My Tribute to Cornelia F. Bradford

LEGACY of SERVICE: Our school’s founder – Cornelia Foster Bradford was one of Jersey City’s greatest pioneers in the areas of early childhood education and community service. She became the FIRST WOMAN to serve on JERSEY CITY BOARD of EDUCATION, appointed to the position by Mayor Otto Wittpenn in 1912 for her incredible efforts.
In everything we do as a Parent team, we try to emulate Cornelia Bradford’s remarkable legacy, having been deeply inspired by her vision for our city’s children. At our school’s Centennial celebration this year, I was tasked with sharing Ms. Bradford’s story with our students and guests.
(Introduction: Judge Kevin Callahan. Video by JCETV)

School & Community Bridges

“Education is all a matter of building bridges.” – Ralph Ellison 

BRIDGING THE FINANCIAL GAP IN AN ERA OF LIMITED GOVT. RESOURCES: As supplementary school aid becomes more and more scarce, our parent team took the initiative to create our own form of financial support for the students in our school who need it/ can most benefit from it.

  • 11351157_10204544715965027_789851722364577903_nWe established an annual Extracurricular Scholarship, sponsoring select students, based on their interest and need, for a semester of an after school club.
  • We established a “Cornelia F. Bradford Award” presented annually to 6 graduating 5th Graders, honoring our school’s founder, and aimed to promote and recognize students’ character and moral integrity. This award is outlined in Issue #6 of  my newsletter “The Bradford Spirit”.


  • As a non-profit corporation, our Parent Council group is able to supply the household needs of our school (anything from Air Conditioners and classroom furniture to stationary) in a cost-effective and timely fashion.


“Middle School Connection”: to help our parents and students bridge the gap between elementary and middle school and learn about the acceptance processes involved, we invite principals from Jersey City public middle schools and academic program supervisors to come and speak at our monthly Parent Meetings. You can read about this initiative and check out parent reviews in the Issue #9 of “The Bradford Spirit”.

PS16# Team (Principal Terry Watkins-Williams & CPA President Natalia Ioffe)  host MS#7 Team (Principal Edwin Rivera and Assistant Principal Jaimie Barnaskas, with Associate Superintendent Ellen Ruane) for the Middle School Connection


  • Communication is key: Parents need their concerns to be heard and want
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    to be fully informed about their child’s school experience. We try to meet this need by maintaining a 24/7 email helpline, as well as providing a weekly “CPA Hour” during which parents come in and meet with a member of the Parent Council to voice their concern, provide feedback or ask questions, without having to wait for the monthly parent meetings. We also hold several annual events which bring our school families together and parents are able to mingle and share information.

  • We appoint Class Parents in order to more efficiently meet the needs of each homeroom teacher/ class. This promotes parent leadership and strengthens parent/teacher partnerships.


  • Family/Community Movie Night – Every year we host an outdoor Movie Night in the park space near our school, which is attended by our school families, as well as neighbors and friends from the community. It is a great way to bring the community together.
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Community Movie Night by the school
  • HPHA & the Student Garden Project – With the help of Historic Paulus Hook Association and friends at JCFD, our students spent several seasons cultivating a neighborhood garden, giving our urban children a chance to experience the joy of gardening right next to their school.
  • Bridging Generations– Each Memorial Day our team hosts a catered breakfast for our community veterans, while students and staff prepare a grand concert celebration. It is a wonderful way to connect generations and honor our servicemen and women.
  • Connecting Past & Present – History holds so many important lessons for all of us. To make these lessons fun and memorable for our children, every Halloween at PS#16 I dress up as our school’s founder – Cornelia Foster Bradford, and I share her story with the students. She was a remarkable woman who devoted her life to the improvement of the lives of children and poor immigrants in Jersey City, and her story is worth retelling to future generations.

Cornelia Bradford believed that we are all our brothers’ keepers, and I believe it still applies to us, as we need to take responsibility for the schools and children of this city, by making sure that each school receives equitable treatment and has a strong parent resource, complete with community bridges and sources of alternative funding and opportunities.

  • Culture Bridges – Our school is presently home to more than 70 different nations, and we percieve it as a microcosm of the world, and a testament to the amazing diversity of the Jersey City community. As a school family, we seize every opportunity to learn from each other and celebrate each other’s culture. Couple of years ago we decided to honor our Indian community by dressing up for a feast of Diwali, and celebrating together with our Indian students. We also hold an International Day, on which students and staff are invited to wear their national clothing to school.

I invite you to CLICK HERE to learn more about my team’s work on the Parent Council and the Bridges we were able to build between parents and teachers, with other schools in the district, and throughout the local community.