D. Kim Gaddy proudly serves as the Environmental Justice Organizer with Clean Water Action of New Jersey, which is a leading advocacy group for environmental issues in this state. Her illustrious career as an environmental advocate began in 2001 after her daughter Frankie Mo ‘Nay was diagnosed with chronic asthma. Since then, she has established herself as a national voice on environmental issues and has emerged as a leading advocate for preserving and protecting our environment by promoting healthy and vibrant communities.
Kim, as she is affectionately known, graduated from Weequahic High School and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ- where she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Economics. Kim remembers her teacher’s request, “don’t forget Newark,” which influenced her to return to her native city to begin a career serving the residents of Newark. Her journey into community service began as an Aide to former Newark Council President and South Ward Councilman Donald Bradley. A few years later, Kim was appointed Chief of Staff to Councilwoman-At- Large Mildred C. Crump.
In addition to her many years of faithful and devoted service to the residents of Newark, Kim enjoyed a highly successful tenure as Founder and Executive Director of the South Ward Cultural Center. During her time as Executive Director, she received praise for establishing an array of noteworthy programs including the much acclaimed after school tutorial enrichment program for latchkey and at-risk adolescents, which has been adopted by a number of community based organizations throughout the City of Newark. Despite her demanding career, Kim remains active in the community by devoting many hours to various youth, civic, community and charitable organizations.
She is a member of First Baptist Church of Nutley, New Jersey. She also serves as State President of the International Black Women’s Congress of New Jersey and is the founder of the Urban Environmental Institute’s Leadership Training Program. In addition, she served as the former President of Weequahic High and Harriet Tubman Elementary Schools PTA and previously served as Vice President of the Newark Legacy Charter Parents Circle. She is the proud mom of Sonny, Frankie Mo’Nay and Julian.
Based on your qualifications and experience, what makes you a suitable candidate to serve on the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board?
I have the direct benefit of having previously served as an elected member of the Newark Board of Education and my experiences as a board member coupled with my active involvement as President of the PTA at Weequahic High and Harriet Tubman Elementary Schools have provide the necessary insight to properly address the hefty challenges confronting the Newark Public Schools. These challenges include improving the quality of education for all students, securing adequate funding for our schools, and returning local control to the district. These are just a few examples of the challenges facing our district. Needless to say, there is much work to be done and I will dedicate my time ro finding remedies to eliminate these challenges once elected.
Also, I have a son currently attending Harriet Tubman Elementary. As a parent of a public school child, I am constantly in contact with school Administrators and teachers who often share their concerns regarding the overall academic outlook for students. My interaction with school representatives is a tremendous asset. It provides me the opportunity to learn first-hand the most pressing issues facing our Administrators and teachers.
Finally, I am a proud product of the Newark Public School system. Our schools have produced some of the most brilliant and talented students in the nation. So many NPS graduates have achieved greatness in their professional career. Today, we have so many students who continue to display greatness. One of my goals as a school board member will be to rewrite the narrative that nothing good comes out of the NPS. I hope to achieve this goal by partnering with parents, teachers, students and community leaders to highlight the success of students all schools.
What are your reasons for running?
Even though it has been more than three decades since I graduated from Weequahic High School, my appreciation for the high quality education that I received while attending NPS remain fresh in my mind. I vividly recall the extraordinary teachers who encouraged students to excel and made learning exciting.
My personal experience as a graduate of the NPS and continued involvement as a parent of a Newark Public School child have inspired me to become a candidate for the school board. I believe that I possess the experience and wisdom to help develop a plan of action designed to improve the quality of education for all of our students.
Moreover, the NPS can not educate unhealthy children so I will prioritize a Healthy Schools agenda to address the quality of the drinking water, the air they breathe and the food our children eat. Asthma is the number one reason children are absent from school and in Newark 1in 4 children have asthma verses 1in 10 in the County.
Are you running with an organizational slate?
I am running as part of the Newark Unity Slate, which includes Tave Padilla A 2, Leah Owens A-6 and Kim Gaddy A-8 Together we have the experience necessary to lead the district during these challenging times.
Our goal is to produce high quality education for all students, fight to regain local control, seek full funding and resources for the district, increase school/parent partnerships, ensure compliance will all special education mandates, increase student career and college readiness and improve student graduation rates throughout the districts. Accomplishing these goals will lead to a more successful and productive school district.
What are your priorities for the district in the coming year?
The priority of the Newark Unity Slate over the next year is to enhance the quality of education for all of our students. We will accomplish this by working cooperatively with state, county and local leaders to make educating our children a top priority.
What attributes and qualifications do you consider essential for effective school board members?
An effective school board member must have a vested interest in establishing sound policies, which serve the best interest of our students. A board member must be willing to work with community stakeholders throughout the district and maintain an open mind about conventional as well as unconventional ways to expand educational opportunities for all students.
A board member must be willing to challenge the status quo and remain committed to those ideals and principles that benefit the students within the district, which may be contrary to the overall expectations of the community.
An effective board member must prioritize the interest of the students over politics and self interest. At the same time, board members must be deliberative when acting upon proposals and legislation which impact the students within the NPS. Board members must be mindful of the fact that not only do we represent ourselves, but we also represent the 48,000 students enrolled in the district.