PLAINFIELD, NJ – Parents and teachers applauded as the Plainfield Public Schools interim superintendent pledged to put children first in the district, announcing changes that will go into effect in time for the start of the next school year.

“This is the beginning of us looking at reorganizing the district,” said Dr. Ronald Bolandi at Tuesday’s board of education meeting. “A lot of good things will happen that should change the flow of the district. We’re hoping the moves we are making over the next few months will greatly benefit our students.”

Some of the changes include getting parents and the local community more involved with curriculum decisions and finding ways to make the learning environment better for children.

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“With 70% of the students failing, is this what the parents really want,” he asked, saying parents must demand better for the students. “You can’t accept kids graduating illiterate.”

“If you are a parent in this room, don’t accept mediocrity,” said Bolandi, adding that he and the school board should be held accountable for student achievement. “If you are an educator, then let’s step it up.”

As part of the agenda for the meeting, board members voted to approve teacher and staff assignments for every position, with some being moved to other schools, grades, and subject areas to which officials determined they are better qualified.  

“My goal was not to have people end the year and not know their assignments (for the fall),” said Bolandi. “All have been fully vetted (for their roles) and are expected to do well.”

He said they are still interviewing outside candidates for certain key positions that need to be filled, and that most internal staff movements have been finished or will be announced by the end of the week.

Several parents and teachers thanked Bolandi for taking the lead to make changes in the district, some offering their own recommendations for improvement.

“The kids need to be better prepared to compete,” said one parent who, with the high percentage of students from Spanish speaking countries in district schools, suggested more classes to teach everyone how to better speak the language.

And a teacher asked officials to look at improving standards that determine when children should be retained in a grade, saying the current process is counterproductive since it require teachers to produce more supporting evidence on top of the reports already recorded during the school year in the online Genesis grading system.

“When a student has failed all year long, there is no reason why they should be promoted when assessments and progress already show their ability,” she said.  “It is our professional responsibility not to move that student forward until they are prepared.”