For the first time in years, the city’s schools will open with the fewest vacancies in September, school officials said on Wednesday night. As of Friday, the district recalled 37 positions and processed 166 new teacher hires, according to a report presented to the school board.
There still remains 12 teacher vacancies that still have to be filled. Deputy superintendent Susana Peron told the board 99.4-percent of all instructional positions have been filled.
“We’ve been working extremely hard to get ready for school in September,” said acting superintendent Eileen Shafer. She said administration officials have met every week in July and August to “ensure everything is ready” for first day of school.
“When have we ever been at 99-percent?” asked school board president Christopher Irving.
“Never,” remarked another board member.
Irving, who is on his third term, could not recall a year since he joined the board. In the past three school years the district started with dozens of vacancies.
The district had 77 vacancies in 2014-15 school year. 2015-16, had 40. And 2016-17, had 24, according to Peron.
Shafer said the numbers do not take into account retirement and resignations after Aug. 1, 2017. The numbers also do not take into account hires being made using $4.2 million the district received from the state.
Peron’s report also states all principal and vice principal positions have been filled.
The district is also making upgrades at School 11 which will be the new home of the Great Falls Academy, an alternative school. The building is being re-keyed to better manage and monitor security at the Market Street building. Indoor and outdoor cameras are being installed. Cafeteria floors have been redone and both staff and student bathrooms are being upgraded.
Community leaders had raised concerns about School 11. Some of it centered on the bathroom and cafeteria. There was also lack of air conditioning inside the building. Funds have to be identified to put in air conditioning in all offices and classrooms, says the report.
The district crafted a security plan that includes placing a police officer and a security officer at the entrance to the Market Street building at the start of school day. There will also be metal detectors at the school, according to the report.
All three floors will have security during class hours. A police officer will be at the school from 7 a.m. through 2:30 p.m.
The district has upgraded the School 3 cafeteria following complaints and a petition by parents. An old freezer was taken out and a new kitchen area has been installed to provided expanded seating capacity for students.
“As we enter this new school year, we must do so with a renewed sense of vision and purpose as we work collectively to make Paterson Public Schools second to none in urban education,” said Shafer.
Shafer and Peron received praise from board members and advocates.
The district is also opening with two additional librarians and two substance abuse counselors.