Wednesday, September 13, 2017

An Update of the Inequalities in Educating Our Children!

Two years ago, my friend Julie B and I blogged about my son's 8th grade class schedule and while the responses I got from it were not totally a surprise, the response was a bit overwhelming. Our blog   posts even got picked up by Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post. You can access Julie B’s blog     post here, my blog post here and the Washington Post article here.     I knew the schedule was not      right nor was it fair to my son and his fellow students at the    time. Double and triple periods of test prep for PARRC. The response to the blogs were a red flag that something needed to be done. Below is my son’s old 8th grade schedule:

As always and in true dedicated parent fashion form, I reached out to the Newark Public school         district and again to no surprise, I did not receive a response. You see by my son’s  8th grade year, my wife and I had already made a name for ourselves in the district as “those parents.” As rebel rousers. Simply because we would not tolerate our son being given less   than what we had as a great public   education being raised in the city of Newark, we were    treated like the enemy. We all know Newark has been under state control for over 20 years and up to that point, a parent’s feedback on lack luster  curriculum and over preparation for tests   like the PARRC fell on def ears. I mean we as parents       advocated our butts off. We attended city and state hearings on education, we attended school board   hearings, we even started a Facebook page ParentPower Movement to try and rally up as many parents to get involved as possible and fight for whats best to preserve quality public education in the city   of Newark.
8th grade came and went. My son graduated from his elementary school in Newark. One in  which   many generations of my family graduated from as well. It was at that time when my wife and I           started to really think about our son's education and his future. Was it worth staying   in a district       being controlled by the state, where parents were looked at like the enemy. Were we had to fight hard to make sure our son and our community’s children got just the basics. The standard. The minimum   required. How could we as parents find the continuation of this   road acceptable for him? As parents we wanted so much more. More than the district could provide to us as a family. It was in those         conversations and many sleepless nights, that we as a family decided the district could no longer        sustain us as a family. It was a very difficult choice as we loved the city so much again being born     raised and coming from generations of Newarkers. So we did our home work and searched for districts in the state that would be more conducive to our sons education and his future. We found our           choice, packed up our lives and moved from Newark to Point Pleasant Beach, NJ. We gave up family free time for commutes to our jobs up north so we could hopefully provide him with a better life,       better options, a better school system and improved life experiences. It was worth the sacrifice.
Fast forward two years from posting that 8th grade schedule, and my son’s schedule looks very different from that original post. It is full of variety and is exposing our son to a foundation that will,           prepare him for a ever changing faced paced world. Class sizes are smaller which gives way to individualized attention from his teachers. As parents, we have gone from the enemy to contributors of his education. We have access to teachers, curriculum, and parent involvement. Is it utopia? No of course not! Some may say "you could have afforded to move you were lucky!" Actually NO! Our rent increased and we had to incur higher commuting costs to travel to North Jersey for our jobs. However, it    was a hit that we were willing to take.

As much as I loved living in the city of Newark ,it is a breath of fresh air in our new school district. I say that not to be little the city of Newark, but the fight to secure above just the bare minimum to educate my child is no longer something we are burdened with.  What puzzles me as a parent in 2017,     there can still be such stark inequalities for our children’s education even within state lines. maybe I am just naive.  You should be able to take your child from one district to another and it be a seamless   transition for the student. By all means, my son had to get adjusted to our new district don't get me   wrong. The intensity of the curriculum, the higher expectations from the teachers and the intimate     class sizes. Children adjust quicker than we give them credit for and he learned to adapt to our new   district standards and expectations. He returned to Mandarin Chinese, where he had taken it for          several years in Newark only to be dismantled and replaced with computers to gear up for PARRC. He now is in his 2nd high school year of the language and thriving. Giving him a tremendous jump    start on a language being used widely in the international business world. He is playing multiple        sports on a Varsity level and loves this new educational experience. His schedule now is a variety of    subjects. This is a copy of his Sophomore 2017-2018 schedule in Point Pleasant Beach High: 
My hope in this update of our story is to paint the picture of the inequalities and sacrifices families     face when educating their children. I am writing this on the heals of  Newark voting to take back       control of their school district from state held control of over 20 years. To send a message to those in offices of authority who will regain the responsibility and be held accountable for keeping the schools in Newark out of state control and back to the communities and families they serve. To open up the   dialogue between administration and parents. To bridge the gap of inequities and differences as well  as elevate the standards of what is acceptable in educating children of inner cities so that they          mirror and exceed those of suburban school districts. To learn  from the lessons of the mistakes made that led to a failed state run tenure that led to no real improvements. That divided and removed          parents from the conversation and process of educating our children. To letting the politics go and      letting  parents and the community back in. The fight for parents in Newark just doesn’t go away     with control of public schools being returned to the city. It has just begun. To the parents I have left   behind, I hope that you fight even harder and demand even more for your children. As you see from the schedule above, it is possible. They are worth it and their futures depend on holding the powers     that be accountable to provide higher standards for our future generations of young minds and             leaders. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Wolves in Sheep's Clothing


It's been a few months since my last entry. Returning back to school as a thirty something dad and a career change left little time for anything but school, work, eat, shower and repeat. However, I still kept tabs on what was going on in the Newark Educational Pro Public advocacy fight. Boy oh boy what a mess! The herd of wolves in sheep's clothing is now an army of wolves in sheep's clothing. They have engulfed the city I was born, raised and still live in! Like a plague to the point where I don't even recognize my own city!

I am all for change and growth in a city like Newark. Development is not something I push away. However, when development means turning the keys to the city over to scoundrels and corporate crooks...yep that is something I have a huge issue with! You see I am not someone who lives in Newark, works out of town and returns home. I LIVE, WORK AND PLAY IN THE CITY OF NEWARK!  Generations of both sides of my family where able to live, work and raise children in the city.  They were able to give their children free and fair education by walking to neighborhood schools, signing them up and watching their children grow. Now that picture looks so different. As a family in Newark, I just can't go to my neighborhood school and have my son receive an education. Now he has to be entered into a pool system and an algorithm based computerized system tells us where he must go! No concern to when mom and dad have to be at work, how much distance we must travel to get him there, whether he likes the school or if they provide the curriculum needed to educate a child who has aspirations to be an Aerospace Engineer.

 My parents and their parents did not have to rally or chain themselves to garbage cans outside of central office to get administration to listen. My parents did not have to write grants to bring in programs and activities to my school in order for my sister and I to participate and have exposure to our all our education had to offer. My parents didn't have to travel an hour to our state's capitol and testify in educational hearings about budgets, standardized testing and charter expansion.  If you would have told parents back then that in the future your children or grandchildren would need to do these things so they could educate their children they would have told you that you were crazy!

