This has certainly been a challenging year for almost everyone! There was so much sadness and loss as we grappled with the pandemic. Even so, many dug deep and gave of themselves. They brought out all the grit, determination, and perseverance they could muster to make sure that our families, neighbors, and communities were supported. So it was with the administrators, teachers, and support staff at Paterson Public Schools! I am inspired by how many people threw themselves into making sure our children were safe, nourished and learning.

When we all went home last March, the administrators did not. They, along with their non-teaching staff, were in school buildings and central office, planning and orchestrating food distribution; collecting and sorting student work; buying, prepping, and distributing computers; providing professional development for new online platforms, and so much more. They took time to call our children and parents to make sure they were OK. PEF couldn’t have done the book distributions last summer without the help of the administrative staff, particularly the Family and Community Engagement department. FCE and Early Childhood rallied with community partners in our Talk Read Sing campaign to help us get developmental tools and tips to 700 parents of young children.

Our teachers, counselors and other staff that work directly with the children didn’t just go home either. They worked tirelessly to master new technology and new platforms, transform lesson plans for virtual learning, and teach and connect with students in new ways. Homework and classwork still needed to be graded. Counselors were meeting virtually with students the entire time to help them cope and to make sure they were on track for moving up, graduation and life after high school. 271 teachers and support staff participated in our virtual Restorative Practices training this year! Two Paterson schools are participating in the NJ Healing Centered Engagement (HCE) pilot and (with support from the administration and the teacher’s union) their entire staff participated in 6 hours of training on Adverse Childhood Effects (ACES) Trauma Informed Care and HCE. They are now developing action plans for implementation in September.

Many teachers have told me they are so happy to be back in the buildings! They are really happy to see their peers and the children! The children’s excitement at being back is infectious! This gives me so much hope! As we plan our 21st Century Summer Program, our program leaders and teachers are focused on learning recovery and enrichment. They are excited about being in-person and engaging students in STEAM, robotics, coding, and wellness, all integrated under a “Paterson Pride” umbrella! We’ll be giving out books and tote bags again and like last summer and I can’t wait to see the smiling eyes!

I would be doing a disservice to pretend everything is perfect. Although COVID infection rates have gone down, it is still here. Nobody I know likes wearing masks! People who are immunocompromised need to be protected. Our buildings still need work. Health and safety must be ensured. The new policies and procedures will take some getting used to. Change is hard but it is also inevitable. We must change to survive.

My sincere gratitude to the entire PPS staff for your perseverance and resilience. Be kind to yourself and others. Let’s focus on recovery and healing!