TRENTON, NJ- Paterson Public Schools is one step closer to full local control on Wednesday following two votes by the New Jersey State Board of Education in favor of initiating the process of withdrawal of the District from partial State intervention. The resolutions, both receiving unanimous support, approved the transition of oversight in the areas of governance and instruction and program, and authorized the Commissioner of Education to work with school administrators in Paterson to development a full transition plan for local control respectively.
A crowd of more than 40, including Assembly members Benjie Wimberly and Shavonda Sumter, school administrators, Paterson Board of Education members, parents, and education activists packed into the small conference room in Trenton waiting for the moments the votes were cast before rising in a standing ovation of the decision.
“This is a proud moment for Paterson and a testament to the hard work taking place each and every day at our schools and district office,” said Paterson’s Acting State District Superintendent Eileen Shafer. “Paterson is ready for local control, our community will embrace it,” Shafer continued before concluding her comments by assuring those gathered that her Administration will continue to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to “stay focused and continue to increase performance.”
Paterson’s schools have been under state control since 1991, and while certain elements have been turned back over to the district, including in 2014 and 2016, Wednesday’s decision, according to Rosie Grant, executive director of the Paterson Education Fund (PEF), now means that for the first time in over 26 years “people closest to Paterson’s children will have decision making power” when it comes to local education.
“It’s time for Paterson to run Paterson’s schools, not Trenton,” Board of Education Commissioner Emanuel Capers told TAPinto Paterson as he waited for the meeting to start. His counterpart, Commissioner Manny Martinez Jr., quickly added that the anticipated decision was “a long time coming.” Both offered their confidence that with real decision making now at the local level the education of Paterson’s nearly 30,000 students would improve. “A tremendous amount of work has already been done,” Martinez said touting Shafer’s work to create an “inclusive plan that has given everyone a voice.”
Former Board of Education President T.J. Best predicted that it was the diversity of the Board of Education, and the common trait among them all of “having the kid’s best interests at heart” that will lead to more success in classrooms across the city as a result of the decision. “Paterson is no less ready to manage their children’s education,” than any other municipality in the state Best said, and the results, in time, will prove that.
Local education activist Corey Teague was also in attendance at the meeting saying after that while the Paterson Board of Education has continued to function in support of children, refusing to accept that their role was strictly advisory, “now it’s official.” With local decision makers now having autonomy to make decisions regarding the more than $500 million dollar school budget Teague said, the community will truly be able to “hold them accountable.”
And he will be watching closely, he warned, before offering that if he doesn’t like what he’s seeing he will seek election to the board he once served on in November’s election.
“We have waited over 26 years for the return of local control and now this day has finally come to fruition,” Paterson School Board President Oshin Castillo said. “This Board stands committed in ensuring the best possible future for all of our children.”