Well that is just the case! It is the reality for my wife and myself raising a child in the city of Newark. It has become a constant battle! When we should be out providing for our son, we have to work extremely hard to ensure he gets a fair and substantial education. However, this is not the same city. I would not expect what I am seeing in the city in Newark. Lot's of debauchery going on with education in our public schools. People want to say "adults bickering is bad for our children. They get caught in the crossfire." Parents fighting for what they believe is best for their children is not "bickering." There are politicians who told us during their campaign that if they were elected, the public schools would be safe and taken care of. Pro Public school parents will tell you that is not happening. It actually is just the opposite! We are watching them disintegrate one by one! They are being run out by the plague through growth of the charter expansion. 

Let me stop right here and clear this up for all the haters. I am not against charters! Me, personally I am a proud pro public school parent. I believe in our school system. I believe and cherish the history and culture public schools have in our city. I believe they need help and restructuring . I also believe in choices for parents. TRUE CHOICES. Hell my parents sent my sister to parochial school and I went to Newark Public Schools. They had a choice.  But now, what we have is a movement led by corporations that saw there was money in educating the public, come in and brainwash disenfranchised families, sell them a false product, recruited them via payment and told them this is what will get your child far in life. 

Now we all know there STILL is no statistical data to prove charters are superior over traditional public schools. When run properly they are equally good and should work in parallel.  We all know people always want the new pair of shoes! Sometimes just because they are new doesn't mean they will fit everyone's feet. That they will be good for everyone's feet. Yet, people will wear them get bunions and corns and tell folks they are the best pair ever. They have fallen hook line and sinker into the marketing scheme rather than what's best for them. They will watch others do the same and turn a blind eye. Same with what's going on here in Newark education.

Newark has been invaded by false organizations claiming they are:

1. Grassroots
2. For change in education
3. To not divide and bring the city together
4. To get our children college and career ready

Groups like Parents Coalition for Excellent Education have sprouted up claiming to be false Messiahs! Being led by marketing scoundrels like Matthew Frankel, a top advisor who was one of Cami Anderson's side arms who created, enforced and implemented many of the programs like One Newark that has divided and started the breaking down of unity in our city! By the way he caused all this trouble and is not even a Newarker! He is just some white rich dude from Montclair who knows he can make tons of money off of the poor folk a few towns over. Frankel has even launched lawsuits against parents in his own town of Montclair and guess who his lawyer is??? Good Ole SHAVAR JEFFRIES. Lawyer and the man behind North Star and the charter expansion in Newark. Then there is their executive director, Akin Muhammad. A political pawn that has worked in Jersey City and Newark and has made a career of selling out his own people and their families. He has been quoted in the past saying " all white people have a little Hitler in them" and " the Pope is the Antichrist."  They claim to be for all Newark  families, but I guess by Muhammad's standards not me since I am white and Roman Catholic.Check out the article"Top Jersey City official said 'all white people have a little Hitler in them' in 1995 speech"

They do not work in transparency, like a true parent organization. They were not created by a group of parents who said let's make a change for other parents. They are the spawn of  corporate investors like The Waltons who are financially backing groups and POSING AS PARENT LED INITIATIVES! Really

PC2E is receiving funds from Newark Charter Fund, who obviously themselves receive funds from The Walton Foundation Click here for K-12 Walton Foundation Grants by State.  Yet, when asked constantly on social media by parents in the city "how are you funded" the question is either dodged or deleted!  They hire parents to rally, show up at school board meetings, city council meetings, to read pre-written testimonials at state education hearings. They admit to having a staff of at least twenty people, occupy expensive corporate offices, throw lavish parties at the League of Municipality Convention in Atlantic City- all of which requires millions in annual funding  Their location is shared with the Turnkey Charter Construction Company as well as Newark Prep Charter School.  Coincidence?  Showing up at rally and city meetings with hundreds of pricey teal t-shirts and professionally printed banners. Last time I checked...THAT IS NOT A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT. Astroturf corporate groups like this merely use #PARENTPOWER as a tactic to confuse parents in the community.

They have troller scouts on social media as well! When people question them on social media, they delete and block users from access in voicing their opinions to them and what they do.  These hires parents now have shown up in the State House barking at legislators with teal t-shirts on demanding "justice" for the expansion of the charter school movement. That is hilarious, for the last three years their faces were not with mine as I sat in legislative testimonials, votes or caucuses. If you ask them why they are there, what bill they are fighting for, what piece of legislation they are fighting for...they are clueless. They are just there to be bodies in seats! Well done Mr. Frankel.

PC2E and another Walton funded astroturf group, Black Alliance for Education Option, are working closely with Democrats for Education Reform and other Walton funded privatization groups - NJ Charter School Association, JerseyCAN, and the Newark Charter School Fund.  One of their top priorities is taking over the Newark Advisory Board, so they can control the Newark District once the state gives up control. They also are salivating over open seats on the Newark Advisory Board. They will buy votes and play with numbers. They claim adults shouldn't  bicker over education. No they shouldn't! They should fight tooth and nail for their children  and their education. They should prevent sellouts from strapping on the role as dedicated parents who think they are the voice of change for a city like Newark. I can't stress enough, change is needed but not at the expense of these people and their corporate puppet masters! Not at the expense of selling out their own children!

I had first hand experience with one of their parents. My son and I were testifying in Trenton at a Standardized Testing hearing. My son said "dad I want to testify and let them know my experience and my friends experience taking PARCC." So with permission from his teachers and principal, who all felt it would be  tremendous experience for him, he wrote and prepared his testimony. After testifying, a woman came up to us extremely aggressive saying "why we would not participate in PARRC?" " Why is he not in a charter?" I told the woman " we are not a charter family and it is for us." My son said directly to her " I like my school and I would not go to a charter." The woman started yelling at me and my son saying" your son is my son and I want the best for him. "  I replied to her stating that " my son is not your son and he has parents who care for him very much. We decide what's best for our son. NOT YOU!" She proceeded to get very hostile yelling and screaming at both me and my son. She was even told to calm down from legislative staff. As she went up to speak she directed insults and hostility to my son and myself. It was an embarrassing display and representation for Newark.  Then about 3 months ago, the same woman on social media tried to play the race card saying I was saying at that same hearing I told her I didn't want her as a neighbor. Trying to fish for attacks on me. When I told my son, he said "dad, she was mean and that is not what you said. She is lying. She said I was her child and you told her I am not her child. Why is she lying to everyone. I will tell her directly." She switched the conversation " a good parent would of had their child in school. " I advised her that my son had permission from his teachers and principal. He wrote his own testimony. I advised her that learning does not always come from the classroom and how future leaders are made. She then proceeded to attack other pro public parents in the social media conversation.

