Jersey City BOE Battle to Oust Superintendent Dr. Epps

The Jersey City Board of Education tonight attempted to approve a $268,000 settlement with Jersey City Superintendent Charles T. Epps Jr to leave the district in December 2011. There were 4 items on the agenda for the board members to vote on with the last item being “approving the resignation of Dr. Epps”. However, Dr. Epps didn’t even submit his letter of resignation!!!! Thus meaning that the entire meeting was pointless.

First of all, why did we, the people and Board Members, get a copy of his contract 15 minutes before the start of meeting? And then we are expected to read this document thoroughly and comment? And how are the Board Members to approve a resignation if Dr. Epps didn’t even submit his resignation letter? What kind of circus is going on here? It comes across that there is no communication and leadership at the board level to make sure organization occurs. Who is responsible for putting together paperwork for all these meetings? That person should be fired! I do know that changing Superintendents during the middle of the school year is not PRO KIDS! His contract was up June 2011. Why wasn’t this resolved before summer recess? Is there anyone in charge?

I won’t claim to know the intricacies of what goes on at the board level. Furthermore, I cannot say if Dr. Epps or the Board Members is good or bad. I hear a lot of chitter chatter on both sides of the spectrum causing me to not want to not be quick on chastising any one figure. There is a whole in the system. And we need to spend our time finding the hole and repairing it. There needs to be more parent leadership at the board level so that the disconnect between board members and students/parents isn’t so apparent.

I can not believe I spent 4 hours at a meeting that had no major resolution. This motivates me to be more active and involved so that our educational system gets better.

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NJ Anti-Bullying Policy Promotes Criminal Profiling of Our Youth!

On September 22, 2011, I gave a speech at the Board of Education monthly meeting regarding the lack of education on this Anti-Bullying Policy amongst of Jersey City teachers, staff, parents and students. Here is the speech:

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Hello my name is Akisia Grigsby.

Being a product of the Jersey City Public School system, a parent to an 8th grader, part of PS11’s Parent Council as well as a landlord and business owner of Jersey City, I want to take this opportunity to express my serious concern about the Jersey CIty Board of Education Anti-Bullying Policy and unintended impact on our children. I hope that every teacher, staff member and parent in this room will take a serious look at the policy and collectively work together to ensure that the policy is implemented in a way that protects our children both from bullies and from some of the unintended dangerous impact of the policy. Currently most teachers, staff and students whom I have spoken to claim that no one has gone over the Policy step by step nor explained the consequences stated in this Policy.

I became aware of the lack of education amongst our teachers and school staff when my son was mixed up in a wrongful accusation of Anti-Bullying around February 2011. The suspension against my son was rescinded in the end, but only after I made a call to a friend of mine who was our current President’s classmate at Harvard Law, so that she could review the documents and actions taken against my son.

My attorney pointed out a series of actions made in error based on the protocols listed in the Anti-Bullying Policy. PS11 staff members should not be blamed for anything. I just think proper education of the actual protocols and consequences need to be explained and enforced. I asked friends of mine who are various teachers from various Jersey City public schools about their perspectives on this policy. And they all told me the same thing. If any child accuses another of Bullying, the teachers don’t question it. They just send the kids to the office because they are too afraid to lose their jobs.

I am not hear to blame any of the staff. In fact, it requires knowing a little bit about law to understand this policy. In a Parent Council meeting, it came to my surprise that the Student Council President, who was made the leader of PS11’s Anti-Bullying Movement, was never required nor did he understand the way the language was written in this Policy. The parents were also not aware that once a child is accused of Bullying, an electronic record is sent to the Department of Education through the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System. Why is this important? When I mentioned this to the parents, they became quite upset. This is the start of direct criminal profiling of our kids at an early age. There is no way to determine the impact on a children’s future because of the criminalization and label as a bully at an early age. This should concern every parent in this room.

Most parents do not have the financial resources or connections to obtain a lawyer. Does this mean that their children should unjustly be labeled as a bully? Had I not been able to get an attorney involved, that’s exactly what would have happened to my child.  Budget cuts in education are being made at the state level. At the same time, more prisons are being built. One could make a correlation between our decreased ability to educate our kids in the Jersey City School System with the number of young people who are ending up in these prisons that are being built.

Although my son’s situation was resolved, I am here speaking on behalf of concerned parents. I am a victim of bullies when I was a child myself and believe that our kids should be protected from being bullied at school. I also believe that they should also be protected from the unintended impact of this policy and how its being implemented. Schools can and must do a better job in striking a balance between protecting our kids and criminalizing them at an early age which sets them on the path to prison.

