Norma Fernandez named Acting Director of Jersey City Schools as national research begins

The Jersey City Board of Education unanimously chose Norma Fernandez, a longtime school employee, as its interim superintendent.

Fernandez, the deputy superintendent who has been with the district for 40 years, could remain in office until June 2023, as the council begins to seek a permanent replacement for Superintendent Franklin Walker, now retired. She will hold the position for at least six months with 30 days notice.

“I have worked with many of you over the years and together I know that we can continue to develop this neighborhood in a positive way and for the well-being of our children in order to prepare them to receive an upbringing. world class that will take them to new fields and new careers that have not yet been developed, ”Fernandez, 62, told the board after the vote.

In November, the board approved Walker’s resignation effective December 31, 2021, after a 48-year career in the district.

Walker told the Jersey Journal in November that Fernandez was the “best fit” to lead the school district until a new superintendent was chosen, and she should be named his permanent replacement. Jersey City Education Association president Ron Greco also endorsed Fernandez as acting superintendent.

As Walker’s second in command, and without an appointed acting superintendent, Fernandez had effectively been in charge since early 2022.

There was no public discussion among board members regarding the selection of Fernandez, who started as a bilingual kindergarten teacher in the school district and rose through the ranks. Council voted after a closed session.

School board president Gerald Lyons said the board agreed Fernandez was “the best person to lead the district as a national search is launched to identify the most qualified and best person to lead the district to long term”.

Lyon said Fernandez will be involved in setting the school’s budget for the 2022-2023 school year.

Board administrator Younass Barkouch said he couldn’t say what was discussed behind closed doors, but he chose to support Fernandez after speaking with teachers at several schools. He said the video Fernandez sent last week informing parents about continuing distance education for another week helped cement his decision.

“One of the things that finally got me to vote for Dr Fernandez was the video she posted… I thought it was a great way to connect with parents and reach out to parents for give them a message, ”Barkouch said. “I can tell you right now, my parents never knew what the superintendent was like or who she or he is.”

Barkouch graduated from McNair Academic High School and has younger siblings in the school district. The school board had waited a while before deciding who would become the acting superintendent. Jersey City Education Association president Ron Greco approved Fernandez for the job last month.

Fernandez said his priority is “to develop a strategic plan in collaboration with stakeholders to prepare our students for a bright future filled with possibilities and opportunities.”

“We can prepare our students by making sure they have the academic and social skills necessary to succeed with self-confidence, persistence and resilience,” Fernandez said Tuesday.

Greco said in December that the school board was considering Fernandez and Deputy Superintendent Ellen Ruane as candidates for the acting position. Greco said on Tuesday that board members received the resumes of the two candidates around New Year’s Day and interviewed the candidates.

“I think Norma is a good choice to lead the district as she will maintain the continuity of the relationships we already have and the expectations of the staff,” said Greco. “The board members I spoke to said that the resumes really bring out the differences.”

Brandon D. James