I am hearing from people "we need to stop the division in Newark and work together", yet they proceed to disrespect people who are fighting for the real choice. THESE ARE NOT PEOPLE DEDICATED NEWARK PARENTS SHOULD BE SEEKING  TO BE THE VOICE OF CHANGE TO FORCE OUR CHOICE! The choice of parents who work their assess off  and want truth in educating their children!. They say they are not corrupt like the NPS, but yet they work in secrets misuse funds, hide test scores, brush infractions and incidents at schools under the carpet to falsify their image. They are not the voice to carry us through the next chapter of Newark education. They are under the thumb of money making corporate scoundrels. Is this how we show our children what being a Newarker is all about? To sell out to the highest bidder? To make a deal and sell our souls to the devil?  Just like the old rich white men on Wall St. decimated our economy with bad mortgages, these same rich white men have now turned their pockets to the educational systems in urban cities across our nation.  What will these voices do then when the charter educational bubble pops? What is your plan B? You will be standing there holding your child's education in your hand, running back to what will always be there educating our children - Newark Public Schools. It is our constitutional right to a free and fair public education and community schools. Will you then unzip your sheep's skin and show the true wolves you are?

I never was a sheep that followed the flock. Morals and ethics always trumped money to me. How can I raise a son in a modern aggressive world and not show him part of survival is being able to stand for what is right and just! In my family, we raise lions. Lions who eat sheep and enjoy a good wolf in sheep's clothing.


Monday, November 23, 2015


 Keep Your Hands Off My of Child Reformers!

Just when I think I have gotten a handle on getting comfortable with becoming a dad involved in the fight of education, weekends like this past weekend happen.  Clear evidence that maybe I really do not and should not have a handle on the shenanigans that go on surrounding the multi-billion dollar business that has become Education.  Growing up, I had the image of Education being just like a first responder. Similar to those in Fire personnel and Law Enforcement. You had it in your heart! You were blessed to have it in you to do a job that changed lives. To save lives. My educators did just that!  Of course, after being involved in the fight for current education issues, I see that is so not the case! Today, it is about reformer and political turf wars over the lives of the young minds that fill the seats every day when the school bell rings!  I also, see that it is a growing trend to confuse the public by using words like REFORM to achieve their agendas and their own gains.  Reform as I knew it always had a positive definition.  Now, I am not so confident that is the case!

1.make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.
"an opportunity to reform and restructure an antiquated schooling model"
improve, better, make better, ameliorate, refine;

According to the above definition of REFORM, one would think that would mean to make better. To take something and turn it around for the better!  Those involved in reform “The Reformists” would be in the business of taking the old and making it new and better. Keeping what works and finding flaws for opportunities of improvement!  I hear the phrase “Educational Reform” used so much nowadays. WELL WELL! By the new reformists’ definition and specifically when it comes to education…THEY CAN KEEP IT! They have changed a positive meaning of the definition and are confusing the public to think they are here to throw out the life preserver.  Sure, they have given job security for journalists across the country, but they have done nothing but reform the bank accounts of fake philanthropist like the Waltons, Gates and Kleins from large to humongous!  So now the words “reform”, “reform” and “reformists” are words I choose not to associate myself with as a dad with a child in our current US educational system.  Let these reformists work their magic in the affluent white areas of the country, the 1%ers and with their own families before they sink their meat hooks into our urban children and their education! It will NEVER HAPPEN!

It reminds me of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That creepster The Child Catcher! Prancing around town, luring the children into his mitts with gumdrops and lollipops!  Employed by Baron Bomburst and Baroness Bomburst to snatch and imprison children on the streets of Vulgaria as they hated children! They enslaved the children they capture! To do their bidding. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, our present day barons and baronesses have mega software companies and retail chains. Using our children’s education for their own personal games. It’s absolutely terrifying!

Reform has bled its way into our branches of government from the White House to the State House and all the way down to city halls across the nation! NJ, NY, IL, LO and spreading faster than the Influenza Virus. It is even getting to parents! YES PARENTS! The organization Parent Coalition for Excellent Education is popping up in cities where ever you see the Charter Expansion. New York has its own version called Families for Excellent Schools.  Backed by families like the Gates and the Waltons, the premise is to portray grass root family and parent organizations to stick their foot in the door of the conversation where they have no parent voice. Masked by Charter Factories like KIPP, TEAM, NORTH STAR and Uncommon Schools to rally up the numbers. Under 501cs they are staffed with paid employees, have office spaces in corporate owned buildings, pay for parents who lobby efforts for overturn or develop new legislation for the “Reformy Crusade.”  They have preyed on disenfranchised parents just like the Child Catcher, with Charter schools that have superficial bells and whistles claiming they are the messiah that will save their child from the mean streets of urban culture. Yet, fail to produce any results. Right here in Newark, we hear of charter schools still facing gang life, low or no academic achievements, teen pregnancy, bullying and drugs. These coalitions and fictitious parent groups do not have the parent voice and most times do not even represent a portion of the majority of the parents fighting for public education. We have parents contacting parent organizations like The Parent Power Movement Team, advising they were marketed for enrollment, removed their child from traditional public school, had horrifying experiences in charter schools and transferred their children back into traditional public schools. Their boards and executive staff read like the Who’s Who of Educational Scandal.  You shouldn’t take my word for it. Just do the research! Look at the names of the boards and executive staff. Do more research than media outlets like NJ Spotlight have done!  Matthew Frankel makes a phone call and submits a press release and it gets in print! Only speaks to the credibility of the media source. One executive even was quoted a few years back in saying “every white person has a little Hitler in them and that the Pope is the Antichrist!” This same person also is known for other racial and homophobic slurs.

Just this past weekend at the League of Municipalities Convention in Atlantic City, NJ the “parent driven” Parent Coalition for Excellent Education partied it up with the big wigs! Not just partied, but hosted their own room at the Taj Maha Casino Resort Convention Hall! I can tell you being a co-founder of a grass roots parent organization, we operate out of each other’s living rooms and fundraise by selling t-shirts just so we can supply us with copies to hand out to inform parents. So how do they afford such a swanky event as a grass roots parent coalition? When asked they either state “we don’t know where the money comes from” or will get angry and defensive and pick a fight with you when approached. Even some of our legislators, assembly people and Newark City Council members  were happily in attendance at the PC2E AC event. Their red carpet and step and repeat was even graced by NJ Senate Education President Teresa Ruiz. Wow, most parents and voters can’t even get a return email or telephone call from her! The motto “ WORK HAD, PLAY HARD!” I guess selling yourself out can be exhausting!


