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New Jersey is a state of many contrasts. Our busy cities make the surrounding forests parks and ponds seem like a peaceful dream. The fruitful farms from which New Jersey gets its name the Garden State stretch for miles and miles from Sandy Hook to Cape May sunlit beaches. We passed resort towns boardwalk amusements and the excitement in the renaissance of Atlantic City. In this state a microcosm of our nation. Extraordinary changes have occurred over the past decade in the educational systems of our communities. The state delegates responsibility to local school districts for the day to day management of their schools. The state also guarantees equitable educational programs. The disturbing fact is that the real wear different masks just as New Jersey is a state of many faces its schools reflect a more even tragic contrast contrast which depends on how the citizens of New Jersey respond to the needs of our children.
Today New Jersey Education Commissioner Fred Burton takes a critical look at school facilities there problems and how we are dealing with them. Thanks for joining me I'm commissioner of education. I've been to school 34 in Jersey City school system contribute about 70 cents of every dollar spent here. So in a sense we're talking about your school system even if you don't live in Jersey City. This program is not about city schools nor is it about suburban schools. This program is about your children and about my children. Constitution requires educational opportunity. Yet the great contrast with existing school facility inequality. The purpose of educating is a million dollar enterprise a multi-billion dollar enterprise consuming at least 12 years of our children's lives. Its function is
to function socially politically and economically in a democratic society. If some of our children go to school in X and facilities and others inadequate facilities are we living up to our Constitution. Are we living up to our laws. You are probably unaware of the drastic contrast facilities in New Jersey. People are. Come with me. Let me walk you through a few schools in this very complex state of ours. Stay with me. And I think you're going to be shocked for what you see and what you don't see. Just what do we owe our children. Do you like your children to be learning in this environment.
A wet room in a basement. Inadequate facilities. Simply one very important one to overcome. In spite of the fact that positive learning does take place in schools with poor facilities. Most likely. Imagine if our teachers and students had better tools. With better facilities. Teachers and students can and would perform much better. How would your child feel walking through these hallways. Do such facilities affect your children and their teachers. What about one set of bathrooms in a basement of a three story school for 400 students. What is the cost of repairing vandalism is so high and funds are so inadequate that your children just have to put up with it. What if your child requires special education and she and her teacher are crammed into a room designed to hang coats inequities in school facilities do affect educational
programs. The Paramount purpose of education is to provide each child with a sense of her or his own dignity and worth. If a child achieves this sense of dignity he or she can award it to others. We definitely have a facilities problem here in our school. The room I'm in right now is the reading laboratory. The state has mandated that we provide remedial services for our children. The children right now are receiving services with their title and their comp teacher. This room was once used as part of our auditorium. The sliding doors between three adjoining rooms were moved back and we were able to have assembly programs. We lacked. Adequate windows. Are. Many of course. They're flaking down on top of the children as they sit in the class during the day when the children leave the room they will return to their classroom to be given their lunch. We have no central area
in which to feed them. Also last year when the state came in to monitor our building our library facility was closed because it was a fire hazard. We only had one exit. So now the children go to the basement with their teachers take their books out and then return to their classrooms. Despite all of these problems which I freely admit we have. This is an excellent educational facility. When we were monitored by the State Department we were one of schools in our city that received an approved status. When the children state minimum standards test. We came out number six out of 30 schools as far as our achievement. The children have very high self-esteem. They have very high skills. We're very proud of the learning that's taken place we're very proud of our staff and we would love to have an improved facility to have this learning take place and.
This is a prime example learning taking place in the school. Despite the problems we have. The teachers and planning so that the best possible education. Between buildings. Finally a classroom which could be. Because of this. And other things. We have been unable to hold. The room for. Classes because of other things which the children from those rooms.
Situation. But I feel.
We have the situation in Elizabeth City. It would be more incentive. For our parents to come to school to want to work with children and teachers. Perhaps. If members of our Board of Education people from the Department of Education would come into these buildings similar to this one and take a look at the education that's going on here. Today the children themselves in their. Excellent. And improving facilities such as the tearing down buildings isn't the answer. To have is a maintenance program that will assist children the best educational facilities. Sufficiently enough to show any motion picture.
