“A district is only as good as the people who work in it, and ours are wonderful, wonderful people,” said West New York’s Superintendent of Schools John Fauta in an interview last week. “We guide them in administration, but they’re the ones who deserve the credit on the front lines.”
In a district that faces significant overcrowding and a tight budget, the staff gives new meaning to doing more with less.
Students will trade in their summers for a half day on Thursday, Sept. 6, which will lead into a full day on Sept. 7. They will be greeted by many program expansions, a brand new elementary school, and 47 new teachers who will take over for the 31 who retired. The higher number is meant to correspond to the new district-wide class offerings.
The new P.S. 3
The old P.S. 3 is located at 600 55th St., just up and across the street from the new one at 55th between Bergenline Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard. The old building housed around 400 students. That school will now serve as a registration center for the Board of Education, which used to have to rent out a separate location for student registration. [Yes, that's what Fauta said; it's a small building]
Seven years in the making, the new school will accommodate 750 students and provide them with a Smartboard (an interactive white board that interfaces with the internet) in each classroom, a state-of-the-art gymnasium and auditorium, and a new pre-kindergarten program.
“A district is only as good as the people who work in it.” – John Fauta
The new building, 95 percent complete, was put on hold for two years.
“Even though the project was initially held up, the governor has been very good to West New York,” Fauta said. “There were issues with the atrium [the school’s center] that required more money than anticipated, and the building is 100 percent funded by the state of New Jersey. He has worked with us to get this done.”
New building for freshmen, sophs
Last year, Gov. Christie and the state Schools Development Authority had approved the purchase of the recently closed St. Joseph’s parochial school building to help ease the overcrowding dilemma at Memorial High School. Memorial, when evaluated by the state, was found to be around 900 students over capacity.
While Christie approved the purchase, the Pope had not, nor had the Newark Archdiocese. Parochial schools fall under their jurisdiction and the sale of their property must be approved by the Vatican itself.
“I believe the Pope said yes,” Fauta said. “The deal is almost to completion and we are finalizing the details with the Archdiocese.”
Barring complications, the town should have possession of the new high school in a few months, and the school will take a year to renovate. While the building is in decent condition (it had been given a new roof just before it closed down), it still needs some updating, such as air conditioning and broken window replacements, Fauta said.
St. Joseph’s will house the freshmen and sophomores while Memorial will keep the juniors and seniors. Each school will have its own cafeteria and gym.
In other high school news, the high school will increase their Advanced Placement (AP) course offerings this year. Two years ago, the school was one of four in the state in its size class that was honored for the most improvement in AP scoring.
New accolades, new programs
Though the district is no stranger to the award, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation – a program run by former President Bill Clinton, who visited the school – awarded the district a bronze medal this summer.
While several schools in the district have received similar distinctions in the past, this is the first time the whole system received recognition for its efforts.
The district will continue its after school language arts and math tutoring program for elementary school students and their Saturday Academy (which offers tutoring from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at P.S. 2 and 4 on Saturdays).
The schools will also expand their autism support program in order to keep autistic students in the system rather than having to send them out for specialized education. The district has hired several teachers who specialize in autism.
“We’ve made so much progress,” Fauta said. “We still have challenges, but one year when I was still a principal, a student said to me, ‘Mr. Fauta, I’d rather be here than go home for the summer.’ That’s what carries me through.”
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org