Education

An Interview With North Plainfield High School Principal Dr. Jerard Stephenson

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Dr. Jerard Stephenson Credits: Victoria Caruso
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NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – For the past 11 years, Dr. Jerard Stephenson has been dedicated to serving the students of North Plainfield and, since 2014, has held the position of high school principal.

Stephenson, a married father of three and a veteran of the United States Army, served two years of active duty along with an additional five years with the Army National Guard and was deployed during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He went on to attend Kean University, earning a bachelor’s in history education and a masters in public school administration before going on to earn his doctorate in school administration from the College of Saint Elizabeth.

Stephenson began his education career 20 year ago at Manchester Regional High School in Haledon, NJ, serving as a social studies teacher and football, softball and baseball coach for four years before going on to serve as an assistant principal in Sparta for three years.

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He joined the North Plainfield School District in 2005, serving as principal of North Plainfield High/Middle School while also overseeing the district’s Harrison and Alternative schools for nine years. In September 2014, when the middle school became its own school with a dedicated principal, Stephenson went on to serve as principal of North Plainfield High School (NPHS).

 “I enjoy this position a great deal because I am able to focus more on our students and their academic, social and emotional success,” said Stephenson.

During his tenure with the district, Stephenson was instrumental in implementing the ‘one-to-one initiative’ through which every high school student receives an iPad or a Chromebook to use throughout the year. He has worked to bring in additional AP and concurrent enrollment courses in an array of subject areas for qualifying students. Additionally, he is dedicated to ensuring that the PSAT is administered during the school day to all students in 9th through 11th grade.

“Here, every high school student will have three opportunities to take the PSAT,” Stephenson said. “Our belief is that the more times you take, the more comfortable you are going to get.”

As high school principal, Stephenson oversees a faculty and staff of just over 100 and a student population just shy of 1,000. “We have a dedicated and hardworking faculty and some really amazing, hardworking and great kids here,” he said, noting that one of the things that drew him to North Plainfield over a decade ago was the community itself.

“This town represents pretty much how I was raised; both my parents worked very hard and I see that here from the parents and the kids,” Stephenson said, adding, “When people are vested in their school and community, they tend to work harder and be better and in North Plainfield everyone is extremely supportive and appreciative of what the district does and has to offer.”

In early 2016, NPHS was the only high school in New Jersey to be named a State School of Character by Character.org, a non-profit organization that supports the advancement of character development in schools, communities and workplaces across the U.S. and globally. The high school then went on to earn organization’s National School of Character honor, making NPHS 1 of 67 schools and four districts from 15 states to receive the honor.

“This was the first year we won this honor but it was also the first year we applied for it,” said Stephenson, noting that Character.org determined that many of the qualifications for the award have existed at the school for years. “This honor really belongs to the faculty and the students. I am just the person blessed to be here and in this role.”

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