Nine days after Perth Amboy Federation members met to discuss safety concerns at Samuel E. Shull Middle School, 11-year-old Smailyn Jimenez was stabbed Feb. 22 by a fellow Shull student, prompting PAF to ramp up its efforts for change and accountability in the district.
Perth Amboy authorities say the attack, which occurred while Jimenez was on his way home, stemmed from an argument at the school, reports WABC’s Janice Yu. And from Perth Amboy Federation President Pat Paradiso’s point of view, the overall climate at Shull has been far from ideal for a while.
“I can’t even express what an unpleasant environment it is,” Paradiso said to NJ Advance Media’s Jeff Goldman on Feb. 23. “It’s become worse and worse. People don’t want to work there.”
News 12 New Jersey on Feb. 24 aired an interview segment with Paradiso and district representative Lynn Audet, in which the latter said, “I’ve actually sent emails to the [Perth Amboy BOE] and basically told them everything that was going on at Shull school, and a few days later, a child was stabbed.”
On Feb. 27, Perth Amboy High School students staged a morning walkout for safety and gathered outside Shull school. A press release issued that day from Perth Amboy Public Schools blamed PAF for the walkout: “We are extremely disappointed that our teachers’ union leadership would encourage such a blatant disregard for school rules.”
“We had nothing to do with the student walkout,” Paradiso said, “but we support our students’ rights to express themselves peacefully. We think our students represented themselves extremely well.”
That evening, AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera (a lifelong Perth Amboy resident) joined Paradiso, PAF treasurer Josiah Santamaria and members of the Perth Amboy community at a rally for school safety at City Hall Circle. Superintendent David A. Roman was the subject of signs and chants that questioned his absence from the rally along with his recent words and actions.
ABOVE: AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera addresses the crowd Feb. 27 at City Hall Circle in Perth Amboy.