As 900 of Paterson’s 29,000 students came back to school buildings this week, they were greeted with dead rodents, cockroaches, standing water, mold, broken air conditioners, and filth. One student classroom even had a visit from a pigeon. Bathrooms were missing paper products, soap, and have disgusting toilets that were not cleaned since March of 2020. Many windows won’t open. The sinks either clog, spout brown water, or both. Unfortunately, the district lacks the will to change anything, sending a destructive message to students that they are not worth better conditions.

In an effort to work collaboratively, Paterson Education Association (P.E.A.) Health and Safety Chairperson Joy Spinelli emailed Neil Mapp, the district’s operation officer yesterday asking, “Can you please give me the timeline as to when the broken air compressor in Rm 303 in EWK will be fixed? A work order had been placed.” Mapp, who earns $170,363 annually, responded,“Please direct your questions to your attorney.” Mapp’s response is contradictory to Superintendent Eileen Shafer’s rant at a recent board meeting that P.E.A. should be sharing its concerns directly with school administration. Doctors take a Hippocratic oath; this superintendent apparently took a hypocritical oath.

This week, in a letter, P.E.A. President John McEntee notified Mapp that he had evidence of widespread misrepresented cleaning logs that violate the protocols in the school district’s reopening plan. Additionally, Mapp was informed that air quality and severe heat issues due to the district’s broken and dysfunctional ventilation and air conditioning systems are making people sick. At least one staff member required medical assistance, and some classrooms are reaching 95 degrees or higher. Member surveys indicate that approximately 17 percent of air conditioning units are working as designed. As of Thursday afternoon, there has been no response – or remediation – from Mapp, Superintendent Eileen Shafer, or the Board of Education.

Shafer, Mapp, and the Board of Education have had over 15 months and more than 20 million dollars to get school buildings and district offices ready for occupancy. The state of the school buildings is so appalling that even rodents and roaches are having a hard time staying alive in them. Not only are these conditions unfit for Paterson students and staff, but the P.E.A. believes this superintendent, project director, and board is also unfit for Paterson. This is evidenced by the fact that Mapp went on vacation the week before school buildings opened, and this superintendent and board have clearly not properly inspected the schools.

In his letter to Mapp yesterday, McEntee emphasized, “It is clear to parents, union members, students, and the community that you have failed to provide healthy and safe conditions for our students and staff.  To think that these conditions exist for our most vulnerable students on their first day back in classrooms is heartbreaking.”