SHU partners with Paterson to receive $1.5 million grant to help troubled schools

Seton Hall has been awarded one out of 12 nationwide federal grants, only six of which go to universities, amounting to $1.5 million to partner with Paterson Public Schools in an Innovative Education Leadership Program for troubled schools attempting to improve their performance.

Beginning in October 2014, this threeyear grant funds training by Seton Hall staff to a select group of Paterson Public School assistant principals, supervisors, teachers and aspiring leaders in order to improve student achievement, climate and culture of the schools, and community involvement. The program includes video simulations of real life situations the leaders may face and serves to train them how to react.

These videos will be completed in April and feature teachers, assistant principals and students acting out mock scenarios that will then be shown to the leaders at Paterson Public Schools. Seton Hall professor Michael Osnato, who oversees the program, has been working with educational leadership in Paterson for four years .

He said that the program “is about facing real life situations, in a difficult school, where people will have to deal with anything from gangs, to drugs, to difficulties with parents and teachers. It’s a training tool.”

Professor Jan Furman is one of the coaches from Seton Hall, visiting the Paterson schools about two to three times a week. She meets with these select leaders, reviews student achievement data, and discusses how it can be improved.

Upon reacting to these videos, Professor Furman said that the leaders “will be coached on why their reaction or response was effective or what further complications their reaction could cause and what the next steps they should take are after the initial reactions. It is an attempt to make leader preparedness for, in this case, urban schools, more realistic and current.”

This program works with grades K-8 in several Paterson schools, while the goal is for it to be used in all public schools and eventually other so-called turnaround schools that are striving to improve. These videos may also reach graduate and doctorate courses right here at Seton Hall.

“We hope in addition to benefiting Paterson, we can use these videos to train our own students and we expect it to be used in other universities and colleges around the country – that’s what the grant is for,” Dr. Osnato said.

Dr. Laurie Newell is the Chief Reform and Innovations Officer in the Paterson Public Schools and works alongside Dr. Osnato and his team. As project director, she oversees the grant and thinks it is a very exciting project.

“We hope to be able to use these simulations on a national scale to inform other districts and serve as a model,” she said.

This federal grant is influential in providing practice for aspiring urban leaders, allowing a unique opportunity to reflect on their decisions and receive constructive feedback on how to improve. Ultimately, the program looks to produce better and more effective leaders in schools.

Daniela Geraldo can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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