Paterson school board must have an open superintendent search process | Paterson Times

Paterson school board must have an open superintendent search process


The young Paterson Board of Education, in the face of the retirement of the State Superintendent of Schools, now prepares to search for the next schools superintendent.  This occurs under the watchful eyes of the Christie administration as it prepares to exit off the political stage in New Jersey.

After almost 26 years of state takeover, we find the school district near bankrupt, facing a certain to be difficult teacher contract negotiation, with several decaying, hundred-year-old school buildings, plateauing academic achievement as demonstrated by test scores and under heavy competition for declining educational dollars because of illegal budget underfunding and the Christie-inspired charter school movement. And let’s not talk about the political, fiscal and ethnic turmoil that grips the city itself. Into this maelstrom, the inexperienced board, beset with its own political intrigues, must lure this new superintendent of schools.

This would be a daunting task if one could be certain of the intentions of the state. Some already question if this new hire will be the last act in Governor Christie’s assault on public education.  And will a board that doesn’t know its full power be able to push back against that and all the political and ethnic factions that rush to the scene when superintendent searches occur in Paterson? Will it survive its own internal connections to politics? Will the community believe that it has and support the board’s choice arrived at in quiet isolation? Paterson and its schools can recover from the external forces that work against it from outside its borders. What it cannot survive are the more sinister forces that can conspire against it from within…

To answer all these questions and more, the Paterson Board of Education must have an open superintendent search process, one that includes on the search team knowledgeable members of the community to assist it in delivering to the city the best possible candidate for this very difficult job. They can help push back against state level pressure and ensure that the search is focused squarely on the educational needs of Paterson’s students. They can also help establish that crucial community “buy-in” so important to the next educational leader’s success. This “first time,” we need to get it right. The community must be certain the best interests of the children of all its constituent members are paramount in the minds of the people involved in the search and not some hidden agenda, formulated locally or in the marbled halls of the state’s capital…

Jonathan Hodges, MD
School board member

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