PATERSON, NJ - Acting State Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf will discuss the status of Paterson schools when he meets with the Paterson Board of Education on Wednesday at 6 pm.
The meeting, at 90 Delaware Avenue, will be open to the public and include an opportunity for city residents to ask Cerf questions, said Board of Education President Willa Mae Taylor.
"Even if they don't have a question for him, they should come,'' said Taylor. "He's going to tell us how he views the state of education in Paterson.''
Board members invited Cerf to Paterson, partly to discuss the ongoing state control of the district. Last year, a preliminary evaluation indicated that Paterson's Board of Education achieved scores that were high enough for local officials to regain control over certain areas. But a subsequent state review of the evaluation revised the scores.
The school board is looking for control over the one area in the New Jersey Department of Education’s ranking system in which Paterson Public Schools achieved passing scores in the past two state evaluations – governance.
The state took control of Paterson schools in 1991 to reform the city’s failing education system. Two decades later, however, Paterson schools continue to struggle as most city students are unable to reach proficiency levels on state testing.
In a September letter announcing that the state would maintain control over Paterson schools, Cerf cited the district’s ongoing academic problems as the basis for that decision. But Board of Education members have argued that it was unfair for Cerf to blame local officials for the academic failings because the state oversees instruction through its appointment of the district’s superintendent.
New Jersey’s system for evaluating school districts and determining whether they ought to be under state control is called Quality Single Accountability Continuum, or QSAC. Paterson and Newark are the two districts in New Jersey that the state controls. In July, Cerf opted to retain control over Newark schools even though the district achieved passing scores in four of the five categories.
Under state control, the education department appoints the superintendent who has final say over all aspects of the school district’s operations. The Board of Education votes on contracts, personnel reports and budgets, but the superintendent has the power to override those votes. For the most part, the elected board members serve in an advisory role.
If Paterson regained control over governance, the state still would have power over the budget, hiring and the curriculum.