Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Are you from NewRochelle? If not where are you from?
I am from New Rochelle, born and raised. I went to Daniel Webster. I left and went to Davis for 5th grade TAG. But then I went to Albert Leonard which was great because it was the same feeder school, so I got back with all my friends from Webster. Then I went from Albert Leonard to New Rochelle High School and then college. I was a track and field athlete for 14 years. I was a shot-putter. I got a full scholarship to college. I was a state record holder, all American, all county, and a New Rochelle record holder for many, many years. My coach has been trying to get me on the Hall of Fame wall down at City Hall. He has put my name in several times... and every year he is going to keep trying because they don’t have anyone who did my event on the wall. Maybe It will be like the artist that doesn’t get famous until they die. I’ll probably get on the wall when I’m 70. (laughs) Anyone can nominate someone, but my coach has love and respect for his athletes which is why he keeps trying every year. I think that one year…. It may happen.
Where did you go to college?
I went to college at Morgan State University in Baltimore. I've been back in New Rochelle for 16 years now and working for the district for 14 and a half.
What are some of your responsibilities as a principal clerk?
The title of principal clerk is weird because the title makes you think that we all work for principals at the schools, but principal clerks all do different work. So it’s really hard to say… Some of the common things are that all principal clerks are responsible for submitting contracts, managing their director’s calendar, and submitting requisitions through Nvision. (our finance software). We order supplies for the department or school. A principal clerk is like the administrative assistant for the director of a department, school, principal, or assistant superintendent. They are not managers of the department, but they're normally the go-to person…
What is a serious issue facing someone in your position today?
It never seems like there’s a chance for upward mobility. In civil service, everything is based on a grade; for every job, you have to take a test for it… although the test never ever.. Ever… EVER.. matches the job that you’re doing. The questions are so outdated that you’ll never be in that situation.
Sometimes I feel like saying… the work I do doesn’t speak for itself that I have to take a test to move up a grade for a better paying position? It would be nice to just get a promotion without a test because you produce great work, work hard, or mainly just because you deserve it.
There have been a lot of new people in Central administration over the years. How has that impacted you?
It’s a challenge. A lot of people come in new and are often left to just figure it out. I'm always willing to help if I have the time to help. I'm the kind of person who will walk someone through something if they need it you know and I will try to find the time to do that for a person. But it’s always changing up here, and it’s about to change again…. so…
Dr. Marrero as acting Superintendent is a recent change...
I was working directly for him when the change happened. It was funny because I happened to read his bio, and I noticed that he had his degree in business administration. So, I went into his office and I said, I see you have a degree in business administration. I also have a degree in business administration. Maybe when I grow up I can be a superintendent too, and I laughed.
I know it caught him off guard. And he was like well...well..
And then I said... No. I’m just joking with you. But only about the ‘when I grow up’ part.. Because I honestly think I’m older than you. But, please don’t make me age myself.
And we laughed.
But the thing is that I was also saying something….
When I said that, he said “Yeah, yeah you can…," and that was nice. He gets it.
But not everybody gets it. Some people see me out here at this desk and not in an office behind a closed door and they think the smarter person..the person with that degree will be behind the closed door. But, sometimes they need to dive a little deeper.… There are a lot of smart people around. Some of them are at that desk right in front of you.
And that’s the other thing… A lot of people think you can’t talk to a superintendent. They feel almost that a superintendent is at a level that is untouchable. Like they are in a glass box.. as if to say Do not open; do not tap on the glass… unless I smile at you and crack the window...
I’ve never been afraid to speak to someone and get a feel for them as a person. We’re all just people. So, I’m not afraid to knock on a door or crack a joke.
That’s the kind of person I am.. I’ll crack the joke. Not everyone is going to do that.
I love how you just talk to people and say what you want.
The hard part of being a black woman is being a strong, confident black woman because some people are not able to take to it. So, sometimes it feels like I have to diminish who I am personally and what has been raised and instilled in me because I never want it to come across too strong or come across as aggressive to someone because I’m not afraid and I don’t walk around with my tail tucked between my legs and my head down. I’m not afraid to ask an “important” person a question or crack a joke. But, that’s the hard part of being the person that you want to put out there… for some people, it’s going to be like Go Janei. Yes! That’s what I’m talking about, but… maybe not for everyone.
Strong women are great though!
The funny thing is that in the last few years, I’ve been asked several times to become a building rep or that I should run for SRP Vice President… Janei, please become a union rep…. Please run.. You should run for the union because you could be that voice. Or they will come to me because they know I’m not afraid to ask the questions of HR, the Union, or an administrator.
Are you thinking about running for building rep now?
When I think about being a building rep… it’s because at City Hall you sometimes see other employees come in for meetings with a union rep.. possibly coming in to lose their job. I’ve seen them cry. It hurts to see people lose their jobs.
Unfortunately, where I sit, I see them waiting… Normally they are sitting there with their union rep, waiting for a meeting with HR and Civil Service. Sometimes there are lawyers for both sides, and it’s normally never good. You know they are not there because they are getting more money or a promotion. It sometimes sucks not to be able to be the person who can help. If I was a union rep, I would be one of the people going in with them and fighting for them
But, for the past few years, I haven’t had the time in my life to do it. I have a daughter in 7th grade at IEYMS and a son who is a junior in college. I just got married on October 15. And now, the pandemic. So there has been a lot going on.
You just got married? Congratulations!
We were supposed to get married next year on a date very special to my heart… 4-3-21, but since we had minimum restrictions in October, we thought maybe we better just do it now. I’m an excellent party planner. I told you I like organizing stuff. So, I planned my wedding in three weeks. A good friend of ours is Judge Jared Rice, and he married us. I planned it at Five Islands and prayed for good weather. And it just so happened that was the week that the tornado came.. And that Thursday, on October 15, 2020, we got lucky. It was the only nice day.
I know I talk a lot…. I think I’ve probably answered a lot of your questions..
You don’t even need the questions.
Free-form interview. (laughs)