I demand better education of the Policy line by line and consequences listed to all teachers, Parents Councils and Student Councils.

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Protocols not being followed are in the following of the Anti-Bullying Policy:

File Code 5131.2 / page 3 / Section A / Steps

Rewards for a Mother

Football season is here. And as everyone around me knows, I am on lockdown due to my son’s football schedule. It’s his fourth year in the PAL League, and I still yearn for that freedom from responsibility. The sacrifices, we, mother’s have to make is not directly nor immediately fruitful. Furthermore, my hat goes off to all the NBA, NFL moms.

But when I see my son excelling at the sport that consumes most of his time as well as mine, I get goosebumps of joy. At the FBU camp in June 2010, the college football coaches alerted me to start recording my son’s games. They stressed that by the end of the 7th grade, he should have a great football reel put together. High school coaches begin the recruiting process at this time. So I went to Best Buy. Dusted off the digital camera that I hadn’t used in years and got it fixed. I borrowed my son’s telescope’s tripod and began recording while experimenting with yardage positioning. Apparently, the best spot to record is at the 50 yard line up on the last bleacher and not on the field. It took me 3 weeks to figure out how to import video, edit the movie, edit the soundtrack (delete curses from non-edited tracks) and export to iDVD all using Garage Band, iMovie, iMovie HD and iDVD.

I implore other moms to take time out and record your children.

I have posted my son’s first football highlight reel on YouTube. Check it out <a href="

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Challenges: Single Mother Dealing with the Child’s Father

Many have told me to “fight, fight, fight” against my son’s father for him not spending enough time nor contributing financially to my son’s upbringing. In fact many say that he is just taking advantage of the fact that I won’t press the issue of him getting arrested for lack of child support. Why won’t I be more aggressive when clearly I need the help? The answer is in my devout faith in God.

It all started 12.5 years ago. I was pregnant and no longer in love with my son’s father. We lived together with a great lack of harmony. I joined a Christian church called the NY Church of Christ. My son’s father, which I will name Robert for the sake of his anonymity, began to challenge my need for peace by declaring that this church was a cult. I spent my Wednesday evenings at bible study and Sundays early days at Church service. I enjoyed the serenity I gained through my re-found connection with God and with those who were like me. I asked Robert to join me at one of the meetings so that then he could form his opinion. However, he refused. At the time, he was a very controlling man whom I think felt threatened by the fact that I sought things outside of our relationship. One day, he told me that if I allowed my bible study group to enter our apartment, that he would kick them out. This was the turning point of my conviction that he was just too far removed from God. I grew deeper in the Church and more distant from my relationship. At this point, I told Robert that we should not be intimate while living in the same house. That is when all hell turned loose. Little did he understand that I was already disconnected from him. I felt that in order for me to feel like he was spiritually on my page and not trying to overpower me, I needed him to join me where I was at spiritually. He was bringing me down, but God was preventing that from happening. God was saving me for the sake of my beautiful son.

By the time my son was 7 months, I broke up with him and begged for him to move out. At first he refused but then wanted to keep the apartment and car that was in my name. This is when I knew he truly did not have my best interest at heart. In my mind I was thinking “How dare this man want me and his son to go out in the street and look for another apartment!” Fortunate thing was that the building was owned by my mother’s boyfriend and the car lease was in my name. He was very vindictive afterwards towards me. After he moved out, he tried many maneuvers to make my life impossible from showing up in the morning while I dropped my son at the babysitter’s house and daily screaming in the street “You hoe!” to calling my job 100x calling me names. I had to put a restraining order on him because it got out of hand. The next step was to stop seeing his son. So I took him to court just to create a legal schedule where I did not have to see him. I granted joint custody thinking that everyman is entitled to joint rights to their children. My intentions were so pure and honest. Boy was that the biggest mistake! The court also asked me if I wanted child support and I said no. I didn’t want him for the money. I just wanted him to see his son. He could just pick up my son from babysitter and drop him off their as well. Well, soon then he stopped seeing my son altogether or would pick him up on my time without calling me nor returning my calls. I, of course out of fear, had to get the police involved for kidnapping, but then dropped the charges because I did not want to see my son’s father go to jail. What use would that do to my son.

