Former Jersey City Board of Education President Suzanne T. Mack Steps Down From the Elected Board

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Jersey City native Suzanne Mack steps down from the Jersey City Board of Education after 18 years of service.

The longest serving member of the Jersey City elected Board of Education is officially stepping down March 21, 2014, noting changes in election laws extended her term from April 2014 to January 2015.

Having served as Chair (2000-2002),and recently as President (2012-2014) this January she turned over the Board leadership to fellow members Sangeeta Ranade as President and Vidya Gandadin, Vice President.

She leaves behind a record of excellence and success as a selfless advocate for the children, parents, teachers and staff .

Ms. Mack, who is a nationally certified urban planner, will be remembered for her many contributions. Dr. Peter J. Donnelly, her fellow board member for eight years, said he never failed to be impressed by her depth of knowledge, professionalism and independence. He noted she was most proud of the fact, that as a mother of a special education student, she created the Special Education Committee of the Board and the award winning Special Education Council. Both were created so that all parents of special needs children would have advocates for their children. Ms. Mack cited that in 2000, in her role as Chair, she had the privilege of selecting Dr. Charles T. Epps Jr. as Superintendent. In 2012 a decade later, as President she helped select Dr. Marcia V. Lyles as his successor. She believes strongly they were the right educational leaders for the District and Dr. Lyles' strong analytical and organizational skills are particularly well suited to meet the needs for academic achievement of all of our students, as well as the ongoing challenges faced as an urban district.

When first elected to the Board in 1996 with Jersey City Education Association (JCEA) support (in a recount which produced a one vote plurality) Ms. Mack pledged to make a difference in the lives of kids with special needs. Her son, Kerry Magro, is on the autistic spectrum and dealt with many problems in the Jersey City public school system which inspired Ms. Mack to become an advocate for all special needs children.She soon became known as “the Special Ed mom”. Her goal was to make sure that all these children were treated with dignity and received all the services they required to fulfill their potential. She also wanted to insure that parents, teachers, administrators and building staff received the resources and support they needed and that parents had a voice in the future education of their children.

The changes that Ms. Mack lobbied for in the Jersey City school system helped many special needs children succeed. Her son Kerry graduated high school and went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees at Seton Hall University. Now a nationally recognized motivational speaker and author Kerry was the Autism Society of America's " Outstanding Individual with Autism" in 2011". His recently published book (titled “Defining Autism from the Heart” in which she contributed “A Mother’s Perspective”) is receiving national acclaim for the positive message it instills and how it is helping change how we think of the possible outcome for autistic individuals (now 1 in 88 children nationwide and 1 in 49 children in New Jersey). You can find the book on Amazon here:

Ms. Mack’s accomplishments were not limited to issues of special education. Ms. Mack shepherded a return of the district to partial local control in 2006 with then Chairman William De Rosa. She became integrally involved in the planning and construction of over 300 million dollars for schools in Jersey City. Her recent focus has been on providing pre-K programs/facilities throughout the District and supporting the Unified Sports athletes (which she helped start as Chair of the Board in 2000) at the national Special Olympics games to be held this spring in New Jersey. She believes you cannot underestimate the importance of participation in sports and extra curricular programs for all of our students as well as partnerships with the many non profit providers and developers such as Silverman Brothers in Jersey City. She started negotiations which are ongoing for a new contract with its unions.

As an elected member of the Board for 18 years, she was always available 24x7 for any parent or teacher who needed help by making time to research each request to make sure they were addressed.

New Jersey Commissioner of Education, Christopher D. Cerf, commented on Ms. Mack’s legacy in Jersey City: “I want to congratulate you and express my sincere gratitude for your nearly 18 years of service to the Jersey City Board of Education. Serving on a school board is a true form of public service. Communities are enriched when dedicated, knowledgeable school board members play an active role in shaping local district policies. Over the years, you have contributed greatly to developments in academics, helped improve school facilities, shaped school policy, and placed a greater focus on the learning needs of special education students. The Jersey City school community has benefited from your years of commitment to school leadership. On behalf of the Department of Education, I wanted to personally thank you and wish you the very best in your future endeavor.”

Moving forward, Ms. Mack will look to further her career as a planner and public official while helping assist Kerry with his non-profit corporation “KFM Making a Difference.” The non-profit will help assist those with autism and other disabilities. Recently named a Senior Fellow at the Bright Minds Institute for Autism, chaired by her friend and mentor Dr. Joseph V. Doria, she also looks forward to helping Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) lobby for the passage of the Age In Act, that will help the nearly 500,000 students who will transition into adults with autism in the next decade and will be working with Kerry on his soon to be released second book My Autism, My Voice.

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Suzanne Mack

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