Asbury Park Families: What Are We Supposed to Do Without Teachers?

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You don’t care, you don’t give a fuck—excuse my language but I’ve been doing this since I was in ninth grade. Do you understand that? Ninth-graders doing college work, busting our asses. What’s wrong with you? You have nothing for us. This school has nothing for us. What are we supposed to do since we don’t have a teacher?

That’s an Asbury Park High School student surrounded by her peers speaking to Superintendent Rashawn Adams in the hallway last Thursday outside the room where the School Board meeting was taking place. In a video sent to NJ Ed Report (which we’re not posting to protect student privacy) students express their feelings about the district’s elimination of the highly-prized program called the Allied Health Academy where students take courses in nursing and upon graduation earn a NHA Patient Care Technician License. (The photo above is of last year’s newly-minted NHA’s.) But the students currently in this dual-credit programs are stuck; if they can’t finish their coursework they won’t get the advanced standing they’ve worked so hard for.

The community is outraged, not just students but parents and teachers too. They want answers.

We don’t have them but here is what a growing group of inside sources report:

Last fall Sarita Gogan, the teacher for the Allied Health program, gave notice that she was resigning from the district even though board members pleaded with her to stay, some offering her increases in salary. But she said she couldn’t take Asbury any more, says a source, and took a position in next-door Neptune Public Schools. Students in her class have been without a teacher since December 1st even though she gave ample notice to district administrators.

Ms. Gogan’s resignation is a terrible loss to the district (her success with prospective nursing students is celebrated here) but Asbury Park can replace her, right?

Apparently they didn’t bother.

This isn’t sitting well with  Asbury Park families. If you watch the tape of last week’s school board meeting (see link below or click here–don’t go to the district Facebook page because some public comments were edited out) parents and students are speaking out, and not just about the removal of the Allied Health program. (The student representative to the Board, Sarah Martinez, planned to speak, we were told, but Adams and high school principal Bridget O’Neill told her not to.) Here are some comments:

  • President of the Concerned Black Nurses of Central NJ: “I don’t why this program was slashed. “No one has ever reached out to us. I am informing you, we have teachers, a number of nurses who can teach whatever you need. If you need help I’ll leave my contact information so you reach out so this program won’t be slashed.”
  • “What you did here was an embarrassment.”
  • “This whole district needs a reset.”
  • “To slash the [Allied Health] program is a crime.”
  • “I will never send my child to this school.”
  • “You have no nursing teacher but we’re going to add a cosmetology program? Where is that money coming from?”
  • “Our district is going to hell in a handbag.”

Then (about 1:23 into the recording) a group of Asbury Park high school seniors walk up to the microphone holding signs protesting the elimination of the nursing program. One is so nervous she can’t speak. Another says, “we’re all so frustrated that this program is being cut. Mrs. Gogan believed in us, she knew the benefit of having college early on, that it would give us a head start. We’ve been [in this program] for three years. We deserve the opportunity to finish. We beg you.”

Towards the end of the meeting, Mr. Adams addresses the room:

The decisions I make rest with my experience and expertise. On governance I will always defer to the board.  On governance I will always defer to the board. On governance I will always defer to the board. [B]ut personnel decisions will reside in the seat of the superintendent. I take that responsibility very seriously…Understand this: This fight to improve this district takes a holistic approach and I have been fully transparent since I’ve been sitting in this seat….No one is above reproach.

Corrections: Ms. Gogan, the Allied Health teacher, didn’t get phone calls from board members until last weekend when “her phone was ringing off the hook,” according to insiders. She was indeed offered more money. Her position was posted; the intent is that the job will go to a friend of Asbury Park High School’s principal Bridget O’Neill.

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