PATERSON, NJ - Monday night, at a special joint meeting hosted by the Paterson Public Schools Board of Education, three New Jersey State takeover districts, vowed to fight against the state’s control of their urban public schools. The three districts present included Jersey City, Newark and Paterson, while Camden is also under state control, the Camden district has not joined the conversations.
At the second of three planned meetings, turnout at JFK High School was low, 20 Board of Education members focused on strengthening unity to regain local school control.
In 1991, Paterson became the second of the three troubled districts forced to surrender control of its public schools to the state. Over 20 years and six superintendents later, under the districts Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC), N.J. Department of Education’s monitoring and evaluation system, the district’s 52 schools have received failing marks. Some B.O.E activists feel that the five key components of the QSAC’s are being numerically manipulated and altered to discredit QSAC’s scoring process for the state’s political gain and continued control.
“We need to figure out what has to be done to get local control back and the best approach for it,” Paterson BOE Commissioner Kenneth Simmons said. “If that means working with the state in some form or fashion, then I think that is an option we need to look at.”
“They [the state] are true believers who know what’s best and how to make money for their corporate friends,” Rutgers Law School Professor Paul Trachtenberg stated, “The system is flawed, and the house controls the game.” Politics plays a role; changes need to be put into place that the state has not complied with. Best of intentions and statues were put into place but it is not working and not meeting the needs and constitutional rights of the student.”
“Historically, legislation would not have been passed if people where not in the streets during civil rights, in Newark, people are involved but ignored,” Newark’s BOE President Antoinette Baskerville Richmond commented.
Holding steadfast to state timeline facts, that students in at risk areas are being set up to fail Professor Trachtenberg stated that, “Society has let lots of kids down by not attending to their needs.”
Community activism in conjunction with legal action was discussed as a viable option.
“If Paterson got local control in time, we could manage the political interference that occurred state wide, and direct a more consistent approach to education which has not been allowed during the state take over,” said Jonathan Hodges, BO E Commissioner. “I am excited that the three districts are talking and maybe we can get Camden to come to the table.”