Paterson school board may wait until 2023 to pick new schools superintendent. Here's why

Paterson Board of Education building, photographed on Tuesday, July 18, 2017.
Paterson Board of Education building, photographed on Tuesday, July 18, 2017.

PATERSON — After a two-hour, closed-door discussion, the Paterson Board of Education ended its special meeting Thursday night without picking the city's next school superintendent.

Board members said in interviews Friday morning that they may wait until 2023 before they hire one of the three finalists introduced to the public last week — Keith Miles Jr., the Bridgeton superintendent; Laurie Newell, superintendent of the Essex Regional Educational Services Commission; and Andre Spencer, superintendent in Manor, Texas.

During Thursday’s confidential discussion, board members said they didn’t take a straw poll to see if any of the three finalists has enough votes for the appointment. Nor did the board members reveal to each other their preferences among the candidates.

Officials said most of Thursday’s closed session focused on the process for making the decision — including the impact of a state law that prohibits lame duck school boards from appointing superintendents. Paterson’s school board will reach lame duck status after the Nov. 8 election, when three seats are up for grabs.

“What this says to me is that the board is taking this really, really seriously,” said board president Kenneth Simmons. “Despite the fact that we wanted to pick someone before the election, it’s still a good sign.”

Simmons is one of two board members — along with Vincent Arrington — who have been told by the district’s legal department they should not participate in the superintendent selection because they have family members who work in the school system.

That leaves the decision to the other seven board members, and officials said the appointment will require five affirmative votes because of rules covering personnel decisions.

Paterson’s current superintendent, Eileen Shafer, is scheduled to retire at the end of June, under a contract extension approved earlier this year. Simmons previously had expressed a preference for picking Shafer’s replacement early enough to allow a smooth transition.

Once the board decides which finalist it wants, there will still be a lengthy process before that person takes the job, Simmons said.

First the board will need to negotiate an employment contract with the person it picks, then that contract will have to get reviewed by state education department officials, and finally, there would be a public hearing about the contract, officials said.

When asked if she thought the district would hire its new superintendent before January, board member Oshin Castillo said, “After last night, I can clearly say, ‘No.’”

Board members Emanuel Capers and Corey Teague agreed with that assessment. Another board member, Manny Martinez, said he thinks there needs to be additional discussion in public about the selection.

Earlier:This is how stakeholders saw the three Paterson superintendent finalists

It’s not clear what impact the extra time for picking someone will have on the field of finalists.

Spencer already has resigned from his position in Texas, effective at the end of this school year. Paterson officials said Spencer likely is applying for other jobs. They said there’s a possibility he would take another position before Paterson makes its decision.

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: editor@patersonpress.com

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson school board may not name new superintendent until 2023