Over the weekend, I read an article in the Paterson Times entitled, “Paterson unveils plan to ‘turnaround’ failing all-boys school.” In this article, Paterson Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Cicely Warren was quoted as saying, “We’re interested in having teachers there who are interested in serving these students, we really need for the staff to be experts in teaching the way young boys learn.” As a result, as the Union representative of all employees in the District, I am appalled by Cicely Warren’s comments in the Paterson Times. In fact, the Union is so shocked by these comments, we are calling for a public apology from Ms. Warren to the employees, students, and the Paterson community at large.
First, let me set the record straight. All of the employees that were assigned to the Young Men’s Leadership Academy during the 17-18 school year are outstanding educators. I am proud to serve alongside each of these employees. On behalf of the Union, I truly am humbled by their level of dedication and expertise in each of their respective academic disciplines. Even facing many District imposed challenges, all of these employees worked extremely hard this school year to ensure that all of the students that they serviced received a quality public school education. It is unfortunate that their reward for their service was a snub in the newspaper by the assistant superintendent, and a directive to reapply for their jobs.
Second, in early Spring, the Union conducted member climate surveys at the Young Men’s Leadership Academy. The premise behind this survey was to dig deeper into our members’ concerns regarding their complaints about their overall experience(s) as an employee at the YMLA. What was uncovered in the Union’s survey supports our members’ position that the principal(s) assigned to the Young Men’s Leadership Academy created an environment that failed to foster relevant professional development, examples of how to improve, and lacked the professionalism that should be expected in any employer/employee relationship. More than that, however, it is the Union’s belief that it was the assigning of Ms. Dorothy Douge that poisoned the school’s climate and culture so much, that our employees worked so hard to create.
Third, it is reprehensible that our students will open up the newspaper via social media and see that they are referred to as “failing” by the District. Many of our young men need to be bolstered with positive feedback, especially from the District. Any insinuation by the assistant superintendent that our teachers are not “experts” or that their teacher(s) may not be “interested” undermines the student/teacher relationship and promotes a poor self-image for these young men that our teachers are working so hard to improve upon.
Finally, this is not the last that the District is going to hear about this news story. While we have a great respect for most administrators in the District, we will not sit idle while the District uses the newspaper to disrespect our employees, students, and the Paterson community. At the end of the day, Warren’s comments show that she lacks the professional judgment necessary to continue in her role as assistant superintendent.
It is time that the District seeks an “expert” to fill Ms. Warren’s position for the 18-19 school year.
John McEntee, Jr.
President of the Paterson Education Association