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Yesterday there were two protests at Perth Amboy Public Schools: In the morning, students at Perth Amboy High School staged a walkout to protest ongoing violence and dysfunction throughout the district and, more specifically, the stabbing of a fifth-grader at Shull Middle School. Later in the day parents, teachers, and residents held a “peaceful protest” to raise awareness of problems at Shull where students “frequently” bring knives to school but teachers “are afraid to voice concerns out of fear of retaliation.” Perth Amboy Superintendent David Roman and the Board of Education live in an “alternate reality,” say sources, and deny the existence of any problems.
Both protests were peaceful. High school administrators tried to thwart the students’ plan by issuing a “shelter in place” order but students say this just encouraged more participation. At the evening rally community members called for Roman’s resignation. “We’ve been hearing stories that the school is out of control. I have a child in the seventh grade there. The kids are roaming the hallways. There’s no accountability. Administrators are not running a tight ship there,” said parent William Ortiz. “The superintendent is missing in action.”
In response to the student walk-out, Roman issued a statement, saying that “it was not the entire student body as reported in some media outlets” and the students were egged on by “individuals with political objectives.” He blamed the Perth Amboy Federation, the local teachers union, for encouraging students to walk out and alerting local media:
We are extremely disappointed that our teachers’ union leadership would encourage such a blatant disregard for school rules. Anyone who took advantage of this unfortunate situation and our students in this way to further a self-serving or political cause should be held accountable.
Roman says he supports a “continued strong partnership between the Perth Amboy Board of Education as to what can be done at school; the City of Perth Amboy as to what can be done within the community; and the parents as to what can be done at home.”
Notably excluded from his list of partners is the Perth Amboy Federation.
When asked for comment, PAF President Patricia Paradiso told NJER,
We had nothing to do with the student walkout, but we support our students’ rights to express themselves peacefully. We think our students represented themselves extremely well. We also think it’s ironic that the letter [from Roman] mentioned that union leadership encouraged a ‘blatant disregard for school rules’ when it is the district’s lack of enforcing school rules that led to this tragedy in the first place.
The problems in Perth Amboy are not new. Back in 2015 Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey sent a letter to district officials admonishing them for failing to report criminal activity by students to local police, including possession of firearms, knife assaults, and sexting. Then-Mayor Wilda Diaz told nj.com, “the safety of our children should never be compromised. It is a cause for concern when policy is not followed and children are put at risk.” In 2019 Paradiso speaking for her members, told the school board ” there is a level of student aggression in our buildings that is distressing” and “staff members are getting hit, kicked, punched and bitten. No child should have to witness this behavior day after day in their classroom.”
The next school board meeting is Thursday, February 9th, at Perth Amboy High School.
Superintendent Roman is the 22nd highest-paid school administrator in New Jersey. Last year his salary was $252,708.