Paterson Top Stories

Looking For Leaders: New Principals at 25 Percent of City Schools

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School 27 is one of those getting a new principal
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PATERSON, NJ – One out of every four Paterson public schools will have a principal this year who is different from the administrator who was in charge when classes began in 2011.

School board members say the turnover is unusually high and stems from the district’s efforts to improve the poor quality of the education many city children receive.

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“The level of accountability for our principals has been raised,’’ said Board of Education President Christopher Irving. “If you’re going to be chosen as the school leaders, you’ve got to lead.’’

Paterson Public Schools released its list of principals for the 2012 school year last week. [Editor's note: Subsequent to that list, the district has named Alciner Jones to be principal at School 6 and officials say an interim principal may be appointed at School 21 because  Michelle James may go on leave.]

PatersonPress.com compared that list with information from the district’s website and found that 13 of the city’s 52 principal positions at “traditional” schools will be held by someone who has been appointed during the summer or during the previous academic year.

“That’s higher than the norm,’’ said school board member Jonathan Hodges. “That’s substantially higher than the norm.”

“According to the superintendent, he’s looking to ensure that the district is operating in a manner that reflects what he’s trying to accomplish,’’ added Hodges.

Evans often has said at public meetings that the principal and the teachers are the two factors that have the most impact on whether students will learn.

Grace Giglio, head of the association that represents principals, did not return a phone message seeking her comments for this story.

When asked about the changes in the principal positions, the district’s spokeswoman, Terry Corallo, said, “In a district of our size, we expect to have some turn-over each year, but we are also making strategic changes as we continue to ensure we have strong instructional leaders at each school.’’

Corallo refused to provide details on where all the reassigned principals have landed. It was not clear if any have been terminated. “I cannot provide information on personnel matters,’’ she said.

In fact, New Jersey law says the salaries and job titles of school district employees are considered public information.

Corallo said that to the best of her knowledge none of the replaced principals has retired.

In several cases, principals are being moved from one school to another. For example, Frank Puglise is being switched from School 21 to School 27.

In three instances - New Roberto Clemente and Schools 11 and 15 - new principals are being put in place as part of the reconfiguration of those three schools.

In three instances, at Schools 3, 8 and 26, Corallo said new principals were put in place during the 2011-12 school year. She said “they are not technically ‘new this year’”.  PatersonPress.com included those instances in its tally of changes because the three principals were not in those jobs at the start of school a year ago.

Here’s the complete list of schools that have had principal changes in the past 12 months: Kennedy High’s Architecture and Construction Trade academy, Kennedy’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics academy, Garrett Morgan Academy, New Roberto Clemente, Don Bosco, and Schools 3, 6, 8, 11, 15, 21, 26, and 27.

The president of the Paterson Education Association, the union that represents city teachers, said the changes in leadership have created an “unstable environment.’’

“That’s part of or concern,’’ said the union president, Peter Tirri. “The district is in constant upheaval and change. From our perspective, it’s not change for a purpose, it’s change for the sake of change.’’

Under the reforms enacted in the school district this year, principals have gained increased autonomy on which teachers they have in their schools. Tirri said there have numerous reassignments of teachers to go along with the administrative changes.

Irving said that additional authority over their staffs brings greater expectations for the principals’ performance. Irving said the district also is providing principals with extra “coaching” and is encouraging its most successful principals to “share best practices” with others.

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