New Jersey is my home. My story isn’t exceptional, but I think that’s what makes it important. My story is shared by so many individuals and families across the state.
I grew up in a loving, large Irish Catholic family. We moved towns when I was young so that my siblings and I could attend a better elementary school. Then when it was time for us to attend high school my parents pulled together the money to send us to Catholic school because our public high school was severely struggling.
Now I have a son and I’m trying to figure out the options to make sure he will have a great education. It’s what every parent wants.
But it’s not what every parents gets in today’s New Jersey. The educational inequities in our state are a moral failing. The concept that you can have kids on one side of the street getting access to phenomenal schools and on the other side attending failing schools cannot persist.
In my professional life I have been so lucky to be able to see schools first-hand in New Jersey that are amazing – that includes public schools both traditional and charter. That’s happening right here. You go to these schools and you think, ‘I would love to get my child into this school.’ But I’ve also been to places where that’s absolutely not the case. A happy school that looks like it’s well run but when you look at the data it will keep you up at night.
I’ve been so lucky because I’ve seen these inspiring examples, but I also feel a tremendous responsibility because I’ve seen the other side as well.
That’s why I’m so proud to be the founding executive director of JerseyCAN: The New Jersey Campaign for Achievement Now. Working in education policy in New Jersey for the last several years I have seen an enormous need for research, data and best practices to inform the debate.
There has been real progress made already in our state thanks to many leaders, including much-needed teacher tenure reform, the creation of a new teacher evaluation system, an expansion of the inter-district public school choice program, and other efforts to improve school quality. But we can’t stop there. This is much more work to be done, and it starts with getting the facts.