We’ve past a milestone that I hoped we’d never see. August 7 was the 20th anniversary of state takeover of the Paterson Public Schools. Will we ever return? We could. NJ QSAC [Quality Single Accountability Continuum] finally provided the roadmap. Our state superintendents, yes several, and our Board of Education have followed the plan But, we are only closer to gaining local control if the Governor and Commisssioner of Education are serious about following the roadmap. Are they?
I was quoted in the Herald News as Paterson having “six takeovers.” What the reporter failed to share was the rest of the thought. We have not had a consistent point of view from the Department of Education about how to improve our schools. In the non-profit business, we call it a theory of action. It’s like the Cheshire Cat tells Alice, if you don’t know where you want to go, then any road will take you there. It took twelve years and former Commissioner Liberera’s leadership to get us to the QSAC roadmap.
Whatever formal process emerges from Acting Commissioner Cerf’s revision of QSAC, I believe the following two issues matter. First, the cessation of political interference. Be it the govenor himself, a Senator, our Congressman, local legislators, the Mayor, they need to stay out of personnel and contractual decisions. Period. Secondly, Paterson must continue on the path to true equity. One of the most important outcomes of the original takeover was the lifting of educational apartheid in Paterson that priviledged schools with white students and made predominately black schools a dumping ground for the dance of the lemons. Our choice plans and the development of new schools must give every child a chance for success. Not just the children of politically connected people.
Until we regain local control, we may not be able to effectively ward off the political interference. But we can control the way we provide equity for our children. It’s not about the bilingual kids or the SPED kids or the gifted kids. Our schools will never be truly great until we offer great, appropriate settings for all our children. We’re not there yet.
Here’s the Herald News story.