A Q&A With Newark Public School's Advisory Board Candidate Kim Gaddy

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Q: Can you tell us something about yourself? 
A: I am a lifelong Newark resident and graduate of Weequahic High School. After college, I returned to my beloved city to begin a career in public service. I formerly worked as an Aide to Councilman Donald Bradley as well as former Chief of Staff to Mildred Crump. 

Upon my departure in municipal government, I returned to  the organization I founded, the South Ward Cultural Center where I remained for several years. 


Q: Where are you presently employed? 
A: I currently serve as the Environmental Justice Organizer with Clean Water Action of New Jersey, which is a grassroots environmental and advocacy group for environmental issues in the state. 


Q: What influenced you to become a candidate for the Newark School Board in April? 
A: My children and all of Newark Public School students. Education played an important role in my life. I have so many fond memories of attending the Newark Public Schools. As a parent of three, my youngest currently attending Harriet Tubman  Elementary school,  my oldest a graduate of Science High School and I'm a graduate of Weequahic High School, I understand the value of education, which stems from lessons that I learned from my parents while growing up. This is no different from what most parents believe. 

As a former elected member of the Newark Board of Education as well as a previously appointed member of the Newark Advisory Board, I feel compelled to utilize my experience and background as a parent advocate to improve the quality of education for our children. This is primarily the reason behind my decision to run in this year’s school board election. 

Q: Why did you decide to join the Newark Unity Slate? 
A: I feel that education transcends politics. In order to achieve the ultimate goal of educating our children, we must all work together for a common cause. 

The Newark Unity Slate consists of three individuals Leah Owens, Tave Padilla and myself with a common interest of improving the overall quality of education for all Newark Public Schools students. We each have unique experiences and skill sets that can benefit the school district. Together we have the wherewithal to develop a strategy to find solutions to the problems confronting the school district. 


Q: What is the Newark Unity Slate’s platform? 
A: We have developed a comprehensive platform, which address key areas where the district is deficient. Our platform include providing high quality education for all students, regaining local control, securing full funding and resources for all schools, increasing school/parent partnerships, complying with all special education mandates, increasing student career and college readiness and increasing graduation rates. 

These are important issues, which are not being addressed by the school district. 


Q; How does the Newark Unity Slate platform differ from other candidates for Newark School Board? 
A: I am not aware of the platforms proposed by other candidates. However, I can assure you that the platform set forth by the Newark Unity Slate is supported by a number of leaders and community stakeholders throughout the city. Our platform was developed with the interest of our students as a priority. The team is made up of a Parent, Teacher and Recreational specialist.


Q: What resources can you or other members of the Newark Unity Slate bring to the district? 
A: As a former School Board member and active participant on the Harriet Tubman Elementary PTA, I have access to individuals and organizations that can assist the district in many ways. Similarly, my running mates have established relationships with individuals and organizations committed to moving the NPS ahead. Also, as an Environmental Justice Organizer for the past 15 years I bring lobbying, canvassing, organizing, negotiating and a parent commitment as resources. 


Q: What, if anything, can you do to bring local control back to the district? 
A: Restoring local control is something that we can all agree upon. The district has been under state control for 20 plus years. Our schools are worse off now than ever before. 
It will take a collective effort to bring back local control. However, I am committed to working with local elected officials, community leaders and educational advocacy groups to demand state government to relinquish control of our schools and return the job of educating of children back to the residents of the City of Newark. 


Q: Is there a disconnect between state and local governments regarding how to precede with restoring local control? 
A: Yes. The state has refused to treat the takeover of our school district the same way as Jersey City and Paterson. As you know, the NPS met 4 out 5 of the criteria under QSAC to return the district to local control initially and the state decided that the score was not accurate and so we have met 3 out of 5 currently. Despite this fact, the state refused to relinquish control of the district. This has created a level of mistrust between the state and local government. 


Q: Does there need to be greater better oversight of the district’s billion dollar budget? 
A: Yes. There needs to be better scrutiny of the district’s budget. There appears to be a lot of wasteful spending within the district at this time. Much of the money spent by the district does not benefit our students. We have to reassess the budgetary spending and direct more dollars toward instruction and programs for our children. Why is it that a charter school can build a new school for 30 to 40 million and the Newark District spends 150 to 200 million on a school?  We must remove the School Construction Authority and their consultants because that money can be going in the Newark classrooms for our children instead of being stolen.


Q: If elected, what would be your priorities? 
A: This is a difficult question; however, it is extremely important. My first course of action, would be to call for an audit of the district’s budget. We have to find out how to reduce spending without hurting our students. Next, I would call for an educational summit to discuss how we can improve the quality of education, Finally, I would work with PTA’s throughout the district to encourage parents to establish an environmental committee to address the health concerns of our children. Parents must be more active in  ensuring the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat is safe and not harmful to their children. 


Q: Can public schools and public charter schools co-exist? 
A: Absolutely. Public Schools and public charter schools share a common goal, which is educating our students. Parents should have the final say as to where to send their child to school. I firmly believe that public school choice not only empowers parents, but can benefit students as well. The way we educate our children is evolving every day. We cannot be distracted by those who want to live in the past. 

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