The school board has formed a 13-person search committee to recruit a superintendent for the Paterson Public Schools. Committee is made up of three school board members, two parents, two religious leaders, a university dean, a principal, a teacher, and two education partners.
Some immediately hurled criticism at the committee selection process after school board member Lilisa Mimms shared names of the individuals selected to serve on the committee.
“There are too many games being played here. You look at that list of 13 people, most of them are part of the political machine,” said former school board member Corey Teague. He took aim at the selection of school board members Nakima Redmon, Oshin Castillo, and Passaic County freeholder Assad Akhter.
Teague described Redmon and Castillo, both of whom are employed by the Democrat controlled Passaic County government, as inexperienced. He said neither has been on the board long enough to understand “what’s really going on here.”
Redmon and Castillo joined the school board in 2016. Both defended themselves on Wednesday night.
“Yes, I’m one of the youngest on this board, and very proud of it. I’m a part of the Paterson public school system and I’m a product of this system,” said Castillo, who, at 26 is the youngest member on the school board. As someone who grew up in the city and graduated from the district she is qualified to serve on the committee, she said.
Castillo is an alternate member on the committee.
“I’ve shown my dedication,” said Redmon. She said the criticism lobbied against her “offends” and “hurts.”
“He’s not local government. He’s a county person,” said Teague of Akhter. Some wondered why the committee did not include a member of the City Council. Council president Ruby Cotton said it would have been nice to have a council member on the committee; however, she noted, “the final say” is on the school board.
Teague inquired why Jonathan Hodges, the longest serving member of the Paterson Board of Education, was not on the committee.
School board president Christopher Irving defended the committee selection process. He said board members submitted names for the search committee. He invoked his authority as the board president to justify the committee member selections.
“I’m not punking out,” said Irving. He also rebuffed criticism against Castillo and Redmon. “This board had people 50, 60 years old for almost 13-14 years and see what it got us,” he said.
Hodges was under the impression the entire board would select the 13 members rather than the president. “One person did that not the board,” said Hodges of the committee member selections. “That’s concerning.” He is “dissenting” from the process, he said.
Hodges, Chrystal Cleaves, and Mimms were precluded from being on the committee. Hodges is running for re-election. Mimms is not running for re-election in November; she has instead opted to run for an at-large council seat next year.
“It makes no sense to make appointment of board members who may not be board members next year,” said Irving. He said the board agreed to not appoint people running for election or who won’t be on the board next year to the search committee.
Mimms irked her colleagues by sharing the names through a social media posting.
This year’s search committee is also very different from the 18-member committee of 2008 that led to the selection of former superintendent Donnie Evans, who retired in June. Irving noted there are no state-appointed representatives on the committee.
Irving has said the selection process will largely be driven by the school board. A timeline for the process says recruiting will start on Oct. 15, 2017. Application will close on Nov. 30. Interviews will be conducted Dec. 20. There will be three rounds of presentations from Jan. 1, 2018 through Feb. 15 to narrow the candidates down to three people. The school board will make the appointment on Mar. 1 and the new superintendent will begin employment on April 30th, 2017.
Local residents will also play a role in selection of their next school chief through community forums.
The Paterson Education Fund, a nonprofit education advocacy group, is hosting meetings in each of the city’s six wards to collect input from residents and others concerned about the school system. Schedule for meetings which run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. are as follows:
- Aug. 28, 2017 at John F. Kennedy High School
- Aug. 29, 2017 at School 25
- Aug. 30, 2017 at the Islamic Center of Passaic County
- Aug. 31, 2017 at Eastside High School
- Sept. 7, 2017 at School 28
- And Sept. 11, 2017 at School 6.
The council members for each of the six wards will be involved in the community forums, said Rosie Grant, executive director of the Paterson Education Fund.
Members of the search committee:
- School board members Christopher Irving, Manny Martinez, Nakima Redmon, Oshin Castillo (alternate)
- Clergy: Rev Kenneth Clayton
- Parents: Ramon Pagan, Harun Miah
- Advocate: Pastor Jesus Sevilla
- Higher education: Dr. Candace Burns, William Paterson
- Principal: Grace Giglio
- Teachers union: Lizandaa Alburg
- Local Government: Assad Akhter
- Partners: Rosie Grant and Bob Guarasci.
Correction (Sept. 9, 2017): A previous version of this story misspelled the last name of the union rep. on the committee. Her last name is Alburg.