This morning there was a Bob Braun article that discussed Neighborhood Schools and the work that Mayor Baraka and Dr. Lauren Wells has developed for our city and the South Ward. Big problem is I personally spent the weekend with members of Parent Power Movement, PULSE and Abbott Leadership Institute this past weekend on the topic of developing Neighborhood Schools. None of them ever asked to sit at the table with the Mayor’s office or his Educational Team to develop Neighborhood Schools. Heck one of my team members is still waiting for a date when the PPM team can sit with the Mayor. How can this plan represent "Community" schools when the community is not all represented at the planning table and these schools will not be implemented in ALL the wards in Newark? Community or Neighborhood schools CANNOT BE PLANNED AND IMPLEMENTED FROM THE TOP DOWN! We got faster movement from State BOE President Mark Biedron and even from Superintendent Christopher Cerf. So now we have another type of Reform going on. Reform for the community without the community! Hard to keep up isn’t it? How can neighborhood schools be discussed when it is not representing the ENTIRE city of Newark. When all wards are not represented at the table?  Logical right?

I am learning, maybe slower than others, that the only logic in Educational Reform other than “SHOW US THE MONEY” is there is no logic! It seems like the moment I get at least an understanding on one dimension of the reform monster, another head sprouts. All I can say is this if this is what reform is like…NEVER LET ME B

Thursday, November 5, 2015

One Small Step for Parentkind!

One Small Step for Parentkind!

Yesterday was an exceptionally proud moment for the #ParentPower Movement Team. After a few back and forth scheduling emails, our team of  parents sat down last night with appointed Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Christopher Cerf. Many said "oh don't do it, he would just use you all to say he had parent interaction." Well, isn't that one of the reason why we said all those years Cami had the seat, she was not effective is because she would never engage with the parents in the city of Newark? If we did not work hard to try and arrange something with Superintendent Cerf, wouldn't we be doing a disservice to the parents we speak to and assist in our community?

I am a volunteer member for the East Ward Newark 350th Anniversary committee and Mr. Cerf and I ran into each other at the Kick Off Family Festival in October held at Military Park in Newark. We exchanged introductions and contact information and he said" He heard of ParentPower Movement and would love to sit and chat with us!" I said, "Do you really mean that?" He said of course so we exchanged contact information. Within the next 24 hours #ParentPower was receiving communications from both his office and Superintendent looking to set something up. Like I said it took some working out as we are all hardworking parents with different schedules and children in many extracurricular activities, but we settled on 11/4/15 at 7 pm at 2 Cedar Street, Central Offices for the Newark Public School District.

Leading up to the meeting the team reviewed emails, phone calls. social media inboxes and personal accounts we had with parents and came up with an agenda to help guide us through our first sit down with Mr. Cerf. Many of us or I should say most of us, the only interaction we have had with him has been seeing him at State Board of Education meetings when he was in the Commissioner of Education seat and now at local Newark Advisory Board meetings.  So our team all met in the lobby of 2 Cedar Street in full #PARENTPOWER uniform, packed the elevator and made our way to the 10th floor. We were greeted kindly, of course and escorted into the conference room where within moments of our arrival Superintendent Cerf entered. We went around introducing ourselves to him and in return he requested that we call him " Chris." It took awhile but after the meeting warmed up a bit we much obliged.  We all had our copies of our Meeting agendas with our logo on the top and handed one to Mr. Cerf. along with a #PARENTPOWER MOVEMENT button! 
The agenda listed items such as:
- Who is #ParentPower Movement. Our Goals and Mission Statement
- IEP issues 
- Facility Conditions
- Arts in Education
- School Closures
- Charter Expansions

We discussed how One Newark was not impacting our local neighborhoods as the data we where hearing from him or the district portrayed. The team brought in one of our parents who we have been dealing with for sometime to speak and give first hand account of the horrific experiences she had with her family going through the process of IEPs and trying to find a fit that met the basics of her child's IEP needs. Educated in over 10 years of experience and advocating for her children she let him know bluntly the tremendous cracks in the system. We discussed how we hear from many of the Special Needs/ IEP population of parents and their dissatisfaction. We also discussed failures in ESL and with our bilingual community. The team proposed that he institute to us a direct "hotline" for our team to get around the chaos and mess parents have to deal with when they contact Central Office for an issue! He agreed that was a wonderful idea and requested to his note take DeShawn, to "make it happen."  The team was really happy about that. We set guidelines for response times and how the hotline would work. That was a big win for us!

As things from the agenda are still being worked out since our meeting, I do not feel it is helpful to share the details of what was discussed. I will share with you somethings. We worked out some lists and issues that needed to be addressed district wide and time frames for resolution. He knew what type of caliber parents he had in the room by our moxy to not back down and stand firm when we required certain actions to be taken. The running joke in the room for him was " Unfortunately, have no sympathy for you!" After the 3rd or 4th time he knew he wouldn't be getting any from this group of parents! He also knew that we had a parent in the room physically recording every word that was said. So when it came to "on the record" statements, he knew our entire meeting was on the record. He actually made a comment about our new relationship and I had to stop him and clarify, " I wouldn't call this a relationship just yet. Relationships build over time with trust and respect. So lets take it slow. 50% of all marriages end in bad divorces." We all laughed but acknowledge this to be a slow process. We also joked about propaganda and said well yeah...we will use what we can to grab the right persons's attention. He must have seen our many memes in the past. He did say " We should do more of these." " I corrected him and said" Oh NO THERE WILL BE MORE OF THESE NOT SHOULD." He definitely agreed. After about an hour and a half we concluded the meeting with some confirmation of timelines, said our goodbyes and had our individual chats with him one on one as we left the conference room.  

