated with the wrong political groups.
- There is a perception among administrators that staff vacancies are not expeditiously filled in order to punish schools or principals who are critical of district administration.
- It is common practice for building administrators to be
reassigned without explanation. One former vice principal learned of
her reassignment by reading an announcement in the newspaper several
days before reporting to work.
On Achievement Levels
- State requires that 75 percent of 9th graders in each school pass the High School Proficiency Test ... Test scores for all four regular high schools are considerably below the state requirement.
- One-fourth of the elementary schools met both state minimum test standards for 3rd-grade mathematics and reading ... Less than one-third of the elementary schools met minimum standards for 6th-grade mathematics and reading.
- Student absenteeism for 1986-87 was 10.6 percent, lower than the 12.7 percent of the previous year, but consistently above the state minimum of 10 percent required for certification.
- Teachers were absent at an actual rate of about 7 percent--though the district reported 2.7 percent to the state. The state certification standards allow no more than 5 percent.
- In several schools, poor attendance records were improved by changing the homeroom period to mid-morning, when more students had arrived.
- The superintendent reportedly engaged in a shouting match with the board secretary that nearly led to blows while a reporter was present.
- Some principals no longer believe they can improve their schools and appear to have simply stopped trying.
- Several principals did not know the exact number of custodians assigned to their buildings or how they spend their time. One principal speculated that many custodians go shopping during the day.
- In ordering supplies, many principals perceived the central office as unresponsive and relied on an informal barter system, trading supplies and textbooks among themselves.
- Lack of basic and prudent business practices in the administration of a dental-insurance plan resulted in $1.22 million in excessive costs in one year.
- The board often violated the Internal Revenue Code by withholding too little in taxes for some employees, and too much for others.
- The board benefited from financial assistance it received through state-aid entitlements that were based upon erroneous data.
- Some teachers are not required to assign homework as long as their classes meet minimal requirements and pass the state proficiency test.
- District policy forbidding students with less than a "C'' average to play on athletic teams is not enforced uniformly. Some schools classified student athletes as handicapped so they do not have to maintain a "C'' average.
On School Facilities
- Many buildings were in deplorable condition: water pipes had burst, windows were broken, blackboards were so worn they were unusable, paint was peeling badly, and graffiti covered new and old buildings. One decrepit building was scheduled for demolition and replacement. Instead, officials spent $250,000 to repair the roof and repaint the building, and used it anyway.
- The Jersey City School District is not without strengths.
Virtually all the strengths detected in this audit, however, reflect
the efforts of particular administrators, teachers, and other staff
to provide a responsible education to pupils. Such efforts are
undertaken on an individual, rather than institutional, basis.
Indeed, individuals who undertake these commendable efforts often
deliberately mask them from their district superiors in order to
preclude interference with them.