Open Letter to Jersey City’s School Board President Sangeeta Ranade

At this evening’s school board meeting, you said you decided to exercise your presidential rights by banning the videotaping of public speaking. School Board Marilyn Roman said the other board members weren’t consoled about this decision.

Why would you make such a huge decision two nights before the monthly school board meeting, impacting the community and parent involvement?

You stated you heard folks saying, if the meetings were not recorded then they would be encouraged to speak publicly. And, further stated, perhaps that is the reason for low turnout at board meetings. Parents, who may feel intimidated in addressing issues publicly, often gain the courage to speak when they see others raising their same issues on TV or the Internet. I know this because numerous parents have told other advocates and me. You stated you want to do things differently. SO THEN WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THE LOW TURNOUT WHEN DR. EPPS RESTRICTED VIDEO TAPING? And whom exactly did you poll influencing you on your decision?

I am appalled that you made this decision without including those who are really involved!! And WHAT MAKES IT WORST is that you lied to me in your email about the banning of school board meetings. After catching wind about this topic the morning of the meeting, I emailed you stating. “…I caught wind that you are trying to pass a resolution that prevents video taping of public comments… You all know how important it is to disseminate information to the public!! By having the public’s voice video taped allow other members of the public to gain the confidence when seeing their similar issues aired. This also allows disenfranchised sections of Jersey City to see what the other areas are going through…”

You responded, “..There are no voting items related to videotaping..”

Hours later, I read on JCBOE’s Facebook page, “…In addition, public comments will not be videotaped.”

If you can lie to one of the most respectful, reasonable district wide parent advocate, then what message are you showing me about transparency and communication?

If you say you will ban the video taping of “AUDIENCE”, then why was the video NOT RECORDING ALL of SCHOOL BOARD AND ADMINISTRATION? What are you trying to suppress? And what are you trying to gain?

Why not find alternate solutions to those who want to be recorded and those that don’t, as it was done under School Board Presidents Sterling Waterman and Sue Mack?

I understand there is no policy or law stating the school board has to videotape all meetings. But honestly, I thought we were moving in the direction of great communication and transparency. After all, wasn’t one of the key arguments in ousting Dr. Epps and the old school board regime due to his censorship and totalitarian ways?

We need to embrace the age of technology. If I need to advocate to the NJ Legislature for the revision of the Sunshine Law, making it mandatory to video tape all public meeting and publicize it, then I will. You have just set a very bad precedent this evening. I cannot stand quietly while you prohibit tax paying community members from seeing the issues being raised by parents or teachers in this district.

The fire has been re-ignited.

Yours truly in service,

Akisia Grigsby
Founder, President
Parent Advocacy Group

January 16, 2014


  1. Thank you, Ms. Grigsby, for your eloquent defense of civil liberties. We in West New York stand shoulder to shoulder with you against this injustice. Try the NJACLU. They would not lift a finger for me in my need, but perhaps the media exposure for them on this issue will motivate them to DO THE RIGHT THING and support your cause, which, of course, is Our Cause.
    Patrick R. Cullen, Jr. and Al Cifuentes for WNY Board of Education Trustees 1/28/14 Special Election