Jamila Jendayi-Scott, who attended Paterson Public Schools during the state takeover (from 1991 to this past May) and whose son attends the Paterson Arts and Science Charter School, is a firm believer in school choice. Her views stem not from politics but from personal experience.
Her own experience within the traditional public system was just fine, by the way. Her Paterson school was not a part of the “paradigm program” that formed a portion of the state’s intervention after the takeover. “We had instrumental music, vocal music,” she recalls. But many of her friends attended school without these “extras.” When it came time for her son to enter school, she was determined that he get more, especially since, in her view, the state takeover produced schools unbalanced by a surplus of administrators and a dearth of programming.
Paterson is an Abbott district and children qualify for free pre-school, both within and without the district. Jamila began by placing her son in a “choice” preschool because, she’d been advised, it would be easier to get him into a high-quality kindergarten. But there were problems there, mainly that teachers left and then weren’t replaced promptly. When her son was in second grade, she recalls, “I started looking out of district.” Like Erica (profiled here), her first stop was the Interdistrict Public School Choice Program, which included Bergenfield Public Schools, outside of her county. She had a good meeting with the principal there but then heard about Paterson Arts and Science Charter School.
This, she felt, was a better fit for her science-oriented son. She applied and got in. So did her sister-in-law Romain Jendayi, who now has four children there.
Jamila’s son is in the iDREAM engineering program; he calls himself an iDreamer! There he studies robotics, engineering, technology, science, coding/programming, math and marketing. In fourth grade, he built a “meccanoid,” a robot that stands and talks. In fact all children at Paterson ASCS take STEM courses beginning in second grade.
In her spare time, Jamila is co-chair of Paterson Parents Engaging Parents, a consortium that helps promote parent voice and parent choice.
I asked Jamila what she thought of the threatened charter school moratorium in NJ, backed by NJEA, Education Law Center, Save Our Schools-NJ, and (maybe) Governor Murphy. “It’s a bad idea,” said Jamila. “We need choice. We need charters to grow because they offer opportunities to children that they don’t get elsewhere.” A moratorium, she noted, is contrary to the growth children need. “There’s proof that charters work, so why would you stop?” she asked.