This is the way it should be. But there's no reason to have to come into a situation like. Elementary school as an example of what kind of education can occur when facilities are not the major problem. Space facility approximately four hundred twenty three approximately.
Separate facilities for physical education. And. With. That it can happen and we have students and they are
themselves. We program and a music program for boys and girls who have special talents. What makes maple Hill really work and what makes the boys and girls really happy to come to Maple Hill is that we are able to meet the needs of all of the boys and girls here because we are on a daily basis to apply to meet every year we're able to give the boys and girls one to one instruction peer group instruction and instruction in large and small groups. And it is only because we have this facility that we are able constantly to change what is going on and this way we meet the needs of everyone here. We might well say that's not our town that's not our school. It
looks like it's someone else's problem it's not ours. None of us in New Jersey is immune to the consequences of the quality of urban schools. They influence our communities whether we like it or not. A quarter of a century ago New Jersey's urban schools were regarded as the best in the nation. As time passes we are beginning to see the symptoms of our urban schools manifested in our older suburban schools. But some urban and suburban schools are avoiding decay. The land is junior high middle school and Vine one is a good example. It's an aging urban school built over 50 years ago but its facilities have been well maintained and updated. What window frames have been replaced with metal. The ceiling has been dropped. The walls have been painted. Modern light fixtures have replaced old ones new lockers have been installed. The auditorium is large and can service an entire community. The library though small is well designed and efficient. Learning
takes place within a pleasant mixture of tradition and innovation. OK. Do. The Bridgeton public schools are pioneers in serving the entire community and generating public support to maintain school facilities in Bridgeton. They want to ban old school buildings but make good use of them for community purposes. I am standing in front of a building that was renovated by the Bridgeton Board of Education. This used to be the Street Elementary School. It is now the administration building for the entire city of Bridgeton. We are presently engaged in the renovation of the junior high school. The junior high school when it is completed will be the new middle school. In Bridgeton approved a three million $900000 referendum. Six hundred and twenty
four thousand dollars of this amount was a grant from the state. When this building is completed. It will house grades five six seven and eight. It will include a new media center. Two new gyms. Industrial Arts facilities art facilities and music facilities. It will provide continuous educational opportunities for the students from my six seven and eight under one building. And when they leave that school then grades 9 10 11 and 12 and the high school are included in the middle school will be facilities for the community education programs. This particular service will make most of all for GED courses courses for the foreign born. It will also provide opportunities in other educational. Programs. We're talking about
hands on programs as well as programs which will make it possible for the people to survive in our modern society. Here we have one of the most photographed and talked about schools in the nation the Westside complex in Atlantic City. Here as in Bridgeton education is for members of the family. It is a lifelong process. At times parents and grandparents can be seen roller skating or swimming with their children or their children's teachers right in the classroom. And if the children here do not seem surprised to Commissioner Burke's presence it is because at west side people from the community the state the nation even from abroad have come here to experience this concept. The complex is somewhat unique in that it does offer a number of facilities that are used by the community as well. For example the doctor's office services the people in the community as well of the students.
There was a dental suite which services a community as well. We have with us the Atlantic City Police Liaison Committee which handles complaints from people in the community a senior citizen. It's available for those persons who can come in and use the facility any time during the course of the day. A swimming pool is available for not only students in the school before the community. Depending upon the plan. Many of the many kinds of programs are on there.
That's a complex complex we're extremely happy because vandalism has been nil. And I think it's because of the kind of attitudes people have about the Westside School complex. From the very beginning they were involved in the planning and in the development and management of the school. And as a result of that there was a sense of pride not only in the children but in the community as a whole. And since we've been here during the five years we've been extremely fortunate we've only had one break and no marks on the building no broken windows nothing of that nature. And the break in was very well handled by people in the community. They went to court and demanded that the judge make an example of this young man who did come in and as a result of that the world kind of got around and we have been extremely happy since.
