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Middlesex County Magnet Schools Receive Prestigious State Equity Award
31 January 2024 · Joseph Bakes
Acting State Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan presents the Lighthouse Award to Middlesex County Magnet Schools Superintendent Jorge E. Diaz.
(Isaiah Gomez/Middlesex County Magnet Schools)
MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ – Acting State Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan presented the 2023-2024 Lighthouse Award to the Middlesex County Magnet Schools on January 18 in recognition of the district’s efforts to achieve equity in education, especially through dual enrollment programs that allow students to earn college credits while in high school.
Superintendent of Schools Jorge E. Diaz accepted the award in the presence of state, county and school district officials at East Brunswick Magnet School.
Allen-McMillan called the Magnet Schools “a shining example for schools in New Jersey” in promoting programs to nontraditional and underserved students. She said the Magnet Schools administration, faculty and staff “demonstrate that they care about students.”
“Your success is their success,” she said.
Diaz said the Magnet Schools had implemented changes over the last three years to increase enrollment from nontraditional and economically challenged families. He cited a $150,000 state grant the district recently received for a pilot program to provide College Connections coordinators from Middlesex College at East Brunswick, Perth Amboy and Piscataway Magnet Schools as well as tuition assistance for marginalized populations.
“Our work does not end with this recognition,” Diaz said. “It challenges us to continue to innovate further, to ensure that every student has the highest quality education, and to create an environment where each student can thrive.”
Natalie Evans of Highland Park, a senior architecture technology career major at East Brunswick Magnet School who spoke at the ceremony, said she is in her third dual-enrollment course – in honors calculus – a fact that has impressed college admissions officials.
“That gives me a big step up,” she said.
Peter Mazzagatti, director of the state Office of Educator Effectiveness, said the Lighthouse Award is intended as a “beacon of light” to recognize districts that have made “measurable progress toward educational equity.”
Keith Jones II, president of the Magnet Schools Board of Education, said the district is “dedicated and committed to improving educational equity,” adding that the award is “a testament to the hard work” of the district to offer an “unmatched educational experience” that is tuition-free to Middlesex County residents.
Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ronald Rios said diversity is one of the county’s greatest strengths and the county’s goal is to “ensure that even more students have access to educational opportunity.”
Kyle Anderson, interim Executive County Superintendent of Schools and a member of the Magnet Schools Board of Education, said the award is “not just a trophy but a clarion call” to provide a bridge to higher education for students from low-income families.
Other officials attending included Assemblyman Sterley Stanley, Middlesex County Clerk Nancy Pinkin, Magnet Schools Board of Education Vice President Laura Czarneski, Magnet Schools Assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Bicsko, Director of Career and Technical Education Lee Neamand, and various district administrators and principals.
The dignitaries were entertained by students in the music performance and technology program at East Brunswick Magnet School. After the ceremony, officials visited several classrooms in the school, including Dance, Architectural Technology, and Pre-Engineering.
Officials were greeted by members of the East Brunswick Magnet Schools FFA and SkillsUSA teams, and were given goodie bags provided by Baking students.
Student Natalie Evans gives a tour of the architectural technology classroom at East Brunswick Magnet School to Acting State Commissioner of Education Angelica Allen-McMillan and Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ronald Rios. (Isaiah Gomez/Middlesex County Magnet Schools)
About Middlesex County Magnet Schools
Established in 1914 by the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners as the nation's first vocational and technical high school district, Middlesex County Magnet Schools fulfill an essential need for free occupational training in the State of New Jersey. The district receives high school and adult education applications from nearly 118,000 families throughout Middlesex County. Students in the district benefit from 33 distinct career program offerings on campuses situated in five local municipalities: East Brunswick, Edison, Perth Amboy, Piscataway, and Woodbridge.