Hispanic Candidates Vie For Paterson Board Of Education

Fannia Santana (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

She arrived in the United States at 15 knowing zero English, but quickly applied herself to her studies. Today, she holds a political science degree and three specializations: public administration, pre-law and international relations. And she wants more. She is currently working on a master’s in public administration at Rutgers University.

Fannia Santana, who is running for the Paterson Board of Education, knows what she is getting into and what it is about.

“I can say that I know the educational issues in Paterson because I am a product of the city’s public schools, because I have studied its problems and because I see the day to day through my little brother, who is in school,” says Santana.

In reality, she wants to advocate for the community as a whole and, particularly, for Hispanics, who represent 50 percent of all students.

“One of the things I will advocate for is for the promotion of more after-school programs, for the promotion of arts and culture among our students,” she says.

Still, she is pushing forward a more immediate proposal: To have a full-time nurse in each school. At the present time, some schools share one nurse.

“We have students with diverse medical needs, and we cannot put the life of any student in jeopardy,” she stresses.

At the same time, Santana points out that more than 3,000 children in the Paterson school system have “disabilities,” and she wants more attention paid to them.

In the immediate future, Paterson’s schools will face a new reality: The return of the school district’s oversight – which has been managed by the state of New Jersey for the last 26 years – as is currently the case in Jersey City and Newark.

“I say we are now prepared to have local control because we, the people living in Paterson, are the ones who best understand what goes on in the city,” said Santana. “If we go back 26 years, there is no point of comparison. Now, we have 78 percent of students graduating. It is totally different from the past.”

Still, the candidate considers that progress has been too slow. She suggests that achieving a better understanding between the board – the management in charge of the budget – and the municipality and parents will take the board to the next level.

(…)

[Below are excerpts from an interview by Gery Vereau with Joel Ramírez, another candidate to the Paterson Board of Education.]

Joel Ramírez (Photo via Reporte Hispano)

What needs to be improved on the Board of Education?

We need to strengthen our special education programs, as we are currently sending our students outside of the district. We must bring them back and manage those programs ourselves to ensure that the students who have special needs receive the attention they deserve.

Many cities send their students away…

That makes sense when you have a small district, but Paterson has 30,000 students and a budget of nearly $600 million. There is no reason for us to have to pay another district to look after our students.

What is the impact of sending these students out of the district?

Well, the problem is that they do not understand the needs of our students. For instance, I have a cousin who gets sent to Paramus. Everyone there is white; they do not speak Spanish. It is hard for my relatives to communicate with the administrators of that school. In this district, where they speak Spanish, it is easier for them to obtain the services they need. And all this is part of a poorly implemented policy coming from the state, which still controls this district.

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