Letters to the Editor

Teachers Union Gives School Reform Plan A Thumbs-Down

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To the Members of the Paterson Board of Education:

Once again the Paterson community is faced with a plan for destroying another piece of the Paterson Public School system, and what is even more frustrating is that it doesn’t seem that anything we say or do can stop this Fat Cat train from moving on down the tracks.  The Paterson Board of Education has received a plan that would disrupt at least seven schools for the first time, three for a second time, and disband two of the Innovative Academies established years ago.  Not in the name of better education, but in the name of better test scores.

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Please note that there is nothing that will assure that test scores will actually increase.  Instead, this plan intends to do nothing but play the old staff shuffle game moving staff and kids from one site to another.  Instead of trying to build our school communities, the Board of Education will be voting to destroy them!

For the last five or six years all that has gone on is the disruption of our schools, forced upon us by the State Department of Education who has done virtually nothing for the Paterson schools since it forced Dr. Napier out.  Since 1991, Paterson’s schools have been under the total domination of the New Jersey Department of Education. We have had virtually no say in anything that has gone on in Paterson. From Wilson, to Duroy, to Clancy, to Glascoe, to Clancy again, and now Dr. Evans, the final determination has always been with the New Jersey Department of Education.

Remember Wilson’s “Paradigm Program” where industrial arts teachers (yes, before the State took us over our kids had industrial arts and home economics too) were teaching reading? Where kids got no social studies and no science? And the results of this brainstorm BS program? Test scores went down. And we, the education employees of Paterson WERE TOTALLY IGNORED WHEN WE OBJECTED TO THIS DISASTER. TOTALLY!

Over the years, we have had program after program after program shoved down our collective throats. Only Dr. Duroy ever listened to anything we had to say. Only Duroy involved us in the Innovative Academy initiative, which resulted in a series of thematic schools for our students years before anyone else initiated them. Everything else has been hurry up and throw programs, and textbooks, and curricula, and all manner of instructional gimmicks into the schools. Never with any input from the parents, the community or the staff.  Never with adequate training. Never taking any time to review what was or was not working. Never giving anything an opportunity to “take hold”.

AND, on top of all of this, the state has done virtually nothing to bring the schools up to the “modern” standards promised when it took over.  The State put new windows in the schools; and limited how far the windows would open. They put in new HVAC systems that were supposed to help heat and cool the classrooms; but reduced custodial staff so that the filters are rarely changed, and the units themselves are not maintained properly. Other than that, basically nothing!

Even worse, we, the employees without any real say in any of this … are the ones getting the “blame” for the failures of the school system. We have been criticized, and blamed, despite the fact that in reality we have continued to work, every day, to help our students, despite the confusion and insanity imposed upon us by the New Jersey Department of Education.

And we have to accept some blame as well. Our members have allowed themselves to be manipulated by the Governor, and the New Jersey Department of Education, and our administration into applauding when they say it’s time to get rid of so-called bad teachers, like they never have had the opportunity to do that in the past.  Now, with the bright lights of the King of New Jersey shining on education, administrators in some schools are doing exactly what we said they would … providing low-rated evaluations to staff members who dared to oppose inane, arbitrary and capricious directives or who may have made an insignificant error, or stood up for their rights.  In one school a teacher lost a salary adjustment as a result of enforcing a SCHOOL RULE!  How dare he?

The Governor’s State Department plans to vilify us is for two reasons … to allow himself to avoid settling a new contract and to get public schools into private hands … to let his Fat Cat friends make money from our schools, our students, our livelihood, our profession!

 

 This program will move kids around, but not change or improve any of the schools that we are using.

 

This program will take one of our newest schools, equipped with science labs, modern media center and other facilities that would benefit upper grade students, and but primary grades alone in the school.

 

This program would try for the 3rd or 4th time to re-shape School # 6.

 

This program will try to start more Paterson Pre-School run programs.  An idea that the State Department of Education rejected when Abbott pre-schools were opened.

This program proposes to establish a Port-of –Entry school, an idea that the State Department of Education rejected when it was proposed when Dr. Duroy was here, AT School # 11, sending those students to overcrowd School # 15, and New Roberto Clemente.

 

This plan will impose on multiple schools the “programs” of the Innovative Zone.  A project less than one year old, with no proven positive impact but lots of confusion.

