Commissioner Oshin Castillo Makes History as First Latina BOE President. Paterson Schools Meet Benchmarks for Local Control

Paterson Board of Education held their reorganization on Wednesday, January 3. Credits: Erin Rice
Commissioner Joel Ramirez takes the oath of office Credits: Erin Rice
Dr. Hodges is the longest serving member of the Paterson Board of Education Credits: Erin Rice
Commissioner Kenneth Simmons was returned to the BOE by voters in November Credits: Erin Rice

PATERSON, NJ- The Paterson Board of Education reorganized for 2018 amid news that the District had met state benchmarks to allow for the return of complete control of the Paterson’s education system for the first time since 1991.

Meeting at the John F. Kennedy Education Complex on Wednesday, the body first heard a report regarding the recent election results with the three successful candidates each taking their oath to serve a three-year term. The winners in November were Dr. Jonathan Hodges, the Board’s longest serving member, Kenneth Simmons, who served two terms previously before losing his seat in 2016, and Joel Ramirez, the Board’s only newcomer.

From a local politics perspective the administration of the oaths was a star-studded affair with Hodges being sworn in for his sixth term by Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter; Simmons taking the oath from Paterson native and local attorney Kenyatta Stewart, Esq., himself rumored to be considering joining the crowded field of mayoral candidates; and Ramirez being joined on stage by Passaic Mayor Hector Lora.

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Sumter spoke briefly prior to delivering the oath to Hodges thanking all of the members for dedicating their time to the unpaid position and serving “our community, teachers and our students.”

The body as a whole then elected its President and Vice President for the coming year with Oshin Castillo becoming the first Latina to serve in the top position and Nakima Redmon garnering the votes to serve as Vice President. While Hodges and Ramirez abstained in the vote for President, and Hodges being absent when it came time to cast his vote for Vice President, both Castillo and Redmon won the positions with no dissenting votes.

Earlier in the meeting Acting Superintendent Eileen Shafer announced that that the district had surpassed the 80% threshold in each category on the latest state review, known as the Quality Single Accountability Continuum, or QSAC, and is now eligible for consideration to be given back full local control.

Scores are given in five different categories and Paterson’s marks were: Governance – 100%, Personnel - 100%, Instruction and Program – 82%, Operations – 85% and Fiscal Management – 86%.

Paterson had already regained partial control, but now will be able to regain decision making ability entirely. According to Shafer the State Board of Education will need to pass a resolution authorizing the Commissioner of Education to formulate a transition plan with the district, with that plan requiring approval by the State Board. While there was no timeline mentioned it has been noted previously that any return to local control will now occur under the Administration of Governor-Elect Phil Murphy who will take office later this month.

Outgoing Board President Dr. Chris Irving thanked everyone who has served under state control for their work to get local control back. Irving also made specific mention of the role “strong women” have played in leadership positions and said that the election of Castillo and Redmon as the body’s leaders “should inspire our young students to know that they can do whatever they want to no matter their race or ethnicity and gender.”

Castillo agreed, saying she hopes her election and the achievements of the district will help to continue improving the educational outcomes of Paterson’s students.  Commenting on the historic nature of serving in her new role Castillo offered that she is “excited and hope to serve as an inspiration to all of our young people to keep working hard.”

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