School board member Emanuel Capers, who has built up a laundry list of accomplishments over the past three years, is seeking a second term on the Board of Education.
“My record speaks for itself,” said Capers, 34. “I’m a fighter for our children. I believe in public education.”
Capers rattled off a list of his accomplishments in the first term:
- Setting a 30-day limit on investigations that some time took years
- Eliminating the infamous rubber room at the district
- Cracking down on rotten bus companies that jeopardized student safety
- Forcing school bus companies to use newer vehicles when contracting with the district
- Putting in place a coding and drone curriculum
- And prodding the district to properly implement the Amistad Curriculum to ensure black history is taught in schools.
“We got rid of some bad companies,” said Capers speaking of his crusade against rotten bus companies. “We have safer buses on the road.”
Capers’ effort led to the district banning one firm with numerous violations for two years.
Capers said Paterson is now the leader in implementation of the Amistad Curriculum in New Jersey.
In spring, Capers voted down a budget that contained a 14-percent tax increase. He said the budget did not contain adequate resources for students
Capers brought back the coding and drone curriculum from a controversial trip to Arizona. His attendance of the Woz U, a firm founded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, conference lead to a great deal of headache for the incumbent.
Capers found himself being investigated by the district’s former security director James Smith at the direction of the superintendent and school board president. Smith was later fired by the superintendent.
Smith later filed ethics charges against Capers. Capers has denied the ethics charges. Capers quickly pointed out a district investigation found alleged questionable conduct by Smith. A district investigation accused the former security director of misusing district vehicles and failing to report all his sources of income on state disclosure forms.
Smith has denied the allegations. He has threatened to sue the district for $5 million.
Capers outlined his priorities for the next three years. He said he wants to overhaul district high schools.
“Our high school offerings do not match today’s job market,” said Capers. He wants to offer more vocational training. He also wants students to have a plan beginning in sixth grade as to what they want to do after graduating high school.
Capers also suggested restructuring the high schools. He acknowledged the academies at Eastside High School and John F. Kennedy High School have too many principals.
“We have to take a hard look at that and change it,” said Capers.
Capers also wants to expand more early childhood centers. He said some parts of the city lack early education centers.
“It’s not enough, we’re a growing district,” said Capers.
Capers also wants to upgrade playgrounds, one or two every year. He wants the superintendent to make that a priority.
Capers lamented the latest state test scores. Math scores of students in five of the nine grades tested declined and English scores dropped for two of eight grades tested in the 2018-19 school year, according to district data.
More intervention programs is not the answer, said Capers.
“We have to have real conversations around that issue,” said Capers. He said the superintendent needs to come up with a plan to ensure students are learning in the classrooms to do well on the state exams. “We have to make sure we hold her accountable.”
Capers has three children. Two live with their mother and attend the North Plainfield Public Schools. He had his third child this year, he said.
Capers attended School 30 and Don Bosco High School. He then earned a business administration degree from William Paterson University.
“I’m here for all the right reasons,” said Capers, who works as dean of discipline at the East Orange Public Schools. “I’m here for our children.”