At the first Board of Education meeting of the year, with the absence of the President and Vice President, students and community members took to the microphone to express their disappointment and anger at the dismantling of the Allied Health Program. The program has been without a teacher since before winter break.
Although the students and community members believed the Allied Health program was being slashed, Superintendent RaShawn Adams denied it. “As I mentioned earlier, we are not dissolving, or getting rid of, the Allied Health Program. We have been actively seeking someone to fill the role of the former employee.”
Even though the Superintendent vowed to continue the program, the students remained doubtful. Allied Health students spoke poignantly at the loss of their beloved teacher, Sarita Gogan, and expressed fear for their future.
“I am very frustrated and disappointed in this decision, especially since we were reassured that we would receive a new teacher since December 1st,” said Tiviana Kenney. She continued, “This amazing program was started years ago by a wonderful lady, Miss Gogan. She had a whole plan for us. She believed in us.”
Another Allied Health student, Dianellis Perez, reflected on time spent in the program. She shared, “I have been in this program for three years. I have dedicated so much time and energy staying on top of all my studies. My peers and I deserve the opportunity to complete what we started. We beg you, please do not allow this program to be shut down before you truly see the amazing things we will accomplish.”
Many joined them in voicing the Allied Health Program should remain, including Asbury Park High School Alumna, Terri Ivory-Brown.
Terri Ivory-Brown addressed the Board and spoke about the Asbury Park Allied Health Program and the critical role it plays to help ensure young people successfully reach their professional goals. “I am the President of the Concerned Black Nurses of Central New Jersey,” she said, “and a proud member of the National Black Nurses Association.” Ms. Brown made a strong appeal to the Board. “Our nurses’ organizations have been around for many years. No one has ever reached out to us. I am imploring you – my organization has a number of nurses who can teach whatever you need.” Ms. Brown offered her assistance and submitted her contact information to the Board.
The student representative of the Board of Education, Sara Martinez-Hernandez, stepped up to the lectern, and shared her concerns at the lack of instruction in several key programs at the high school. “I was told not to speak tonight, but I think that it would be right that I do. Because the things that I bring up are some things that need to be heard by not just one person but everyone in this room, because all of you have the ability to change the things that are happening in our school. ” She explained that it’s not only the Allied Health Program that has lost an instructor and supervisor, but the Dream Academy and the Law Enforcement programs are also understaffed. Students who have previously taken the courses are upset. “Many of these students have worked for years to obtain certifications and skill sets that will impact them for the rest of their lives and now they are sitting doing nothing,” she explained.
Two community members, including teacher Sean Hamilton, took to the lectern and expressed outrage that the student BOE representative was told not to speak and made to feel unwelcome by not having a chair set for her to sit with the Board. “I commend her bravery, and I commend the young men and women over here for the Allied Health Program. If you want to know why the Allied Health program was canceled and dissolved, it’s not a financial thing, ask Ms. Gogan why she quit. Check out Neptune. Neptune is starting the program up there, so go to the source. Ask her why she quit and then make a decision on what we did to the program.”
Confrontation in the hallway with the Superintendent leaves a parent and students frustrated
During a break in the meeting, directly after giving a stern lecture decrying the lack of decorum on the part of the public, Superintendent Adams approached the Allied Health students in the hallway adjacent to the auditorium. The students, visibly upset, asked the Superintendent, “Don’t you care?” A parent, Nyakasia Height asked, “What are they supposed to do until they get a new teacher?” Neither question was answered by the Superintendent, which further angered the students, Ms. Height, and onlookers. The program participants were upset at the loss of Ms. Gogan and, the fact that for the first time, they missed an opportunity to take a critical certification test on January 10th, which had never happened during Gogan’s tenure.
After the meeting recess, Adams announced in public session, “As a Superintendent and a Board, we will not publicly and legally end the program. I have not made that recommendation or support it.”
Hybrid Meetings Begin in February
At the request of Board Member Tracey Rogers, Administrator Geoff Hastings provided a report on hybrid meetings. After a very brief discussion, the consensus was that hybrid meetings should be conducted. The Asbury Park Board of Education will begin to offer live streaming of the meetings as well as create a mechanism for community participation via the web starting in February. The next meeting will be held at Bradley Elementary School, 1100 Third Avenue, Asbury Park and via the internet at 6 p.m. on February 23.
Student and Staff of the Month Awards
Students and staff members who were chosen to receive Student and Staff of the Month awards were recognized at the meeting. Tokens of appreciation were given to school board members as well. The students and staff represented Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, Bradley Elementary School, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and Asbury Park High School. Each recipient was recognized for their positive attitude, leading by example, demonstrating exemplary behavior, and exceptional contributions.
|school||Asbury Park High School||Bradley Elementary School||Thurgood Marshall Elementary School||Martin Luther King Elementary School|
|student(s)||Mychael Andrade, Xiamora Cattuse||Yaritzi Oliveira-Perez||Lasii Whittaker||Alan Gonzalez Marino|
|teacher||Sabrina Grasso||Christopher O’Donnell||Elizabeth Fendler||Cassandre Marshall|
Jennifer Lewinski and Tiasia Newman also contributed to this report.