Paterson may not host community forum with school superintendent finalists | Paterson Times Paterson Times

Paterson may not host community forum with school superintendent finalists

By Jayed Rahman
Published: February 5, 2018


The majority of school board members in a closed-door meeting last Wednesday night opposed hosting a community forum that would allow residents to interact with the three superintendent finalists, according to multiple people who were present.

School board members were asked by their president Oshin Castillo whether the Board of Education should host a community forum that would feature the three individuals selected by the superintendent search committee.

In a 4-3 straw poll, the board opposed hosting the community forum, according to multiple people who were in attendance. When asked about the informal poll that was conducted in the closed-door meeting, Castillo said, “There was no consensus reached. I still don’t have a decision.”

Castillo said a poll of the board members is being conducted which will determine whether a community forum is hosted. This is a departure from the process the school board outlined last summer.

In a memo issued on Aug. 24, 2017, then-school board president Christopher Irving, wrote: “The final three candidates will be presented to the community at the conclusion of the first and second round of interviews. The final candidates will take part in a full day interview with the community at large, Paterson Public Schools’ collective bargaining units and staff, local elected officials, community and business leaders, and the Board of Education.”

Irving’s memo stated the board would then take recommendations from those groups and make a final selection.

“That was before we hired the search firm to do the process for us. So it was never anything that we voted on — it wasn’t the process,” said Castillo.

The list of candidates was narrowed to three people in late January, according to committee members Rosie Grant and Bob Guarasci. The committee has handed in its report to the school board.

Names of the three finalists have yet to be made public. Acting superintendent Eileen Shafer is among the three, according to sources. School board members will interview the three finalists on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018.

The latest development in the controversial superintendent search process further vindicated longtime school board member Jonathan Hodges.

“It’s a farce,” said Hodges of the process on Monday afternoon. He has criticized the search process since it began last year while refusing to participate in it.

Hodges left the room last week when the board discussed the subject. “I don’t know what they did. If they have decided to deny the community of an opportunity, that they told the community they’d give them, that’s a problem,” said Hodges.

The community forum is designed to allow residents to weigh in on the finalists before the school board takes the vote to appoint a superintendent. Residents would be able to meet and ask questions of the candidates and share their thoughts with their elected school board members.

Hodges criticized Irving’s selection committee members last year. “There are some excellent people on the search committee, but the deck is stacked against them,” he said on Monday.

The committee was chaired by Irving. After he resigned for a state job, school board member Manny Martinez became chairman.

Martinez did not respond to a call for comment.

“I said it outright. The while thing is a sham,” said former school board member Corey Teague. He claims the Passaic County Democratic Party controls the school board. “The party is going to be controlling everything.”

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