Paterson school board has made “significant progress” and is on track to regain control of its schools, said state education officials while presenting the district’s 18-month transition status report.
The report presented to the New Jersey Board of Education on Wednesday states Paterson “substantially met” 11 of the 17 metrices it “fully implemented” as part of a two-year transition process to regain local control.
“Metrics are all turning up. The district is making significant progress,” said New Jersey interim commissioner of education Kevin Dehmer. “We’re very pleased with the progress.”
State officials said the 18-month report showed Paterson turned scores of threes in some areas to fours. Scores range from 1-4. The report scores the district in five areas – fundamental considerations, governance, instruction and program, fiscal management, and personnel.
State officials expect further improvements in the 24-month report that is likely to be presented in couple of months.
“The 18-month report reflects the hard work that’s been done, putting things in place to make sure that we were meeting the benchmarks that the state put before us,” said Paterson school board president Kenneth Simmons. He said the board has made great “strides” towards regaining local control. He said the three state monitors, who were put in charge of evaluating the transition process, were particularly impressed by the aggressive approach the board took on the budget this year. But the 18-month report shows fiscal management areas with the lowest scores.
Simmons expects the 24-month report to be presented to the state board in January. He said the handover from state to local control should occur shortly thereafter.
The state began the transition to local control in 2018. The district has scored above 80 percent on all five areas of the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum (NJQSAC), according to state data.
Paterson was placed under state takeover on Aug. 7, 1991. A state report described then-superintendent Frank Napier as incompetent. His “management was characterized by an inability to demonstrate an understanding of the role and function of a chief school administrator,” according to the report.
Napier was criticized for being isolated from daily operations and lacking vision for the district. The school board at the time was described as inept and busy with petty squabbles rather than focused on providing a good education to its students.
Paterson remains one of the lowest performing school districts in New Jersey. It saw graduation rates drop over the past two years.
Simmons said he has been holding retreats to prepare his colleagues to tackle longstanding performance issues at the district.
“I want the board to be prepared,” said Simmons. He said he wants the Board of Education to be able to tackle low scores and declining graduation rates. “Now the buck stops with the board. You can’t blame the state anymore.”
Email: [email protected]