Governor-elect Phil Murphy kicked off five days of pre-inaugural events by announcing a crucial cabinet nomination: education commissioner.
Asbury Park Schools Superintendent Lamont Repollet will, if confirmed, steer New Jersey’s 678 school districts through major reforms on Murphy’s agenda. That includes replacing the unpopular PARCC achievement test.
“We are asking Dr. Repollet to end the failed experiment that has been PARCC testing and create new, more effective, and less class time, intrusive means for measuring student assessment,” said Murphy.
“We’ll be guided by three essential questions: How do our decisions impact students? Does our action bring honor and distinction to this state and this nation? Are our policies and mandates economically feasible to the state and our districts?” said Repollet.
47-year-old Repollet called his approach “hard hat nation” and he gave one to Murphy. Repollet spent a decade in Carteret as a teacher and principal, and took the reins at Asbury’s troubled district in 2014. Since then, the high school graduation rate in this so-called Abbott district’s risen from 49 to 73 percent last year.
“What Dr. Repollet has accomplished is nothing short of a turnaround,” said Murphy.
But, is he prepared to run a statewide department that’s often a political target, and disperses $8 billion in state aid to schools?
“It’s an interesting pick, because it’s a visionary pick. It’s certainly someone who’s been in the trenches, but somebody who doesn’t have a lot of bureaucratic or administrative experience at a higher level which is usually what we see in these picks,” said Director of Monmouth University Polling Institute Patrick Murray.
After the election showdown between Senate President Steve Sweeney and New Jersey’s teachers’ union, Sweeney won. This nomination’s imbued with political significance. Sweeney had no comment on Repollet, but Education Committee Chair Sen. Teresa Ruiz approved, stating, “… Dr. Repollet brings experience and knowledge of the education system to the position. I look forward to working with him…”
NJEA President Marie Blistan also welcomed Repollet stating, “With this nomination, Governor-elect Murphy has kept his promise to respect the professional expertise of New Jersey’s educators…”
Murphy next joined Lt. Governor-elect Sheila Oliver at Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart for an interfaith service. Faith leaders prayed for his success.
“We are not whole, but with God’s help you can make us whole. We ask for God’s blessings upon you. Together we move forward,” said Rabbi Clifford Kulwin.
The pre-inauguration events continue Saturday, when Murphy and his family take mass transportation around New Jersey. Murphy has vowed to shake up NJ Transit. All activities culminate with Tuesday’s inauguration.