PATERSON, N.J.- On Wednesday Night, parents and students gathered at the Paterson Public Schools Board of Education meeting to voice their disapproval at Superintendent Dr. Donnie Evans’s override of the BOE’s decision on the budget.
The budget was voted down in a 9-0 vote by the Board of Education commissioners. Regardless of their vote to reject the budget, the state-appointed Superintendent still has the authority to override their vote by a veto, which Evans did on Thursday.
Evans gave no comment about his decision on the budget during the meeting.
A group of twenty to thirty parents and students gathered at the meeting and stood up together with signs that said “We deserve better” “Fight for our children” when someone had to speak.
One parent said, “Dr. Evans, you should be ashamed at yourself. I don’t know how you can sleep with yourself at night,” the parent continued, “Paterson teachers give a lot of their students, even when they have nothing, they still give something.” The parent stated that the children are receiving “half-ass” quality of education with the continued budget cuts and, “[Evans] is trying to make his boss[Governor Chris Christie] happy, and not make the correct choice.”
A former student of Paterson Public Schools and a current parent from School #19 said that she came to the district in 1989 as an immigrant who didn’t speak much english. However, because of teachers who “impacted her life,” she was able to learn english and stand where she is today. “It used to be that our teachers would be happy for the students because they would see their bright futures, but now, the teachers have fear for our children for their futures.” She told Evans, “Shame on you,” for his decision to submit the budget to the state.
One resident, who has been following the budget claimed that the district can apply for for additional funding. He requested of Evans to start demanding to the state that we need additional funding to make up for the budget cuts.
Another parent, who have two children in need of special service, Down Syndrome and Autism, moved to Paterson from Newark in hopes for better services for her children, but described the quality of service her children are receiving from the district. She said, “My son is nonverbal and he has no one to communicate to at school,” she continued, “he has been bullied several times, to the extent of him being spat on, being smacked in the face, and someone pulling his pants down.” The parent stated that the school should be following their IEPs, but district is out of compliance with the recent budget cuts and made a plea for her children to be moved out of the district because they need “a place to meet their needs.”
The parent’s sisters, who also spoke at the meeting commented, “How are you[the district] going to put the children last on the list?” The sisters went into depth about the horrors that their niece and nephew were going through at school. Another one of the sisters said, “Budget cuts are necessary, but special needs are necessary.” One of the sisters worked for the state and said that the school is out of compliance with the laws set in place for children with disabilities. “My sister is crying every night and we want out,” stated one of the sisters, “My niece and nephew are suffering from the Paterson School district.”
Commissioner Manny Martinez commented on the residents who came to the meeting, “I applaud the parents for coming out and being vocal because none of us[the commissioners] were in agreeance with how the budget was processed nor with the final numbers in the budget. Unfortunately the superintendent vetoed it.”