In what is surely an indictment of the Palmer administration’s handling of the Trenton public schools, the state handed down a scathing report this week that detailed the deplorable conditions of the city’s public education program.
The state report found Trenton students to be woefully deficient in math and reading abilities, and many Trenton school teachers lacking the appropriate certification, or in some cases any certification at all to be teaching to students.
Mayor Douglas H. Palmer remained optimistic about the future of the schools despite the report’s negative content.
“This is an opportunity to work together to pull this district up by its bootstraps and make changes that are critically important to the students and the future of this city,” said Mayor Palmer of the report Thursday.
Mayor Palmer, who has been in power for 17 years, has the power to appoint the school board and thus heavily influences the situation within the city’s school district.
The poor condition of the Trenton public schools have dogged Doug since he came to to power in the early 1990s, as he continually searching for the right leader to improve the district and get it out of the cellar of school performances in the state.
Mayor Palmer has continually found and then removed superintendent after superintendent who were hailed as the panacea for all the district’s ills.
Rodney Lofton is the current superintendent, following the departure of disgraced Superintendent James Lytle, who left the district for a job at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.
Earlier this year, it was discovered Lytle and other associates within the district had falsified student records, giving them credit for classes that they didn’t take.
The malfeasance required many graduating seniors to have to wait additional time to receive their diplomas.
Mayor Palmer blamed some of the report on Mr. Lytle.
“Quite frankly, I am very disappointed. This just shows a total lack of leadership and the lack of accountability during (former) Superintendent Lytle’s tenure,” Palmer said in a statement in the Times this week.
This statement directly contradicts many of his earlier statements about Mr. Lytle, who Mr. Palmer believed would be instrumental in turning around the district upon his appointment in 1998.
“In Lytle I saw everything that I was looking for as an educational leader (who) could move the district forward,” Palmer said in Star-Ledger article in 2000. “He can work with everybody and has the vision, integrity and guts to make the tough decisions.”
While Mayor Palmer cannot control the actions of his appointments and his school board, he is at least partially responsible for the actions that took place within the district under Mr. Lytle’s leadership.
Having direct control over the school board appointments, surely some of his friends on the board suspected things going awry within the district over the past nine years.
Accountability is something that has disappeared from many parts of Trenton’s government.