Lakewood, NJ – The district initially anticipated no personnel changes in applying for the School Improvement Grant, which would mean $2 million annually for three years.
However, Superintendent Lydia R. Silva told the board Wednesday that she received a letter from the state education commissioner that stated the district stood a better chance if they could show positive aggressive changes, including moving principals and changes to the teaching staff. The grant will provide money that will be used to increase the number of students graduating and help them into meaningful futures, Silva said.
The board approved moving Tina Yuli, principal of Lakewood High School, to principal of Ella G. Clarke School; Yvonne Marti de Daniels, principal of Ella G. Clarke School, to principal of discipline at Lakewood High School; Annette Maldonado, principal of Lakewood Middle School, to assistant principal of Oak Street School; and Laura Winters, administrative director of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program, to principal of Oak Street School.
The changes didn’t sit well with everyone.
Board members Tracey Tift and Abraham Ostreicher voted against the transfers. Ostreicher said he opposed the changes. Tift said his children attend Lakewood public schools, and when he attends events at Ella G. Clarke School there are many Latino students with parents who feel a tie to de Daniels because she is bilingual.
Silva defended her recommendations to the board and to the audience at the meeting, which continued beyond midnight.
Adriana Williams, a senior at the high school, spoke at the Wednesday meeting with other students.
She told the board that Yuli was like a mother who brought the students together.
“Our principal has done a lot for us,” Williams said.
The high school students were upset by the news Thursday.
Some students planned a walk out in protest of the changes, but some members of the community and Silva held an impromptu assembly for about 250 students who gathered to speak their minds.
Dr. Michael Rush, a community leader and former education administrator, moderated the group, allowing Silva and the students to each have their say.
Alejandro Cintron, 18, a senior at the high school, spoke up at the assembly.
“Ms. Yuli is like our friend, she is not just our principal,” Cintron said. “She gave me a break, and one break was all I needed. My goal is to join the Army when I get out of here.”
Several students said they would rather the school go without the money than to see their principal leave. They voiced fear over the student reaction that the change would bring.
Kamaria Vaughn, 17, a junior at the high school, stayed with several other students to discuss the matter further with the superintendent after the other students returned to class.
“We should have a choice,” Vaughn said.
“I know people are mad at me but I have to be a leader,” Silva said. “I would not be a leader if I did not do what is in the best interest of the students.”