Josephine C. Garcia is a community and educational leader in the City of Newark who has spent much of her professional career serving the residents of the city as an aide to numerous elected officials. She recently answered the call to service by running successfully for an elected position on the Newark Board of Education.
Garcia launched her career as a legal secretary before joining the administration of former Mayor Sharpe James in 1998. She held several positions in the James administration, including serving as the assistant supervisor of the mayor's administrative staff.
Since 2006, Garcia has worked as a legislative aide for Newark Councilman-at-Large Carlos M. Gonzalez, where she works closely with the councilman to provide up-to-date research on a variety of municipal issues and serves as his official representative at conferences and engagements.
Garcia has long been interested in education, serving as a volunteer for the parent teacher associations for Science Park High School, Robert Treat Academy and Technology High School, where her three children attended.
In April 2017, she was elected to the Newark Board of Education, garnering the most votes in a crowded field, and was immediately elected president of the board, a position she continues to hold. She also serves as the chair of the governance committee and vice chair of the legal committee.
Garcia has served as the President of the Essex County New Jersey School Board Association since May 2019.
In May 2019, she was also President of the Puerto Rican Day Parade of Newark, NJ, a nonprofit organization that celebrates Puerto Rican culture and the contributions of Puerto Ricans to the City of Newark.
Garcia takes great pride in her three children, Donavin, Brandon and Michael, who are now young men. Donavin graduated from Technology High School, and now is a United States Marine, Brandon is a Science Park graduate and is now attending William Paterson University as a double major in Biology and psychology and Michael is a current senior in St. Peter's Preparatory School and will soon be attending a University.
Garcia is a graduate of Barringer High School and attended Essex County College. She lives in the North Ward of Newark.
2020 Candidates Forum Q&A
Josephine C. Garcia Introductory Remarks
As President and member of the Board, my leadership and voice has been critical with our current accomplishments with the Transition Plan away from state control and in setting the vision of the future in the ten-year strategic plan under local control. The long-term vision I have for the Newark school system is bright and filled with great hope and promise. Student attendance has been at the highest ever and student achievement is on the rise. While so much is already underway, we still have much to do. Currently, we are designing an equity strand to address the various inequities found across the city and throughout the wards in the school system that have occurred over the last 20 years and we are actually doing something about it. This valiant effort is underway because of visionary leadership, fearlessness, and an unparalleled commitment to excellence with a passion focused on progress. I stand on my record of leadership and transparency. I have been working diligently at serving the children and the residents of my great city. I have a success record and experience to move this plan forward and see it to fruition. I find myself compelled to note that I have done this incredible work with and because of the assistance and support of my Board colleagues, district leadership, staff, parents, students, and community. I look forward to continuing this work on behalf of the children and this community for the next three years. I look forward to and humbly request the support of all of our citizens in this upcoming school board election.
Q&A Round 1: Addressing the current situation confronting our educational system
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the educational landscape across the country. Schools in Newark are “closed until further notice.” Candidates will be asked three questions about the impact of school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic on learning. Please connect your answers to the critical levers you have available to you as a school board member: Policy, Supervision of the Superintendent, and Budget.
1-A. As a prospective Board of Education member, what would you recommend to ensure continued learning for all students while school is closed?
1-B. If the situation stabilizes by July 1, 2020, what recommendations do you have for the summer months to address any learning loss that might have occurred during the school closure?
1-C. What changes, if any, would you recommend for the 20-21 academic year to address the current interruption?
Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic and public health crisis has impacted us all profoundly and I send prayers to all of the families and staff impacted in Newark. I also think the city and the district are handling the current conditions well and I wanted to thank the Mayor and Superintendent for their leadership and on-going efforts. Our staff has been incredible from chrome books to food distribution and I applaud everyone in facilities, security, and food services. The Learning at Home Plans across the grades are designed to meet the academic needs of all of the students. These plans will continue until classes are no longer operating virtually. The summer months will become super critical toward addressing any gaps children have and their varying academic needs. Ultimately, the district will conduct a needs assessment for every student when schools reopen and design individualized student plans with actionable items to address those needs. We were making a lot of progress and we will regain our footing in the months ahead.
Q&A Round 2: Articulating your stance on a specific area of responsibility
As an elected official to the school board, you are required to collaborate and make difficult decisions with the eight other members of the board, as well as build public support for your positions. These decisions focus on issues concerning your primary responsibilities: the vision and goals for the district, the development and enforcement of district policies, the performance of the superintendent, and the development and adoption of the annual budget. In this round, we ask you to select one area of responsibility and articulate what changes you would advocate and work for in your chosen area.
2-A. On which area of responsibility would you like to focus on for this round: Vision and goals, district policy, evaluation of the superintendent, or use of the budget? What changes would you like to see in that area, and why?
2-B. Describe, using an example from your professional career, how you build coalitions among your colleagues to make change happen.
2-C. What work do you imagine you must do to ensure the community understands and supports your position?
Q&A Round 3: Increasing student voice
Before the context changed so dramatically this year, the Trust worked with seven high school students across the district to prepare them to develop questions for and facilitate this forum. Due to the pandemic and the need for physical distancing, the Trust was not able to complete this work. We did hold two preparatory sessions with the seven students. The students wanted prospective school board members to speak to their plans for increasing student voice at every level of the system.
3-A. As a prospective Board of Education member, what current structures do you believe allow students to contribute to the decision-making that impacts their educational lives? Please be specific in naming the structure and articulating exactly how student voices are captured and used in either school or district decision-making? Also, speak to how you might strengthen this structure.
3-B. What additional ideas do you have to increase the impact of student voice on decision making either at the school or the district level that are not currently in place? Do you commit to advocating for them if you are elected to the Board?
The role of students is at the core of every action of the Board and their voices are critical to everything we do. Currently, the students elect a student representative to represent students on the Board and I believe that the structure, which has developed over time and is always improving, has been successful. Unfortunately, I don't believe that has been enough to truly capture student voices. In the process, and under my leadership, we have invited students to attend community meetings or held meetings just for student voices only. Students have attended Board committee meetings or have been invited to attend so that the Board could hear directly from our students. Finally, students have proven to provide the district and the Board with guidance on all of the policies we have under review and even on alerting us to curriculum changes in Amistad, Civics, and in support of culturally relevant textbooks just to name a few. I think we have done a much better job in this area, but look forward expanding opportunities to make sure that the voices of our students are heard.
Josephine C. Garcia Closing Remarks