I love Newark. I love Newark’s public schools. My loyalties run very deep for our great city and for our public education system.

It has been more than three decades since I graduated from Weequahic High School, yet what still stands out in my mind when I think of my Newark childhood is the first-rate education that I received while attending our public school system.

Growing up in Newark, our public schools served not only as bedrocks for learning but also as neighborhood focal points for our communities.

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As I left my home each school morning, my parents knew that I had extraordinary teachers committed to providing high-quality education. Although, I might not have realized it at the time, as a child, I started the school day with the comfort of knowing that the leaders at my school provided a consistent commitment to my community that went far beyond the classroom. With the combination of my parents and the public education that I received, there was a feeling of optimism that anything was possible.

Much later in life, I took my deep optimism for our public school system and was first elected to the Newark Board of Education and was later appointed to serve on the Newark Advisory Board (NAB) following the state takeover of our school district in the 1990s.

As many remember, during this moment in our City’s history, our school district faced many challenges. You can only imagine the uncertainty felt by teachers, parents and the community at that time.

It was a moment in time where we needed leadership, not excuses. We needed to work together, not blame each other.

During our most challenging moments, my fellow colleagues on the school board and I worked together, as one united Newark voice. We did not always agree, but we listened to each other’s ideas. And most of all, we addressed our challenges together. Thanks to our determination, we created positive change. We always remained unified and respectful of each other and made transparency our top priority.

However, my dedication to our public school system goes far beyond my personal experience as a Newark child and as a Newark community leader, it also comes from being a Newark mother.

As a parent of three children, with my youngest currently attending Harriet Tubman, my belief in Newark's public schools has never wavered – nor will it. I have been confronted first hand with the modern realities of our current system. And like so many Newark mothers in our City, I have worked tirelessly to ensure that my children receive the best possible education.

While there still are many wonderful experiences we can celebrate in our school district, too many families are not being provided the high-quality education they deserve.

Rather than run away from these challenges, and abandon Newark public schools, I have worked within my community, serving as a former PTA President and Co Chair of Weequahic High School Alumni Association, to best address our evolving educational environment and ensure Newark parents are provided with great public options for their kids.

These are the specific Newark experiences that define who I am and speak to the love and loyalty I hold for our public schools system.

I remain an enthusiastic advocate for public education and passionately believe that no Newark child should ever be denied a quality education.

It is my deep passion for our city that drives me once again to serve on the Newark Public School Advisory Board.

At this moment in our history, we must elect officials who are willing to prioritize our city and fight to empower our parents. We must, once again, create a unified School Advisory Board that puts the education of our children over any specific ideology.

As I campaign with my fellow candidates on the “Unity” slate, I am reminded of my first call to service in the 1990s. We should never forget that there is so much more that unites us than divides us.

Together, we will ensure a smooth transition back to local control. We will fight for needed dollars from Trenton. We will create effective strategies to confront our school budget.

And most of all, we will dedicate ourselves to passionately advocate and listen to all Newark parents. These priorities are not ideological, nor are they political, but they drive me to serve on the School Advisory Board.

Over the course of decades, first as a child of Newark and now as a Newark mother of three children, I believe my philosophy of building bridges and prioritizing the needs of parents has been tested. Our city’s hearts are in the right place. It is now time we focus our collective efforts to ensure the voiceless have the strongest voice.

Kim Gaddy is a lifelong resident of the City of Newark, alumni of Weequahic High School, former Newark Board of Education and Newark Advisory Board, a mother of three, an environmental justice organizer and is currently running for Newark’s School Advisory Board.