Perth Amboy’s students will pay the price for school district’s personnel cutbacks

Perth Amboy Public Schools

Op-ed by Pat Paradiso, President, Perth Amboy Federation/ AFT Local 857

Perth Amboy Public Schools have been short-staffed since before the COVID-19 pandemic. During COVID, superintendent David Roman thought it was wise to eliminate teaching positions such as reading specialists, math specialists and intervention specialists. We still do not have those positions, and our students have suffered — and are still suffering — because of it. 

On April 26, the same superintendent sent layoff notices to nurses, secretaries, home school liaisons, security guards and technology specialists in the district, citing a loss of funding. I believe that the district will be receiving more funding next year, and I am unsure why any cuts are needed. The staff members who were sent layoff notices work directly with students, teachers and parents to keep our schools functioning safely and efficiently. Many of the staff members who were laid off have children who go to our schools, and the loss of income and benefits will be devastating to them.

Our home school liaisons interact with parents and families. They contact parents when students are absent and do everything necessary to get students to school. One of our elementary schools currently has a chronic absenteeism rate of over 30 percent. It doesn’t seem wise to eliminate such a vital position now. 

Our secretaries are also essential. They run the front offices in our schools by assigning class coverage, calling parents, and translating during meetings. Our security guards are part security specialists and part counselors. They build relationships with some of our most challenging students — relationships that can make a real difference in a student’s life. 

We are losing half of our technology specialists if the layoffs go through. (The Perth Amboy Board of Education will decide at its May 2 meeting.) In a district where every staff member and every student has a laptop, that makes no sense. We will have six technology specialists left to serve the entire district. 

Perhaps most shocking is the layoff of three nurses. I have heard that the district plans to have one nurse per building. With the amount of medically fragile students we have in district, that also makes no sense. 

Apparently untouched are the two assistant superintendent positions with salaries of $198,384 and $191,300. Also untouched are the two business administrator positions with salaries of $183,713 and $157,775. We have two security supervisors with salaries of $111,942 and $80,000, and a position called “director of operations” with a salary of $167,117. We have two supervisors in buildings and grounds, and four accountants/fiscal specialists at administrative headquarters who make between $75,000 and $90,000 a year. 

The administrative ranks have also remained relatively unscathed. A few positions were eliminated, but the people in those positions have been offered other positions in the district. No one wants to see people get laid off, but when layoffs are necessary, they shouldn’t only come from the positions who affect our students the most.

I recommend that the district eliminate duplicate positions and streamline central administration. If we cannot afford a secretary with salary of under $40,000 a year, we should no longer be able to enjoy the luxury of the layers and layers of administrators this superintendent has amassed.