Superintendent Eileen Shafer is retiring at the end of the current academic year, she announced on Wednesday evening.
Shafer became superintendent in 2017 after the retirement of Donnie Evans. The school board later appointed her as superintendent. She told school board members she would retire at the end of June 2022.
“Those aren’t easy words to say. I had many sleepless nights,” said Shafer. She has been employed by the school district for three decades.
Under Shafer’s watch the district’s graduation rate dropped two years in a row and standardized test scores remained stagnant for much of her tenure.
Shafer cited regaining local control, striking a new contract with teachers, running an expanded lunch program during Covid-19 pandemic, and equipping all students with laptops as major accomplishments.
“You’ve been the best superintendent especially during this time,” said school board Oshin Castillo citing Shafer’s work during the pandemic.
For months, the school board was split between extending Shafer’s contract or hiring a new superintendent. One group wanted to keep her for another year and another group wanted to begin the search process to hire a new superintendent.
Shafer’s decision came after the group that wanted to hire a new superintendent gained the upper hand.
“Circumstances around your decision are an embarrassment to the city and an embarrassment to the Board of Education,” said longtime school board member Jonathan Hodges. “There’s been a lot of trash that has been going on behind closed doors.”
“It’s a shame and it’s a disgrace,” said Hodges. He slammed his colleagues for behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
Hodges said some of his colleagues are planning to put in charge a new superintendent who will likely put politics ahead of students’ education. Officials have said former school board member Christopher Irving, who was nearly fired from his Teaneck superintendent job earlier in the year, is seeking to become the Paterson schools superintendent.
“There was some wrong on each side,” said school board member Corey Teague. “There were some things that were slightly unethical.”
Teague had been with the group that wanted to keep Shafer and delay the search process. But he changed sides at the last minute, according to sources.
Shafer claimed the district’s top job through a “rigged” process brokered by political actors. She was consumed by the same process that forced her to announce her retirement.
Updated 11:03 p.m.