Allison K. James-Frison is a product of the Newark Board of Education (Central High School) and a proud parent of a future graduate of the Newark Board of Education (University High School). While her daughter, a freshman, was valedictorian of her class in 2021, the focus of her educational experience was different. Allison struggled with a learning impairment while experiencing mental health challenges. These issues remained undiagnosed until she enrolled in college at age 47. Allison doesn't want her story to be the story of any of our children.
Allison's campaign priorities include the following five areas:
- Student Learning Supports
- Culturally Competent Teachers
- Trust Building
- Social and Mental Health
Allison is qualified to bring a professional perspective to the board through her calling as a social worker. Currently, she works for the Department of Child Protection and Permanency. Her years of experience and training in building and restoring our families and neighborhoods prove invaluable. Allison is a champion for youth with a proven track record of helping individuals reach their highest potential. As Founder of Girls; Live, Love, Laugh, Inc., she has helped to empower over 1,200 young women in the city of Newark.
Allison serves as a Commissioner for the City of Newark’s Commission on the Status of Women as well as chair of the PTSO at her daughter’s school. Besides being a community servant, she is a foster parent turned adoptive parent and happily married for 9 1⁄2 years. Allison is a homeowner and investor in the city of Newark. You can find out more about Allisn K.James-Frison by visiting www.elect-allison.com.
2022 Candidate Q&A
Q1: Members of the Newark Board of Education make decisions that guide the public school system. Please describe your process for decision-making, especially when working on a team of individuals with multiple points of view.
Serving on a school board is different from other elected positions in that our constituents are all of the children and their families. As board members, we are not in competition with each other and we look out for all of the schools. With this understanding, I look forward to hearing other viewpoints as the shared goal is to improve student learning outcomes. When we all contribute our ideas, we can come to a better decision.
The Strategic Plan must always be looked to in the decision-making process. This document is a collection of a diverse set of community voices and has set the goals and benchmarks for the district’s progress. However, the process also must include continual reflection so we can make adjustments to the original plan based on any changed circumstances.
One of the responsibilities of a school board member is to make sound decisions based on our own judgment, but I don’t see this as something I do solely on my own. For me, this means that I have taken the time to listen to community members’ concerns and ideas before I declare my position or vote. I see myself as a servant leader.
Q2: If elected, what is the top policy issue that you would address during your term?
The top policy issue I will address during my term is the social and mental health of our scholars. Our children come to school for many reasons–comfort, love, hope, nutrition, learning, and more. For too many of them, school is the only place they may find these things. As their home away from home, schools must be equipped with the staff and resources needed for taking care of the overall well-being of our children. This includes creating strong partnerships with community-based organizations.
This policy issue is a personal one for me. During school, I struggled with a learning impairment while experiencing mental health challenges. These issues remained undiagnosed until I enrolled in college at age 47. I don't want my story to be the story of any of our children.
I look to work with my board colleagues to implement effective practices to address the issue of social and mental health such as restructuring the school day to include advisories and convocations, and having counselors available and dedicated to one school. Support staff is key. As a social worker myself, I will advocate for these key personnel to be present in all schools, for all children.
Q3: Given the influx of emergency funds and the demands of post-Covid recovery efforts, the Newark Board of Education will be required to make critical budget decisions over the next three years. How are you preparing for this task? What are your current ideas for district spending priorities?
Our school district has been under resourced and underfunded for years, so every year critical budget decisions are being made. District spending priorities must focus on people because it is a caring, qualified staff and family empowerment that will make the difference for our children.
We must boost efforts to recruit, train, and retain culturally competent teachers. We not only have a teacher shortage, we have a lack of educators who are prepared to teach the children in front of them. Add to this that the pandemic has complicated the way students are educated. Culturally competent educators know the history of our children to better serve them. Training in new and existing curriculum mandates–such as Amistad (African American history), but also diversity, inclusion, LGBTQ+ history, and Asian/Pacific Islanders history–must be districtwide. Establishing Grow-Your-Own programs will provide financial and academic support to Newark residents and current paraprofessionals to become teachers.
Trust building and empowerment are important for the budget process because we need more voices and we need families to be knowledgeable of the process. They are the ones who know what is needed beyond the school walls. All financial decisions should be informed by the Strategic Plan, a document I have been studying. Regular reflections will improve the budget decisions we make. Related to this way of thinking is the idea of site-based budgeting, which allows school leaders to identify the needs of their schools (in consultation with the larger school community) and to request budgeting accordingly.
Q4: The Newark Board of Education is responsible for evaluating the superintendent's performance. What are the top three performance indicators you would consider in evaluating the superintendent's performance?
The New Jersey School Board Association has provided school boards with ample guidance and support on evaluating the one employee of the district, which is the superintendent. The community should be aware of this annual process. I draw my top three indicators from three of the six standards:
Standard 4: Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and School Improvement - Student learning outcomes is the focus of a school district. A superintendent should be considered an educator and not simply a manager. An effective superintendent gives regular reports about the teaching and learning occurring in the school district.
Standard 1: Mission, Vision and Core Values - Our values and beliefs are what drive our choices. An effective superintendent must have a vision that centers the well-being of children and must be able and willing to articulate this vision. It is important to have leadership with integrity because that will make the difference in the face of hard decisions.
Standard 5: Community of Care, Equity and Family Engagement - Children come from families and circumstances. Often these are positive influences but sometimes they are not. In those instances, we cannot hold this against children. An effective superintendent must build a team that is qualified to recognize the systems needed to act as safety nets for our children. This means assessing their individual needs and providing any and all resources to ensure they come to school ready to learn.