After 3 years, I finally took him to court for child support. (Right now he owes $85,000 within the system.) At first the checks came in, then nothing. All throughout my son’s life, Robert would make excuses that he just didn’t have time or didn’t have money for my son. By the time my son reached around 5 years old, he launched a company in NYC so that he could hide from the New Jersey child support system. In order for there to be a warrant for his arrest, I would have to be aggressive and request one. (I find that this New Jersey system does not work well.) He currently still tries to hide from the system. Seems like Robert still hasn’t gotten his life together because he lived in a girlfriend’s apartment in Brooklyn for many years and now lives with another one’s apartment in Harlem.

People ask me why did I even have a child with such a man. Well, honestly when we were in college, he was a go getter. His plans were to go to law school. He even worked on Wall Street while going to college. I’m not sure what happened to him to cause him to change for the worse.

My son is 12 years old now and I find myself calling Robert to spend time with his son. I no longer spend my energy informing him of my son’s extra curricular activities. I just feel that after 12 years, it’s not my job to chase him to have a close relationship with my son. Occasionally, he will call my son and even spend some time with him. But its more like an uncle/nephew relationship. I try to place powerful and inspirational men around my son because one day my son expressed to me his disappointment in his dad. He no longer wants to converse with him nor spend time with him which is a sign that he has grown distant from his father. I have expressed this to Robert. But instead of taking this as constructive criticism and positively building upon it, he would bellow, “You don’t tell me what kind of relationship I have with my son! My son loves me! I have a GREAT relationship with him!” I just shake my head.

In 2007, I left corporate america because my son needed me more at home. My job was consuming me. I saw how not having a present father nor a mother at home was destroying my son. In 2008, I hit the worse financial crisis that I had ever been through due to the economy. I asked Robert if he could help but he refused. I asked him if he could buy us some food, but he constantly stated “I don’t have any money now, but maybe in a month.” I understood that I could never rely on him but only God and my family. I had to search for answers in my prayers and conversations with God. I had to give up fighting with Robert and just accept that he was not at the spiritual place of development that my son needed him to be. His warped reality of what a good father was could not be accelerated into a more realistic one. All I could do was to pray for his development. The answers soon came to me. I knew that he was reaping what he sowed. I knew that the amount of dedication he placed in his relationship with my son was going to be the amount of dedication that my son places in him when he gets older. That alone would be his punishment. I, however, could not take his lack of actions personal. If I spent my energy fighting, then it would ONLY bring me into a dark, heavy place. At the end of the day, I was the one who decided to have and bring forth my son. Furthermore, I had to be responsible and create a great life for him and not be dependent on someone else to create a better life for us. My mother raised me to stand strong on my own and that weakness came when you depended on others to make you stand strong.

So this brings me to express why after all this, I don’t take the defensive and aggressive stance with Robert. I already see how my son dislikes spending time with his father. He refuses to call his father back. When asked who he admires, he never places his dad on the list. I already see the karma being presented. And that alone allows me to step back. If his father decides to spend time with his son, I embrace it. I don’t fight those moments although my son fights with me because he rather be with me.

My prayer: I want to thank you God for giving me the strength to raise such a strong-minded boy. Thank you for surrounding me with such wonderful and powerful people. Thank you for giving me such a great support system in my friends and family. Now that my son is going through puberty, please I beg you to place substitute male role models in his life to guide him on the right path to manhood. I pray that my son’s father matures spiritually and realizes what is unfolding in my son’s lack of admiration for him. I pray that Robert has a change of heart and becomes that man who my son needs in his life. I pray that God brings me a wonderful husband one day very soon that can provide the stability and foundation that is lacking in my home now. I pray that my son can learn how a man and women and father should be through my future marriage so that to break the cycle that Robert has created. I pray that all my sacrifice and hard work in dedication to my son’s proper upbringing reap tremendous rewards for the greater good of humanity not just for our family. God I love you and I know that all this is happening with a greater purpose that you have planned for us. So I leave it in your hands.

To all single mothers: I implore you to look within yourself for the energy that is needed to raise a child on your own. It’s not easy. I still struggle financially and emotionally. But just remember my words here. If you can, try to keep your household positive. Sometimes by fighting, it can create such a negative atmosphere and dark energy within you. I am not saying to not take him to court. Fathers should support their children. But at the core, try to keep your energy and intentions positive. In the end, God will replenish all your sacrifices with great rewards. God so far has never let me fall. Deep inside, I feel that my great rewards are coming. I love you sisters. Let’s stay positive together. In that positivity we will only attract positive things.