JerseyCAN names 1st African American to serve as executive director

JerseyCAN on Tuesday said Paula White has been named executive director — its first African American leader. White brings years of leadership to the organization, with diverse experiences as a former public school teacher, founder of a New Jersey public charter school, leader of previous New Jersey advocacy organizations and a statewide policy expert who served as chief turnaround officer at the New Jersey Department of Education.

JerseyCAN is the only statewide advocacy organization in New Jersey committed to ensuring access to high-quality public schools for every child, regardless of ZIP code, cultural background and socioeconomic status.

“We are thrilled to formally announce that Paula White will lead JerseyCAN and that she will be returning professionally to New Jersey,” Ann Borowiec, co-chair, JerseyCAN board of trustees, stated. “With children across the state battling historic learning loss and inequality, New Jersey stands in uncharted territory. For years, Paula has been a trailblazer in every sense of the word. She is a nationally recognized education policy expert and has provided New Jersey with decades of service at virtually every level of education. Most of all, she tells it like it is, with facts, data and innovative solutions and ideas.

“She is fearless and we are so happy to see her back working in her home state again.”

“Like so many parents throughout the state, my own children had diverse interests, aptitudes and needs and I fought hard for them to be fully served in the public education system,” White stated. “I have always seen myself as an advocate for children — first, my own, and those in thousands of families across the state. As a mother, a former public school educator and a citizen of our state, my passion for our public education system is inextricably connected to every facet of who I am. In many ways I see my role at JerseyCAN to be a culmination of my work as a parent and as a professional in the education space.

“JerseyCAN has provided me with a great opportunity not only to come back professionally to New Jersey and continue to fight on behalf of New Jersey families, but also to use the experiences and relationships I have forged in New Jersey education to develop innovation and build needed solutions, partnerships and results.”

In joining JerseyCAN, White continues the longstanding tradition of providing the statewide organization with a noted education leader with a longstanding career in education. Most recently, she served as New York executive director of Education for Excellence, a teaching advocacy organization serving a membership of over 15,000 New York City public school educators. Prior to that, White served as the New Jersey Department of Education’s chief turnaround officer. During her tenure, she led New Jersey’s school improvement strategy, bringing significant academic growth to New Jersey public schools while implementing strategies that narrowed the achievement gaps and minimized suspensions and chronic absenteeism.

She has also served as New Jersey executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, founded a public charter school in Newark’s South Ward and served on New Jersey’s charter school task force to assist the state in revising critical aspects of its charter school policy.