Besides helping to create #ParentPower Movement, last night was a really proud moment for me to see our team of well informed, well prepared, professional and diplomatic parents work together as a team. To take this step together. We didn't call in a special favor to get us the meeting, we didn't have hedgefunders set up the meeting for us. We didn't take pictures for media purposes. The meeting last night is because while we maybe button pushers and feather rufflers, we are also Do-ers. We want to see change not just talk about it. To pull ourselves away from the table from having discussions with those empowered to make decisions would do a disservice to the families we work with and our followers.  So, we are not expecting changes over night, we are not on a pink cloud of false expectations. #PARENTPOWER Movement has timelines set up with Superintendent Cerf and his team for resolutions on this first agenda and we will be happy to report solutions and resolutions as they are finalized with Mr. Cerf and the district. Until then, we encourage all TRADITIONAL Newark Public School parents to reach us at  tel.862.227.1818 or via email with their issues so we can help expedite solutions and resolutions regarding your child's education!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015



If not trying to stay on top of legislation, budgets, curriculum, changes in administration, standardized testing, Opt-Out/Refusal laws and data up to my ears wasn't enough, tonight I can add ZONING onto that heap as well. You see the City of Newark Zoning Board met yesterday with North Star Academy to hear their proposal to build and expand into five new locations into the city of Newark. One of those locations would be the 166,550 sq ft. Star Ledger Complex on 377 Washington St. in Newark. Once the city's source of news, The Star Ledger turned sour on it's people and sold out to the state and corporate politics. It comes to no surprise that North Star has acquired the complex. 
The plans, to build a K-8 facility for the charter expansion as well as a parking deck for those employed with North Star.  Big deal you may be thinking right? Well major big deal! I will pose it the way it was posed to me by my buddy Cassandra Dock, Newark resident /Activist. " Frankie, the Star Ledger was COMMERCIAL SPACE! When the Star-Ledger operated out of that building and owned that building...THEY PAID TAXES! Our city is in a deficit budget wise and now North Star taking over, THEY PAY NO TAXES AND THE CITY LOSES OUT ON THAT TAX MONEY WE NEED!" 
Oh man! Here I was worrying about schools being closed and charters popping up in our public school buildings! I wasn't thinking how the city and taxpayers where affected when commercial spaces that the city needs for revenue would be manipulated to expand the charter movement! Silly me! Isn't that just how the game of Monopoly is played? My sister was always better at that game than I was growing up. I was more of a LIFE kid! All jokes aside, the level of importance of this issue has just reached DEFCON 4!  

Prior to the council meeting there was a vigil organized by the Newark Teachers Union to stand in unity for issues our Newark Teachers are encountering in the district and the loss of Public Education to "Reform for Profit." When my team and I got the invite to come a few weeks back we instantly said of course and were excited that the teachers were stepping out of the shadows and standing up like so many other great and courageous cities across the nation! In true procrastinator style I feverishly hunted around the house for items to assemble a picket sign to show my support. The other parents on our team are much more creative than I am when it comes to stuff like that. So I found a large piece of cardboard I found on the back of a Dark Crystal movie poster I have. Grabbed a Sharpie, a wooden leg from a small table we had and duct tape! CAN'T FORGET THE DUCT TAPE! I sat for a moment wand wondered "Ok how the hell does this work?"  I picked up the Sharpie and began to write on one side CHOICE not FORCE! The reverse side I wrote NO MORE NORTH STARS! STOP CHARTER EXPANSION!  I grabbed the wooden leg from the table and started duct tapping away to keep the pole in place! BY GEORGE...I MADE MY VERY FIRST PICKET SIGN!!! It wasn't anything fancy but got the point across! NOW THIS WAS TRULY SOME GRASS ROOT EFFORTS MAGIC GOING ON RIGHT HERE!

I grabbed my sign and headed out to the vigil to meet some of my fellow #PARENTPOWER team members Veronica and Tawanda. We also recruited some other parents in the community to come out as well. Since the event time was at 5pm it was a little tough for the working parent to get there. The cause important...YES. Paying bills and rent for the family...EQUALLY AS IMPORTANT!  I met Veronica while parking and as we walked to City Hall , we chatted about finally teachers and parents would be standing together. As we approached City Hall I could see the glow of blue and red police lights. The scene was a mixed bag of teachers, parents, students, residents and officials from the city.
We met up with Tawanda and began to say our hellos to the familiar faces of those fighting in the fight for Public Education. There was a mic and a speaker and some members of the community spoke about their takes on the issue. Some I could have done without as most of us there do not fall under paid organizers, well most of us. Those people, not even sure what role they served. The ones who mattered most to me where Council President Mildred Crump and Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon. Both had a message of empowerment and unity that together all of us can win this fight. Tawanda whispered to Veronica and I "did you guys see the crowd of North Star Parents gathering around the corner?" We didn't and agreed to take our signs to the corner to scope out what was going on, From the corner we could see a sea of blue shirts and banners!  We are talking professionally printed shirts with slogans that said things like " HANDS OFF OUR CHILDREN'S EDUCATION" and professionally made signs announcing they were from North Star. This explains a whole lot why the first hearing was adjourned. They needed more time to gather parents, get shirts printed and gear up the machine!

The Rally came to a conclusion with NTU President John Abeigon, leading parents and teachers respectfully behind the line of charter parents that spilled down Green Street. As we walked past, of course I was holding my sign as well as Veronica & Tawanda and the teachers with their pendants, the hostility that came from parents, children and staff was disgusting! As we go to the back of their line. There was a table posted. At the table were North Star staff signing in parents as they walked by. Those who didn't have t-shirts got one, a bag and wait...hold on to your socks for this one..."IF YOUR ARE HERE TO SUPPORT NORTH STAR SIGN IN AND YOUR CHILD DOESN'T HAVE TO DO HOMEWORK" boosted a female North Star staff person from behind the table. All the public school parents and teachers where dumbfounded at the lengths they would go to in coercing parents to come out and support their expansion.  The woman staffer annoyed that we were standing there witnessing their process continued to yell " YES, BECAUSE WE ACTUALLY DOOOO HOMEWORK!" Insinuating that in the Newark Public School district that our children are not given homework!  This is a great educator?  As we moved up passed the North Star Toll booth guarded by the North Star Troll, a young boy no more than about seven years old wearing a North Star shirt ran up to me and started yelling " YOU SUCK!" The hate and anger this young man had to me was astonishing! What was even sadder was that the parents wearing those blue shirts, actually laughed, clapped and cheered him on. What is even more sadder, so did the staff!

