PATERSON, NJ – About 3,000 city children would switch schools in September under a sweeping proposal aimed at reforming Paterson’s public education system that was made public for the first time during a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Nine of the city’s poorest performing schools would undergo dramatic changes in student populations, including two buildings that would shut down as regular schools and reopen as magnet programs, according to the plan.
School 11 on Market Street in the 5th Ward would become a “New Comers” magnet program for students from the surrounding neighborhood with little or no English skills.
Also, the building now used for the Dr. Frank Napier School of Technology in the 1st Ward would become the home for two magnet schools, one for gifted and talented students and one for the performing arts. Any leftover space at the current Napier building would be leased for educational purposes, possibility with a charter school or with Passaic County Community College, officials said.
State-appointed superintendent Donnie Evans emphasized that the plan remains in draft version and that additional revisions could be made before anything is put into effect. The committee working on the reorganization plans will hold its next meeting on April 17 and the district has scheduled a community forum on the proposal for April 24 at 6:30 pm at Kennedy High School. The state wants Paterson to submit its plan by May 1.
During the past two weeks, the district has dropped a controversial proposal to bring in a private company to operate School 13. Also, the current version of the plan includes only limited opportunities for charter schools to operate within district-owned buildings – a possibility that had been a prime target of criticism from some Board of Education members in recent weeks.
Paterson Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges said he felt the school board should have played a greater role in designing the changes proposed by the district and questioned the wisdom of using badly-needed regular school buildings for magnet schools.
“Then where would we put the magnet schools?’’ asked Freeholder Theodore Best, the former city school board member who the district hired as a contractor to work on the school reform plan.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Paterson Education Fund President Irene Sterling described the restructuring of schools as rearranging “the deck chairs.” Sterling said, “I’m looking for a bold set of policies and interventions.’’
At that point, Evans handed out sheets listing 18 strategies, most of which already are being employed to various degrees in various city schools. They include basing teacher evaluations on student performance, changing the staff at failing schools, and hiring consultants to bring new techniques and curricula to the district.
“Some of it can start right away, some of it can take a little bit longer,’’ said Orlando Castro, who works in the chief of staff’s office at the New Jersey Department of Education. The best way to ensure students get a good education, Castro said, is to have good teachers and good principals.
Here’s a breakdown of the school-by-school changes outlined in the preliminary plan:
School 6 would have grades 5 through 8 with students coming from School 21 and Edward J. Kilpatrick. Its k-4 students would attend School 21 and Kilpatrick. “Excess classroom space” could be used for “creative academic programming,” a phrase officials could include arrangements with charter schools.
School 11 would become the New Comers magnet for students from Schools 11, 15, 24 and New Roberto Clemente. Its students in grades 1-4 would go to New Roberto Clemente and from 5-8 to School 15.
School 15 would become have grades 5 through 8, taking in students from New Roberto Clemente and School 11. Its kindergarten through 4th grade students would attend New Roberto Clemente, while its students with weak English skills would attend the New Comers magnet. It would also undergo changes in staff.
School 18 would undergo a new registration to send student to other surrounding schools to relieve its overcrowding. At present it has 1,214 students with a capacity of 778.
School 21 would restart as a Pre-k through fourth grade school with students from School 6. Its 5-8 students would attend School 6.
School 28 would take in students from Napier School. Also, the administration, faculty and programs from Napier would relocate to the School 28 building. Its students would continue to attend school that same building. Its special education students would return to their original schools.
Kilpatrick would become a pre-k through 4th grade school. It’s 5th graders would go to neighborhood schools.
Napier School (formerly School 4) would move to occupy School 28. Its current building would be used for the magnets schools for gifted and talented and performing arts programs. Extra space would be used for “creative academic programming.”
New Roberto Clemente School would be reconfigured as pre-k through 4th grade school and include students from Schools 11 and 15. Its 5-8 graders would go to School 15.