In Atlantic City a good idea was not to die it was to be replicated with its own identity and much inspiration. The Uptown school complex has rightly been referred to as a Mecca in the desert. Nothing can stop a good idea even when its surrounding walls seem hopeless. Suburban areas too have embraced the community school concept. This is the Educational and Cultural Center of Fairlawn. It was the junior high school. It was closed because of declining enrollment. But now it is well on the way to becoming a pilot project for our state. Community leaders are working to establish formal relationships between the municipal government and the local Board of Education. This is the library in the former. Thomas Jefferson Jr. High School. As you can see it's fallen into disuse but we have an immediate goal planned for this very interesting room has a lot of assets. It's comfortable. It's in good
condition. And it has a considerable amount of space that easily adapts into a community gallery and that's what we plan to do with it. We're very fortunate in having some local artists who have agreed to volunteer their time and they're going to start painting this gallery within the next several weeks. We have our first show scheduled. It's going to involve those artists and beyond that this is part of a cultural center. We have a 600 seat theater. We also are instituting our first children's program. We are also going to open a community. Consumer Education gallery. That's a warm range plan. In addition we have in mind a children's Exploratorium museum that includes a problem solving section and also instructive section.
Once we feel that we're well on our feet and well on our way in we've been rolling forward more to shift this room to another use that use will include accommodating for the change and having a community gallery elsewhere in the building and acquiring what is probably going to become available. Hi Terry. So this room would need some alteration in case we feel that it would be of great service however. Down form what kind of role in the community. There are many plans that we have of the building but we're satisfied to start at this beginning point and then the community has requests come in to us as we're able to perhaps do some surveys and so forth. The vocational Assessment Program at Fairlawn is rather unique. Through a grant of the New Jersey state department of
vocational education. We were able implement an assessment program for the locational schools for the deaf hear in Fairlawn. Adults now. Can be assessed in terms of the dexterity skills clerical technical physical and other skills necessary for job employment. Through this grant we were able to obtain several thousand dollars worth of equipment that would enable the evaluator to assess deaf adults in New Jersey and throughout the state. There is no such program at present other than the one being set up at Fairlawn in June of 1980. This school building known as the Thomas Jefferson junior high school was close to a junior high school students because of declining enrollment. A group of interested citizens in April formed a committee to
study the alternative use of such a building. After many hours of planning and development. A survey was distributed through the community and after some 14 hundred replies came back. We found out that there were many needs of the community that were not being met. And this building would lend itself to serving as a cultural center and an educational and recreational center. For all the people of all age groups within the community. This concept we hope will grow throughout New Jersey and the nation for alternative use of close school buildings should more schools especially in our cities consider the community school concept. The answer lies in identifying the needs of each community and in the ability to design and implement services and programs to meet these special needs. Idealistically what I would like to see in Jersey City. Is to develop. A community involvement program. To.
Provide. The parents with the type of environment so that they would want to come. So that the atmosphere would be very pleasurable. Is my belief that education must take a process in working with the child it has to be a child's. Teacher and. Family. And the parent aspect is key in providing education. School facility problems reflect a much larger social issues. Why is it that when a school first opens the community takes great pride in it. I went to school begins to deteriorate. People decide that it's not their problem. People come and go. The resource that enable people six years ago to build a school are gone. It's hard to love the school. We must somehow regain personal contact with our schools give them a sense of identity a sense of importance. Utilize them to their fullest
capabilities for all our citizens young as well as old. And finally to protect them as we would our children. Your school is your school forever. Building bigger and better buildings. It's not always the solution. The solution isn't your involvement with your school in making certain that the facilities your children and their teachers are using are being properly maintained and improved. Not every 20 years but every day. After all it's not just their school it's your school. And when you stop to think about it. Maintaining good schools and using them for learners of all ages makes good sense. The New Jersey State Department of Education.
Commissioner's Seminar Their School? Your School!!
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Chicago: “Commissioner's Seminar Their School? Your School!!,” New Jersey Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023,
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APA: Commissioner's Seminar Their School? Your School!!. Boston, MA: New Jersey Network, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from