Finally, we made it in side City Hall and up into the Council Chambers. IT WAS PACKED! So packed they made the overflow move upstairs to the balcony. Most of the Newark Public School Parents were already inside. I was not allowed in because of my "sign!" Wow who knew a piece of cardboard and sharpie markings would be so threatening against such a mega development corporation that North Star had presenting. Veronica, Tawanda and I waited outside chamber doors signs in hand. As the all white gentlemen in suits and ties walked by and read our signs their eyes would open largely. They would not make eye contact to us at all.  As the doors opened we could periodically see the room which was packed with North Star Blue shirts. Mostly children with their parents. Some staff! As the presentation went on and the night got longer the poor young kids got tired and restless. As North Star parents came out , again, my cheaply made poster board sign aggravated them so much that thy would come by and make comments and get nasty. I mean really people you are expanding in our community, closing down our schools, taking commercial real estate and city taxes, but me standing here with a friggin cardboard sign bothers you. TOUGH! At one point in the night, three parents and maybe 3-4 kids approached me and the ladies. One of the female parents asked me "Why are you standing there with that sign?" I told her "the same reason why you are wearing a finely printed shirt! To make sure the point gets across that we do not want anymore North Stars expanding in the district!" She asked " what school does your child go to? " I said "Oliver Street." She rolled her eyes and laughed, saying " Oh Oliver, there is nothing wrong with that school." I said " I am not here because it is just my son's school! I am here for all NPS schools! What area are you from Ma'am?"  She said " South Ward." I said " Great you wanna hear from South Ward ya go." Veronica , Tawanda and I, proceeded to speak to them calmly about things like cuts in the classroom like aides and teachers. They were clueless. They said " You guys at NPS get everything!" The three of us looked at each other and just started laughing. We all talked about the budgets and how $63 million was taken from our budget for them and other charters in the city. No comment. The only response was one woman said well Oprah came to our school and supported us. I then said, " Oprah supported the $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg that disappeared. She also supported an author by the name of James Frey who wrote A Million Little Pieces about a man's memoir of drug addition and rehabilitation...AND IT WAS A FAKE! Her credibility is not the best ma'am!"  The young kid who was with her flinched as if he was ready to throw a punch. I also said" Ma'am your school doesn't accept all kids. She said how her son was bad and had an IEP. I told her that well your son must be a rare exception. 

The only worth wild conversation I had was with a young man who politely came up to me and said " Excuse me Sir can you kindly explain to me why you don't like North Star?" I explained to him that I didn't hate North Star , but I don't want there to be anymore North Stars until there are schools in the public school system that kids can go to that look just as nice and have clean environments, and computers for every student and all the fun stuff that is at North Star! I said to him it is like playing baseball and only one team has a chance to practice. He understood. I spoke to his mom who told me that she was not sold on the charter idea. She said there are some bad ones out there and that she had a son who went to traditional public and now her young one was going to charter because there were no good public schools left in her area. I said exactly the issue that all the schools closed and there was no choice. I asked her " If you had a choice between a high performing public school and a high performing charter, how would that have made decision different. She said she then would have a choice and my response was "Exactly!" It actually was a pleasure speaking with her. 

The night went on and finally I was able to stand in the back of the council chambers. Person after person lending their testimony why they didn't want charter expansion, budget drains, no tax revenue from their buildings, the impact it would have on infrastructure and safety in an already congested location of the city. The only things that were coming from the North Star side were students speaking about how great charters were! I am so happy that they wanted to testify but it was a Zoning Board meeting? The North Star Development team had poster boards of what the schools looked like, but none from the view that we could see. The only ones who could see where the council members. As people asked specific questions they were walked over and pointed out the answers but no one could see and the overhead TVs were off. My heart went out to the very young children who occupied the chambers in large numbers, some sleeping on chairs or their parents lap, some distracted. one little boy was even reprimanded by a white staff member because Donna Jackson  made a remark and the public school parents and supporters started clapping so he did. " Don't do that!" she said. It was about 9:00pm and my Neuropathy started setting in and it was time for me to leave. I did stay to hear NTU President John Abeigon  say" No matter what the vote is, I am telling you now the NTU will be appealing it!" 

Unfortunately, before I can pull in the driveway I had several messages on my phone saying that the board voted in favor of North Star:
8 Yes
1 NO
1 Present but not voting
That means the fight now must go to the Municipal Council on the matter! They better be ready for some pissed off Newarkers! North Star may see it as a victory, their parents may see it as a victory. I just have one question for them, if charter was so the bombdiggity...why would it not be in every upper class white neighborhood in the US or better yet why not in NJ? You have sold your selves, your morals, your ethics and the fabric of culture in this city for the "NEW PAIR OF JEANS!" What happens when you try on the jeans and they do not fit right, they don't feel right, they shrink after one wash, rip or tear after one wear? Then you come to find out it is no refunds, no exchanges. When you have worked in tandem with hedgerfunding loving educational reformers to turn Newark from a proud historical public school Renaissance city to a  substandard CHARTEROPOLIS...was it worth the free t-shirt?  The numbers of the attendance from last night's North Star staff, parents and mostly young students have grown from 200, to 300 to 500 attendees. The bigger Matthew Frankel's head gets...the bigger the number gets!  It's all white tote bag wishes and teal blue charter school t-shirt dreams! Now charter kids, the fun is over back to homework! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Newark Charter "EXPANVASION!"

The Newark Charter "EXPANVASION!"

Sound the alarm the invasion oh excuse me "EXPANVASION" has begun! Today, in a press statement, The KIPP charter school network announced that on Thursday it would apply for renewal and expansion here in the city of Newark. They want to open 5 new charters, one being in the old Star Lair I mean Star Ledger building! This would increase their enrollment size from approximately 3,200 seats to about 5,400 seats! ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!  Governor Christie already gave charters about 63 million out of the public schools budget! This is completely insane! 

Now they say to parents like myself." stop being conspiracy theorists." Well, what in tarnations is this! There is an ugly road that is being paved in the city I love so much and that is to build their Charteropolis! Just as they have done in Camden and in New Orleans!  They are completely sabotaging our traditional public schools so they can fail. Close them down! In their place a bright shinny new charter school that does what produces the same or less than standard achievement!
Look at New Orleans. In These Times reported back in August of this year  In These Times " In These Times received an advance copy of research conducted for the Network for Public Education (NPE) by University of Arizona researchers Francesca López and Amy Olson. The study compared charters in Louisiana, the majority of which are in New Orleans, to Louisiana public schools, controlling for factors like race, ethnicity, poverty and whether students qualified for special education. On eighth-grade reading and math tests, charter-school students performed worse than their public-school counterparts by enormous margins—2 to 3 standard deviations. The researchers found that the gap between charter and public school performance in Louisiana was the largest of any state in the country. And Louisiana’s overall scores were the fourth-lowest in the nation.“You can say until you’re blue in the face that this should be a national model, but this is one of the worst-performing districts in one of the worst-performing states,” says NPE board member Julian Vasquez Heilig, an education professor at California State Sacramento. They went on to say that the people of New Orleans  " Mourned the loss of their public school district!" WELL NEWARK IS IN THE ICU UNIT and the charter invasion is ready to sign the DNR and pull the plug on traditional public schools!
Superintendent Christopher Cerf stated in his grand standing update at the State of NJ BOE meeting this month that 75% of Newark Parents preferred to take their children out of their own neighborhood and 40% enrolled their child in charter." Yet, he says only about 8,000 parents used the districts Family Enrollment Center? There are approximately, 6k families...yes 6k families with children STILL NOT PLACED INTO A SEAT IN THE DISTRICT! IT's MID OCTOBER! So forgive me if I do not believe the data that is being reported out by these "consultants!" Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want but when I smell a rat usually its in the trap!  How on God's green Earth  can our public schools pull themselves up when the state itself looks at them like the red-headed step child? Like an old pair of shoes at the bottom of the closet? They are allowing this to happen and coming up with ways and false committees to prolong what they have wanted for years, privatization of education in the city of Newark! They have found gold   here in Newark and the only way to sift through it is to break down the public sector of education and build a Charteropolis!

