Arcelio Aponte is hardly new to his “new” position as president of the New Jersey state Board of Education. Elected earlier this month, this is his second stint at the helm of the board that oversees state education policy and regulation. He previously served as president from 2011-2013.
But his post this time comes with a little drama; Aponte replaces previous board president Mark Biedron after the latter had an apparent falling out with Gov. Chris Christie. Now the board has a new president and six new board members, one of Christie’s last and maybe more lasting actions in education policy.
NJ Spotlight’s John Mooney yesterday spoke with Aponte, a senior vice chancellor at Rutgers Newark, about his and the board’s plans:
NJ Spotlight: What brought you here to lead the State Board again?
Aponte: “I certainly admired (Mark Biedron) and his commitment to the state board, and he had my support to continue to serve as president.”
“When it became obvious he may not be reappointed, and with the unprecedented appointment of six new board members, I thought it would be in the best interest of the board that I serve as president.”
NJ Spotlight: What is different this time?
Aponte: “We will have for the first time in a while 12 board members, the first time in some time. With that, you add additional perspectives and viewpoints into the discussion. The history of the board is there has always been healthy discussion and a respect for the diversity of viewpoints.”
NJ Spotlight: You’re straddling two administrations at this point, too. How does that impact things? Are there issues at the forefront?
Aponte: “Certainly, if [Phil] Murphy is elected, and he is the frontrunner, he has already stated his opposition to PARCC. But as you may be aware, I am very supportive of PARCC and think we’re getting to the point of having three years of data and the ability to see real trends …”
“I’m optimistic at the progress we have made in this state … I certainly believe that PARCC is a better assessment tool than we have had previously.”
NJ Spotlight: Murphy has advocated doing away with PARCC. Do you see staying with it?
Aponte: “I have advocated staying with it. It takes years in implementing a new assessment, and we have just a third year … From my perspective, PARCC is a better tool to address the challenges that we see.”
NJ Spotlight: The state also has a big influence in the state-operated districts. Do you see the momentum moving forward for the state to get out of these districts?
Aponte: “We have made some real progress in [withdrawing from] Jersey City, and we really want to continue that momentum. And we want to continue to work with the commissioner … and continue that progress in Newark as well. I think there is an opportunity here to return local control to the two largest cities in the state of New Jersey in the matter of a few months.”
“Given the three decades of state control, it’s a real achievement to get where we are today.”