It was such a pleasure to be present at the School 16 ribbon cutting ceremony this week. I am so excited about the teaching and learning that will happen in this state-of-the-art educational facility!
PEF began advocating for school facilities in 1998 when the Supreme Courts ordered that the State develop a comprehensive plan for adequate facilities. Paterson’s first long-range facilities plan developed under this mandate documented the need for 11 new schools in Paterson. School 16 is the 4th new school since this effort began and the Dr. Hani Awadallah School is number 5 with its ribbon cutting scheduled for next week. Of the 30 districts that were included in the court decision, Paterson has seen the most schools built.
Many people contributed to making this happen for Paterson students and I want to thank them all. I must however give special mention to the fiercest, most persistent group of parents and community activists I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Paterson’s Parent Education Organizing Council (PEOC) led the activism that kept the School Development Authority’s (SDA) attention on Paterson for the past 5 years. PEOC rented vans to take our parents to every SDA meeting, monthly for 2 years, to demand that construction begin. When the construction was halted, they kept going, even showing up in construction vests and hard hats! They carried the mantle for Paterson’s children and even the SDA director said they were critical in getting Paterson moved up on the task list.
One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead. She said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Fact is Paterson parents changed our children’s world. Today is a great day for education in Paterson and for our children!