Education

Updated: $3 Million in Administrative Cuts? No Easy Task For Paterson Public Schools

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Donnie Evans
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PATERSON, NJ – The task of cutting his administrative budget by $3 million over the next two years already is proving difficult for state-appointed schools superintendent Donnie Evans.

Evans told the Board of Education on Wednesday night that he has imposed a temporary hiring freeze for administrative personnel, which will leave several positions vacant, until the district can assess the financial impact of his new organizational chart.

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[Editor's note: This story now includes more information on salary changes as a consequence of the reorganization.]

The reorganization was supposed to be the first step towards meeting the district’s goal of cutting administrative costs by 25 percent by the end of the 2013-14 school year.

When asked by a board member how much in savings had been accomplished through the reorganization, Evans said, “We probably just scratched the surface. We cut some positions. We added some. Right now, it’s a wash.’’

Evans had announced the reorganization more than a month ago, but Paterson Public Schools did not release details of the plan until this past week.

As part of the changes, the number of assistant superintendents in the district will decline from four to three. One of those four, Michelle James, has been demoted to a principal’s job with a $20,000 cut in salary.

Other members of Evans’ Cabinet have shifted into new job titles. For example, Brenda Patterson, who had been chief academic officer, is now chief accountability officer. JoAnne Riviello, who had been chief assessment/accountability officer, is now academic officer. Those moves did not alter their salaries.

The president of the union that represents teachers said the reorganization was being used to give out raises to favored staff members. "I didn't see these jobs posted,'' said the union president, Peter Tirri.

Four people are getting raises as a result of new titles they received in the reorganization. Laurie Newell, who had been executive director of human resources, is now chief reform and innovation officer, with her pay going from $125,174 to $150,908. Terry Corallo, who had been communications director, is now executive director of information services with her pay going from $117,300 to $126,810.

Also, Gloria Bodker is moving from supervisor of early childhood education-special education to executive director for special education with her paying rising from $113,083 to $130,900 and Nicole Payne from principal to interim director of non-traditional programs, with her salary going from $105,063 to $113,630.

Some board members said the reductions in the district’s central administrative staff will force some administrators to put out more effort. “Some folks are actually going to do more work,’’ said Board of Education President Christopher Irving. “These are people who already do work, but they don’t do enough.’’

But other school board members said they were concerned that the cuts in administrative staff will undermine the district’s effort to improve the quality of education offered in Paterson.

“The workload is not going to decrease,’’ said board member Errol Kerr.

Paterson Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges said he was worried that the cuts will worsen the district's performance and pave the way for the state to take over individual failing schools. Hodges said that even before any cuts were imposed, the district’s administrators were not able to run the district effectively. For example, last year, he said, administrators allowed a new academy for construction trades to open without having requisite wood or machinery.

Evans said the district needed to reduce administrative spending because of a deficit looming in the 2013-14 school year.  Evans said he hoped that training and other programs would increase the capacity of school principals and other education staff so that fewer people are needed in central administration. But, he said, if the administrators are still needed in two years, the district will have to look elsewhere for cuts to balance its budget.

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