PATERSON, NJ – In an overnight response to an impending problem, state-appointed Schools Superintendent Donnie Evans has put in place a plan that will provide all mandated special education services to children at School No. 10 by Monday.
After a parent complained at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, Evans went to the school on Thursday to resolve the failure to provide the compensatory specialm education services by a November 1 deadline.
In a letter to board members, Evans said collective bargaining issues had complicated the school's ability to provide the services, but speicial education teachers at School 10 agreed to provide the after-school sessions at a pay rate previously established in a union contract.
During Wednesday's meeting, there also had been talk of supply shortages at the school. Evans said the principal surveyed her teachers and determined that all classes had their textbooks and other primary materials. But grades k through 5 lacked workbooks and other supplemental materials for language arts. Those supplies are on order, Evans said, and he advised the prinicipal to alert him if they do not arrive within days.
This isn an important year School No. 10. AMong the lowest-performing schools in New Jersey, it was picked to receive a $2 million per year federal grant. A new principal and vice principal were put in charge. Half the staff was sent to other schools and new people were brought in.
So some board members were upset that the school had gotten off on the wrong track. They expressed anger and frustration at Wednesday night’s meeting.
“This is unacceptable,’’ Paterson Public Schools Commissioner Christopher Irving.
“What really bothers me is that this is a school that needs is so much extra help and it starts off on the wrong foot,’’ said another commissioner, Pedro Rodriguez. “Then we ask ourselves at the end of the why these children don’t learn.’’
The problem only came to light at Wednesday’s meeting when a parent, Linda Reed, complained about the situation.
Last year, the district also failed to provide special education services that were mandated by the state. But last year, the district was under a state-imposed spending freeze that local officials blamed for the special education shortages. This year, the district doesn’t have that excuse. At Wednesday’s board meeting, officials could not say exactly why School 10 was coming up short on its obligation to its special education students.
Meanwhile, officials blamed some of the supply shortages on the overhaul designed to improve the school. Officials said that some teachers who were transferred to other schools took supplies with them, leaving School 10 without books and other items it needs.
Paterson Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges said the problems at School 10 were part of trend in which the district’s highly-paid staff members were not being held accountable by the superintendent’s office.
“People have to be afraid that if they fall short, they’re not going to be here tomorrow,’’ Hodges said. “Dr. Evans, you’re not being served well by your staff,’’ Hodges added.