Paterson has 9,000 fewer students than Newark, but has more principals, according to payroll data reviewed for both districts.
Public records show Paterson has 61 principals while Newark has 60. Paterson has 56 schools while Newark has 64.
Paterson has approximately 25,000 students in K-12 grades and district-run pre-schools. Newark has approximately 34,000 in K-12 grades, according to public records.
In response to a request for comment, Paul Brubaker, spokesman for the Paterson Public Schools, issued a 461-word statement.
Brubaker insisted the district has 27,779 students. However, this figure includes pre-k students from contracted pre-schools. The district neither runs nor staffs these pre-k centers which are run by various private organizations. If pre-k numbers are counted, Newark’s student count jumps to 36,112.
“While it is extremely narrow to evaluate Paterson Public Schools on the basis of an arbitrary comparison to another school district – through the lens of the single administrative position of principal – we note that there were fewer principals in the Paterson Public School District in 2009, but then the graduation rate was much lower at 46 percent,” said Brubaker. “As a result of launching the high school academies – and reducing the number of students within a group of graduates – Paterson Public Schools’ graduation rate rose up to 84.8 percent in 2018, while Newark Public Schools’ graduation rate was 75.7 percent, according to state data.”
The district’s graduation rate has gone up over the past decade due to increasing number of students qualifying to graduate via alternative means or “portfolio” method. Many fail to pass state standardized exams to graduate. School board members last academic year wanted superintendent Eileen Shafer to reduce the number of students graduating via this method by 5-percent.
Brubaker pointed out the district’s per pupil cost is lower than Newark’s. He said Paterson spends $16,401 per pupil while Newark spends $19,156. Moreover, he stated Paterson’s administrative cost per pupil is $1,699 while Newark’s is $1,821.
School board members were told the district has more principals and fewer students than Newark by one of the three state monitors over the summer. This has prompted the school board to consider restructuring its two biggest high schools, Kennedy and Eastside. Both high school buildings are broken into multiple academies – each academy has its own principal and vice principal.
“It’s unbelievable. There’s too many chefs in one kitchen,” said school board member Emanuel Capers.
Capers isn’t alone. Two other men, who won seats to the school board last month, said the district needs to look at restructuring its big high schools to reduce the number of principals.
Capers, who works in Essex County, pointed out districts like Newark rely on a different administrative structure in their schools. He said though these districts have fewer principals they do have other administrators like sector supervisors.
Indeed, Newark has more than twice as many vice principals as Paterson. Newark has 105 vice principals. Paterson has 44, according to payroll records.
“Each of those school buildings in Newark has the administrative support vice principals, teacher coaches and other administrators. Many of our Paterson academies coexist in the same building (i.e. at Kennedy, Eastside and International High School). The district is operating with fewer administrators after the reduction in force that was enacted last spring,” said Brubaker.
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