We’ve promised to follow the Paterson School Board meetings. Here’s some highlights from September 15th’s meeting.

The meeting was called to order at 7:18 with six members present. The final three were present by 7:40 pm. Some of you have asked why we are giving you the information about attendance. Here’s why. The current board has a poor record of on time attendance- waiting wastes our time, public and staff alike. Board members have also had a poor record of showing up for special meetings, retreats and board committees- the meetings where lots of information and key advising is done. [We’ll report on this issue in more detail later.] Our kids are being short changed when board members behave this way and we will never return to local control if the board members persist in this behavior.

Most of the business was routine, with one troubling issue about using “excess surplus” to bring back more teaching staff to the schools. What is excess surplus? By law, all school districts must keep a surplus of 2% of their operating budget for emergencies- a fire, a roof failure, etc. Sometimes additional funds are freed because of unexpected retirements, items that actually cost less than originally budgeted and so on. If that amount of money is over 2% of the budget, it is called “excess suplus.” Paterson Public Schools has excess surplus from last year’s expenditures. Dr. Evans proposes to use that money to hire back teachers. But the State Department of Education must agree that he can use the surplus for that purpose. And right now, they are not. If your child is in an overcrowded classroom or is not receiving the services they are entitled to by their IEP, you should raise your voice on this issue to support Dr. Evans.

Our budget woes are far from over. Next year is expected to be worse with more cuts in state aid. Dr. Evans stated that he will call together a special community panel to look at options for next year. If you are interested in serving, let Dr. Evans know with an email, a note or a phone call.

This was a lightly attended meeting. Seventeen people spoke in the public portion: 11 teachers, 2 principals, 1 union leader, 2 city council members, one community member  and 1 parent.

On a happier note: 300 young people, their parents and school staff members attended a forum sponsored by Commissioner Chris Irving on how to plan for college. PEF was glad to support this effort.  We distributed copies of the new college guide: What is Your Destination created for PEF by the journalism class at JFKHS. Watch for the online version to be published on our website this week.  Copies will go out to the schools in October, following our conference.

On Thursday, I’ll be sharing my testimony to the Joint Committee on Public Schools Facilities Sub-committee.