Amy DeGise is an American teacher and politician currently serving on the Jersey City, New Jersey city council. She first gained public office in 2014 with election to the city’s Board of Education, where she would serve one term before successfully running for city council in 2021. Her time in office has been marked by controversy, most notably a 2022 hit-and-run incident that led to criminal charges.
DeGise’s career reflects both a dedication to community service through education advocacy, as well as a pattern of nepotism benefiting family members. She continues to serve Jersey City amidst criticism over the hit-and-run and doubts about her integrity.
Early Life and Education
Amy DeGise (née Collins) was born in 1976 in Jersey City, New Jersey to James and Georgianna Collins. Her father was a school janitor and her mother a seamstress.
DeGise attended elementary school at PS 16 and junior high at Frank R. Conwell School #3 in Jersey City. She graduated from Lincoln High School in 1994.
DeGise earned a B.A. in History with a concentration in Education from Saint Peter’s University in 1998. She played on the women’s basketball team and was active in student government.
She went on to receive a M.A. in Educational Technology from New Jersey City University in 2003. Her master’s thesis was titled “Integrating Technology into the Social Studies Classroom.”
Teaching in Jersey City Public Schools
After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, DeGise began teaching middle school social studies at Frank R. Conwell School #3, her former junior high. She taught 6th grade American History and 7th grade World Cultures.
In 2005, DeGise transferred to Dickinson High School where she taught 10th grade World History. She also served as assistant coach for the varsity girls basketball team.
DeGise took maternity leave from teaching in 2008 after the birth of her first child. She resigned from her tenured position in 2010 and has not returned to teaching since.
Service on Education Association Boards
While working as a teacher, DeGise became active in Jersey City’s teacher associations. She served as recording secretary and vice president of the teachers union at Frank R. Conwell School #3.
From 2006 to 2008, DeGise was elected recording secretary of the Hudson County Area Vocational Technical Association Executive Board. She also held the position of instructional vice president until leaving teaching in 2010.
Jersey City Board of Education
In 2014, DeGise successfully ran for an at-large seat on the Jersey City Board of Education. This marked her first election to public office. She campaigned on a platform of supporting teachers and restoring funding lost during state control of the district.
DeGise won re-election to a three-year term on the school board in November 2017. She received the most votes out of six candidates vying for three open seats.
During the 2017 campaign, DeGise faced criticism for her support of Superintendent Marcia Lyles. Lyles had clashed with the board over wasteful spending in the district. Critics argued DeGise was unwilling to hold the superintendent accountable.
Controversy Over Nepotism Hiring
In 2015, DeGise voted with the board majority to appoint her brother John Collins as interim business administrator. Good government groups denounced the hiring as nepotism.
Collins was in the position for one year before being promoted to School Business Administrator in 2016. His tenure was criticized after audits found fiscal mismanagement leading to budget shortfalls.
DeGise’s father James was also hired as a custodial supervisor despite lacking qualifications. Her votes in favor of these hires sparked accusations of political patronage.
Jersey City Council Election 2021
Campaign and Endorsements
In early 2021, DeGise announced her candidacy for one of the at-large seats on the Jersey City Council. She highlighted her experience on the school board and advocacy for public education.
The Jersey City Education Association endorsed DeGise’s campaign. She also received support from state senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham.
Hit and Run Controversy
On July 19, 2022, during her council campaign, DeGise struck a cyclist with her SUV at an intersection and fled the scene. The 34-year-old male victim sustained injuries but survived the collision.
Later the same day, DeGise turned herself in at the police station. She was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident.
The hit-and-run generated outrage across Jersey City. Critics called on DeGise to resign from the school board and drop out of the council race. DeGise apologized but refused to end her campaign.
Guilty Plea and Aftermath
DeGise appeared in Hudson County Superior Court in January 2023. She pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and had her driver’s license suspended for one year. The failure to report charge was dismissed as part of a plea deal.
The July 2022 incident continued to spark controversy after DeGise took office as a council member. Critics argued she should resign or be expelled from the council. Supporters pointed to her apology and noted she had complied with her sentence.
In February 2023, Jersey City councilmembers rejected a proposed resolution calling for DeGise’s resignation. She remains in office today.
DeGise’s political career has centered on education policy. As a council member she continues to advocate for increasing school funding and supporting teachers.
She supports universal pre-K, arguing early childhood education will improve student outcomes. DeGise has also called for expanding access to vocational and skills training programs.
Development and Housing
DeGise backs the city’s residential building boom to address the lack of affordable housing. However, she cautions against uncontrolled over-development.
DeGise supports zoning laws requiring developers to build a percentage of new units as affordable housing. She also wants to create more low-income senior housing.
While DeGise believes policing practices should be reformed, she does not support defunding law enforcement. She argues the police budget has been adequately reduced and further cuts would threaten safety.
DeGise has cited the need for more community policing efforts and bias training for officers. She also supports increasing investment in social services and violence prevention programs.
DeGise is an advocate for improving public transit across Jersey City. She backs projects like bus rapid transit, bike lanes, and pedestrian safety measures.
However, DeGise has faced backlash for driving her personal SUV despite supporting environmentally friendly transportation. Critics argue this hypocrisy was highlighted by the 2022 hit-and-run incident.
DeGise supports Jersey City’s efforts to promote sustainability and confront climate change. She points to flood control projects as critical to protecting a coastal community.
She has praised the city’s food waste recycling program as a model green initiative. As a council member, DeGise hopes to expand recycling services citywide.
DeGise resides in Jersey City’s Greenville neighborhood with her husband Jason DeGise and their three children. Her husband is an investment advisor.
Outside of work, DeGise volunteers with community organizations like the Greenville Alliance, Rising Tide Capital, and the Morris Canal Community Development Corporation.
In her free time, she enjoys jogging on the Jersey City waterfront, reading historical fiction, and attending her kids’ sports games. DeGise continues to play recreational basketball as a hobby.
Amy DeGise’s career embodies both admirable community service and consistent ethical controversy. On the one hand, she has tirelessly advocated for Jersey City schools and youth. On the other, she has repeatedly used public office to benefit family members and done little to make amends for a serious lapse in judgement.
Ultimately, DeGise’s legacy will be defined by how she navigates the remainder of her term given the hit-and-run scandal. She may yet redeem herself through hard work on city council. But the incident will forever mar her standing in Jersey City politics. DeGise serves as both an example of civic passion and cautionary tale about integrity.
What position does Amy DeGise currently hold?
Amy DeGise currently serves as an at-large member of the Jersey City, New Jersey city council. She assumed office on January 1, 2022.
How long was DeGise on the Jersey City Board of Education?
DeGise served one four-year term on the school board from 2014 to 2018. She was re-elected to a second term in 2017 but resigned after winning a city council seat in 2021.
What schools did DeGise teach at?
DeGise taught middle school social studies at Frank R. Conwell School #3 from 1998 to 2005. She then taught 10th grade history at Dickinson High School until 2008.
What was the hit-and-run incident involving DeGise?
In July 2022, while running for city council, DeGise struck a cyclist with her car and left the scene. She was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and pleaded guilty in January 2023.
What legislation has DeGise sponsored as a council member?
On the city council, DeGise has sponsored measures to expand curbside food waste recycling and require bias training for police officers. She has focused much of her efforts on education issues.