This plan to mandate “principal autonomy” is going to be a disaster on many levels.  We are not naïve enough to believe that administrators do not speak with each other about a variety of issues.  Staff requests for transfers will be virtually eliminated as a result.  “Excess Staff members” (HUH?  AGAIN, EXCESS??) will be “reassigned to support district initiatives”  (HUH?) and evaluated to see if they are “fit” to return to the classroom.  HOW WILL PUTTING STAFF IN THE PATERSON RUBBER ROOM ALLOW THEM TO PROVE THEMSELVES?  WHAT WILL BE THE BASIS UNPON WHICH THEY WILL BE REMOVED?  We suspect that the “friends” of the administrators will remain, those who oppose stupidity in the schools will be banished.

 

Strong, vocal Association reps will find themselves without positions based upon their advocacy for their members, the contract, and, by extension, the students.  UNION BUSTING at its most devious.

 

The list goes on and on.  And by the way, the “new” Marshall Street School site remains vacant, and School # 16 has not had one brick taken from it for the new school.

 

Also missing is a real plan to implement the schools/academies that have been imposed upon JFK and Eastside.  Programs without supplies, materials, equipment will never succeed.  It took the District 2/3 of the school year before the Culinary Arts program had a KITCHEN!  Science labs are lacking in space, supplies and materials.  Students are assigned to classes not based upon interest, but upon space!

 

You must ask yourself if the continual transfer of teachers is going to help or hinder progress in our schools?  Why will that make things better?  2,470 transfers over the past four years.  Removing our most experienced staff members, virtually forcing them to retire.  Causing a reduction in force that brought total confusion to the District even while the State has stolen millions of dollars from your staff by illegally denying them their increments.  IF WE HAVE EXCESS STAFF, why aren’t we reinstating the AST programs that helped students close the “achievement gap” (assuming they weren’t being taken from their classes to handle the school candy sale).

You must ask yourself if the plans for these schools will actually be established for September.  Remember the words of the science teacher who told you at the budget meeting that he was supposed to teach chemistry lab without a lab, without chemicals and without equipment.  Remember that words of teacher after teacher who spoke about a lack of supplies and materials. 

Remember the words of the Department of Labor who cited Kennedy High School for many safety citations based upon the failure of the State to provide funds for repairs.

Remember the words of Mike Myles, the newest Educational guru to take Paterson’s money and then run out on us, who has repeatedly said that his programs should be instituted slowly and providing complete training. Instead, the State  has thrown the process at the staff, amid erroneous understandings and bizarre interpretations, which have only lead to another curricular failure.

This system is so busy trying to improve that we have had no time to actually, and thoroughly plan new programs.  Take the mess, load it on a shovel and see what sticks!

Paterson teachers go beyond every day … cleaning rooms on Saturdays or after school hours, setting up the classes for our students?  We spend HUNDREDS of dollars for basic supplies and materials that the New Jersey Department of Education fails to provide?

THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, not Paterson’s staff, has failed the City of Paterson and Paterson’s students.  Now we are threatened by those who, FOR 21 YEARS, have not had a clue about how to improve this school system

Our school system has had nothing but instability during the TWENTY-ONE YEARS of state intervention.  Six Superintendents, innumerable STATE appointed Assistants who served to raise their pensions and then fled.  Thousands of staff transfers, most apparently done solely for the sake of transfer to make it appear that things were happening in the schools. 

We need the involvement of our students’ parents, recognizing that they are the primary teachers of their children.  We need them to recognize and accept that undesirable and unacceptable behavior is counterproductive to effective educational practices and that students must live up to those standards.  We must stop springing new initiatives on parents and staff and students.

I’m sorry, but this plan is another in a series of plans that will not work in a year.  We need to work together – Board, parents, educators – to create plans for improvement based upon what we, not the State, thinks we need.  Left to our own, we can make the schools better.  We need funding that meets the State’s obligation under the law.  We need to have those funds spent responsibly; not wasting money on “made-up” administrative positions required by the State in order to get the funds.  We need compliance with State regulations about class size.  We need professional development aimed at improving instruction; professional development that comes to us as a result of proven effectiveness in similar sized districts facing the same issues as we do in Paterson.  Programs that are well-thought out, well-planned and given time for complete training and understanding to be provided before implementation occurs.

And more than anything, we need the Governor and the Commissioner to stop playing their political games with this system.  THEY are killing us – the administration, the staff, the kids and the parents.  They need to go, and so does this plan.         

P.E.A. believes that the way to end home rule is for Paterson to show that we can make decisions in the interests of students and staff, not the Governor or the Commissioner of Education.  We urge you to reject the Commissioner’s plan and vote instead to allow parents and the P.E.A. to work with our administration to make our schools better.  We know what the students of Paterson need.  Support giving the staff, the parents, and the community the opportunity to find REAL solutions to our problems.

 

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

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