“Wake Up Lakewood”, Advocacy Group Targets School Reform

BOE_building_TLS-MediumOne grass-roots advocacy group used the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth to build support for public school reform, saying “We as a community have lost our passion. “United Neighbors Improving Today’s Equality lived up to its slogan, “Silent No More,” on Monday as several of its members, most of them minority pastors, gave impassioned pleas for more parental involvement in schools where the mostly black and Hispanic students, as they see it, are being neglected. Comparing¬†the minority community to Rip Van Winkle, James Waters, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Lakewood chapter, said: “Dr. King would be very disappointed if he saw that we’ve been sleeping since his death. Wake up Lakewood.”

The group was born out of protest last year over the township Board of Education’s decision not to keep Eugenia Lawson, a black and Cuban Lakewood native popular among many parents, as superintendent. Since then, it has evolved into a watchdog of the public schools, often complaining about unfair treatment and a lack of basic school supplies.

Its effort, while focused on education, has spilled over into other issues such as gang violence and affordable housing. At Monday’s rally, 16-year-old Sarai Simpson, daughter of a Lakewood pastor, lectured the some 80 adults in attendance about raising a child, standing up against corrupt pastors and maintaining a cohesive family.

“I want to ask you why our country is in despair and what we can do to fix it,” she said in a prepared rendition titled “Our Future.”

Board member Leonard Thomas urged more parents to attend school board meetings and to come out to vote for Tracy Tift, the other black member besides Thomas, in the elections April 20.

“They say, “Once they’re not mad anymore, they’ll go away,’ ” he said, referring to comments from fellow board members about angry residents at meetings. “We have to get to a state where we don’t go away anymore.”

Near the end, Pastor Glenn Wilson, UNITE’s founder, gave what amounted to us-versus-them battle cry.

“Please join us in this fight,” he said. “I guarantee you we are going to win.” Zach Patberg/APP

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  1. These people need a hard look in the mirror.

    You can’t blame the schools for needing police protection at dismisal and gang fights in the lunchroom. You expect the kids to learn and be educated while in such an atmosphere?
    Stop blaming the school for all of society problems. We all know the private schools in Lakewood have no problem educating their students on a budget 25% of the public schools. Money and resources will NOT solve the problem. Responsiblity by parents (plural) over their students will help.
    My idea is to move the board of education to the county level throughout the state. Take it away from every little town throughout New Jersey. It would save the taxpayers much tax dollars and there is no reason why it should not be run from the county level. It would be a more efficient system.

  2. What unfair treatment? We all suffer when our taxdollars are not properly accounted for. The school system gets plenty of money. They do not need more. Money and funding is not the answer. Be honest.

  3. Unfortunatly this group is a bunch of complainers. Most of them do NOT pay any property taxes, yet utilize the police services and emergency rooms etc. Their children are unruly at school, and are constantly running into problems with the law. They need to take a real serious look at themselves, straighten out their mess,and take responsibility for their children. Only then will anyone take them seriously. I wish them good luck ahead.

  4. To the Reporter who wrote this article (Zach Patberg): As one of many Caucasian Parents who also attended this wonderful and inspiring rally, It is not just about the kids of color in our town. I’m very disappointed in the direction this article took. That was not what the rally was about. It was about uniting ALL the parents in this community (No matter what race, religion, or household make-up). It is about Equal Rights of ALL!! Our Public School Children are having difficulties because their needs are not being met, due to the mismanagement of funds and the lack of resources. Children in their 1st year of college are struggling and even dropping out due to the lack of education here in Lakewood, and these are the children who graduated at the top of their class. What will happen to the average child? This is why a “CALL TO ACTION” was needed.

  5. I also have to say to the people writing these nasty comments, who are talking about the CHILDREN in the public schools in this manner, remember they are children you are talking about.
    I want to ask you, how would you as a parent feel if your child’s needs were not being met. It is our job as parents to complain when things are not right. I am a great parent just as the ones in “this group” as you call it. I raise my children with faith, and to have respect for others. like the rest of us. And like the people in UNITE we have been in this town longer than most of you!! Some of these comments really concern me. You just show that you have no intentions on being ONE community, and that’s really sad. Let me just remind you, this is still called UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! See the word UNITE! And in this beautiful country we have this thing called equal rights. And that is what we stand for!!!

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