The announcement of this "expanvasion" was announced slickly by KIPP Executive Director Ryan Hill and KIPP spokeswoman Jessica Shearer. It was announced the same day and time that the city's residents were attending The Newark 350th Anniversary press conference at 11:30 am at City Hall and immediately after was the unveiling of the DR. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial statute in front of Newark's Hall of records at 12 noon! They new that the city would be preoccupied and would be a away to keep folks who are opposing the charter "expanvasion"  away from their building! If they say they are for the growth of this city this was a slick but poor move on behalf of their PR team! BAD TASTE TEAM KIPP!

An emergency Newark Advisory Board  meeting was called later on in the day. Had I not been on the Newark 350th Anniversary Committee and at the press conference at City Hall today, I never would have known! I was pulled over and told to come to the Board of Ed at 5:30 PM as they were going to discuss some issues surrounding the Newark Public School Budget, Normally, meetings are on Tuesdays, and I am unable to attend the budget meetings as I sing in my church choir and Tuesdays are rehearsal days. I was eager to ask how is this charter "expanvasion?" No one showed??? My son and I were the only ones from the general public there.Two security guards were in the room, They looked shocked to see us there. We took seats and patiently waited. A gentleman walked in the room and shouted to the security guard "you are crazy?" He was ear hustling in on the two guards conversation. The guard responded " I must be to be working here!" I laughed maybe a little too loud but seeing I was the only person in the room...did it matter? I thought it was fitting! The room began to fill with some personnel.They would look at us and whisper. Maybe it was just paranoia since I was in the lions den. I as approached separately by three randoms " You know that this will be an executive meeting, they will hear public testimony and go into private so if you want to leave now, you can." I said "no I will stick around see what happens." One lady said "there is a sign up sheet to speak." I am sure it is procedure but I wanted to say" HELLO LADY, I'AM THE ONLY PERSON HERE!"  I hung around for awhile and in walked our Advisory Board President. She gave me a hello from across the room, spoke to a few of her fellow board members and came and sat down next to me. She told me the same how there was not much going on and I told her that I was told to come. I asked her "Are you all going to discuss the charter expansion that is going on with KIPP that was so big they needed a press conference?" She advised me it wasn't on the agenda for the evening. She also said that the article in did not mention "when" the "expanvasion" (my word not hers) would take place. I said."the article said they were going to put in the renewal and new applications in this Thursday!" She repeated that the article had no date so she didn't know.  She was called away by a rude blonde who obviously felt her time was more valuable than a parent in the community. I waited until she was done and came back to sit down, We had some more small talk, said our good byes and left the meeting. At least one parent was already buzzing in the ear of the Board President that this deal was not going to be taken lightly by the public! On my way home it upset me tremendously that this "epanvasion" was not their primary topic this evening! I wish there were others but when meetings are called at inconvenient times for parents to speak up, they go be hind close doors and with swipes of pens and over take out do what they do. What that exactly is since we have no local control, still puzzles me a bit.

Great segway into local control and all this charter nonsense. What ultimately is the plan here? I know we had a public meeting with the Newark Educational Success Board on what we wanted the future of Newark Public Schools to look like, I can tell you as I was in the room, more charters was not the condenses in the room people! Is that when we will get local control, when the budgets for our traditional public schools are depleted because of newly expanded charter schools? When our schools shut down and turnover into charters who work loop holes around reporting data to the state and the public on funding and test scores. Who pay to launch charter driven parent organizations?
What is going on in our city? By now you all know how I like to reference things that happen in real life to my love for Pop Culture! I feel like it is the scene in the 1984 classic Red Dawn, when the students are sitting in the classroom and the invasion starts. BOOM, it's around them and only the rebel fighters band together to try and stop the take over! Is that not what you the rebel public school fighter out there feels like?

We are embarking on a year of celebrating 350th Anniversary in Newark. A years's worth of events in our city, about the history of our city. The Executive Board of the 350th Anniversary has gotten Superintendent Cerf and the district staff to have curriculum created about Newark to incorporate into the districts curriculum! Now, how will you incorporate this invasion into that curriculum? How will you celebrate 350 years of Newark when our Public Schools, a crucial fabric of our history is being intentionally dismantled? RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES? How do you explain that to the generations of Newarkers who walked in those buildings because they wanted a fair and free education? They may not have been the cream of the crop when they walked in the door, but the Newark Educational System made them tremendous successes!  This INVASION is not "choice" for parents! Relinquish monies that deplete our public school budgets. Let us build equally stellar public schools and then say we the families of Newark have choice between equally exceeding public schools and equally exceeding charter schools. Both that meet all state requirements, rules and laws.
I do not want the city I love and care for so much turned into a CHARTEROPOLIS! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

How Did I Get Here?

How Did I Get Here?

I don't know why, but I am feeling a bit nostalgic. Maybe it is texting a good friend I haven't seen awhile today, or maybe looking through some old photographs in albums I had on Facebook. Maybe it is just in the air. I look at myself now and sometimes, I don't even recognize the person I am. Not in a bad way or maybe not even in a good way. This guy is just different. Today, I had to venture into New York City for an opportunity to sit with Fox News for an interview regarding education in the city of Newark and how the ParentPower Movement came about. Me...Fox News? HOLY CRAP! When I initially got the call several weeks ago and heard on our voicemail that they wanted to speak with me I have to admit, I was a little skeptical in returning the call. It's not like Fox News and I really have that much in common. Especially, when it comes to political views. I did and I was even more surprised when they asked me to come in and do an interview in their studios. I wasn't going to do it but I asked my friends Julia and Susan what they thought and my concerns for it being Fox and both said to do it and that would be a great experience for me to have. Both equally said to stick to my guns and don't let them twist my words around or go down avenues I didn't feel comfortable going. After speaking to Julia and Susan, I contacted the producer and agreed to come in. So today, I hoped on the PATH, headed across the river into Manhattan and walked down the streets of Time Square pretty much a new person and a new type of Dad!

I got to Fox Studio and was greeted by the producer who arranged the interview. There was a signing in and badge process. Many large bodied guards! All around me were signs of faces from the Fox News teams and People like Hannity and the likes. I WAS TOTALLY A FISH OUT OF WATER! I flet as if I were behind enemy lines!  I was able to peak into some of the studios that were being used as we walked down the halls. " I'll get you into hair and make up!" he said and I instantly got nervous! I was brought to a small make up room with 4 chairs, 3 make up artists and TONS of make up supplies. As I sat in the chair I wondered to myself HOW DID I GET HERE? My nerves rattled a bit. It hit me like a ton of bricks that I just an average everyday dad, was sitting in a hair and make up chair at Fox News. The make up artist introduced herself and to be completely honest I was so focused on remaining calm that I completely forgot her name. she asked me what brought me to the studios today . I am almost positive she had to repeat herself because I was in a different world. part nervous and part thinking who else has sat in this very make up chair? I am a total movie and TV buff and being in front of the camera has always been a dream of mine.  I snapped back in to the tone of her voice and told that I was there to tape an education segment about Education in the city of Newark and about a parent organization I am a co-founder for.  She told me that she was from NJ and again I completely forget where. That loosened me up more. As she dabbed and blotted make up on my face (which is a very strange experience in itself)  and fixed my hair, I told her that I was a pro Traditional public school parent and how my family have all graduated from Oliver Street School. She told me that she as well strongly supported traditional public schools in our state and how it was a shame what was going on. 

She told me about her 2nd grader and the homework that she was coming home with. She said " it is impossible to help her! I feel like an idiot because I can't help my own daughter with her homework! 2nd grade homework!" I told her how she wasn't alone and as they get older it get's wore. The gentleman interviewing me was standing by the door listening to our conversation and he was puzzled as to what we meant. He obviously, had no children and experienced the format The Core has brought to the classroom and how learning practices in the classroom have changed. I responded with " Yes, 2+2=4 is not the way you get to 4 anymore!" He looked totally confused. The make-up artist from NJ just validated the reason why my butt was in that seat. The trip across the river...just got interesting! 

When hair and make up where done. we proceeded threw the corridors of Fox, I saw a couple of familiar faces from the channel. If you ask my wife, I don't get star struck or run up to people and ask for autographs and pictures. Just never was my thing. so this was no different especially when I felt every move I made was under watch. We approached a man and he introduced him self and told me he would be the camera man filming the interview. As we walked to the studio, he told me he was from Summit, NJ and had a 2 year old and a 8 year old. We discussed again how hard helping kids with home work was. How ironic, in the middle of Right Winged Fox News and I found two of my Jersey peoples. Again, validating the very reason for me being there. We entered a dimly lit sound stage filled with various sets and stage equipment. In the middle were two chairs facing each other a few fake book cases and statues. The two chairs where the only thing lit in the room. Here goes the interrogation! That's what it reminded me of. The camera man placed a mic on me, made some adjustments to some equipment. The producer sat in the chair opposite of me and made small talk telling me he actually taught for a year in Portland (I believe). One year being in kindergarten.  He also asked me how much Mayor Baraka was involved and I told him tremendously. The camera man gave the all good to go and we were ready to tape. 

He asked me questions about how Newark Parents Union started and how we evolved into the Parent Power Movement. We then went on to discussing the $100 million dollars donated by Mark Zuckerber then matched by the state. That seemed to be his primary focus. Where did I think the money went. We talked about making the playing field fair for all children. I don't want to give to much of the interview away before it airs. We wrapped the interview and the producer asked me if I would be okay with them filming some walking sequences down the street. I said that would be fine and we left the studio. I walked up and down from the corner of 48th St. to about mid block on 6th Ave and back again a few times (an awkward process) and that was the interview! We all shook hands and they thanked me for coming to do the segment. With that we said our goodbyes and I headed back down 6th Ave.

As I sat on my train ride back to New Jersey, I started thinking how did I get myself into all this? Surely, the reasons I was taking the Path into NYC were definitely not to go speak to Fox News about the state of education in Newark and to be an advocate for empowering parents. Who is this guy? I think about how far I have come from that old person. That old dad. From that day I said "Hey I think we should start a Facebook page!" From meeting my great friend Hassan Manning and both of us saying let's really wake people up and shake the rafters! It seems ages ago that I was standing fore the very first time in my life in the State House with my family, best friend friend Pedro, Hassan and Liz standing with Senator Rice on getting Stop Force Public School Closures Act S966 initiated. I didn't even know really what a bill was really until getting involved with my good friends at Save Our Schools New Jersey. Only bill I knew was that School House Rock Song. 
If you asked me that I would be speaking at rallies and judicial hearings or speaking at a dais in front of my State Senators, I would say " sorry wrong guy!" Even getting involved in politics, if you would have told me that I would be hosting a coffee clutch for the elected mayor of the city, I would have told you NEVER!If you would have asked me on December 18th, 2013 when we launched our parent portal with only 6 of us on it, that it would grow to over 3, 050 and counting and a reach of up to 45k news feeds a week all over the nation, I would say "GET OUTTA TOWN!"  
I have traded in the Playstation controller and have picked up the Smart Phone to read articles and information regarding curriculum, legislation, the charter expansion, educational lawsuits and parent blogs. I mean i had no clue what Common Core was about 5 years ago and know I am deeply vested in educating myself and others about standards that are not our own being forced on our children. Attending book discussions, State Board of Education meetings and municipal level committee meetings on education. Like...who is this guy?
 The only logical way I think I have morphed into this new person, this new dad is I love my son. Education is very important to me especially when it comes to educational matters that will ultimately impact my son's future! In turn, helping those children in my community as well and their families have what is fair and just! I want to sit with my friends from Livingston, Short Hills, Warren, Maplewood and Belmar and them not gasp when I speak about things like my son's school schedule or how my son has been in the same school K-8. 
I want to be able to understand what rights as a parent I have to be at the decision making table when it comes down to legislation, curriculum and whats best for my child. I want to make sure when I say " NO MY SON WILL NOT BE TAKING THAT TEST" that my voice is not only heard but it is RESPECTED!

I am not quite sure how this all happened or how I even got here, but I am here! I am that dad who is vying for a seat on his son's school PTSO. I make my son brown bag lunches. I attend open houses. I meet with teachers. I volunteer to direct the school talent show. I research my sons text books and what is going on in his classroom. I am that dad who will as a million and one questions and demand truthful answers. I am that dad who hashtags #PARENTPOWER because I believe in it!

I am that dad who will get on a PATH train and speak to media about what really is going on in our school system. Again, not sure how I got here and don't think I can ever go back, but I like this guy and dad I have become!

The one who reaps the benefits of me becoming this new type of modern son!