Paul Ernenwein is an attorney and father of two gorgeous girls that go to the Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NECSD). He is a supporter of the NECSD, and holds no posts on a school board or committee. His opinions are his own genuine feelings as a parent.
What is you and your wife’s professional background?
I am a local practicing attorney. A litigator with Tarshis, Catania, Liberth and Milligram PLLC here in Newburgh. I attended Newburgh Free Academy (NFA), Albany University and Western New England School of Law. I then moved to NYC and was a Bronx Prosecutor, an ADA in the Bronx from 1995-2000. My wife Hyun Chin graduated from Vassar College, Temple Law School and then moved to NYC to become a Bronx Prosecutor where we met. She is Korean American, grew up in Philadelphia, PA. Hyun Chin is an Assistant County Attorney in Orange County.
How long has your family been living in Newburgh?
I grew up in Newburgh and attended the NECSD K-12. Upon graduation I moved to Albany, Syracuse, Albany, Springfield MA, Manhattan, Queens, Bronx. Hyun Chin and I lived together in the Bronx and then moved to Newburgh in 2000. My mother grew up in Newburgh and my Grandmother grew up in Newburgh. My great grandparents moved to Newburgh in 1918. From the time my Grandmother lived in Newburgh, Newburgh Schools had a very diverse population. Diversity of race, religion, socio economic and a significant immigrant population.
How many children do you have enrolled in school?
We have two daughters. Age 11, a 6th grader at South Middle School and Age 9, a fourth grader at Fostertown school.
You are a graduate of NECSD. Tell me a little bit about your own experience. What was it like? What year did you graduate?
I graduated in 1987. Only a few years prior to my entering Junior High School, Newburgh experienced debilitating race riots. The National Guard patrolled the streets and the schools, literally mounted on the roof of our High School, armed with loaded rifles and full gear. I recall older kids staying home for the week of “Oktoberfest”, which was the colloquial term the kids used to describe the fall riots. While I was witness to plenty of fights and other difficult situations, my overall experience and education could not have been more positive. Access to the best education, the best High School extra-curricular opportunities, the best teachers, the best sports, lifelong friends and an atmosphere that built experience, knowledge, appreciation, perspective and self esteem.
What towns/areas are included in the NECSD?
The Town of New Windsor, City of Newburgh, Town of Newburgh.
What are common misconceptions about the NECSD? Are any of them valid?
There is a common misconception about Newburgh Schools that they are dangerous. This is simply not true. They are not dangerous. Other than anecdotal stories about young people who may or may not be attending the school district, committing crimes or fighting outside of school within the City of Newburgh, the schools are vigilant and safe. The schools have a significant immigrant and poor population. If you hate immigrants and or poor people you should not be sending your child to the Newburgh school district. The school system has a low graduation rate and low college admittance rate. There is misconception by the ignorant and uninformed that if their child attends the same school with children whose parents are not English speakers, who are poor, who do not have strong family support, who will not graduate, who have no ability or intention to go to college, that is will corrupt their child, transfer to their child like cooties and disrupt their education and future.
Why do you send your children to NECSD and not a private school? What are the advantages in your eyes? Why is it important your children attend a diverse school?
The NECSD provides, superior education, opportunity, exposure, knowledge, wisdom, experience, appreciation and perspective. We are hopeful that our kids will attend an Ivy league school or its equivalent and an advanced degree graduate school program. They already know the names of the Ivy league schools and talk about where they would like to go. The NECSD provides the best education for those willing and able to take advantage of it, has the best teachers, facilities, resources, cultural opportunities, athletics there is. The schools are safe, provide the best possible education in an atmosphere of diversity of, race, religion, ethnicity, socio economics. My children have an Asian looking mother and a Caucasian looking father. They have a family background that observes cultural exposure to Judaism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Korean, Irish, German and multiple other ethnicities. This diversity is the norm in America, New York State and in the NECSD. Their own family background involves those who generations ago were impoverished, who were immigrants who were wealthy, who have been a part of American history and the fabric of America for 200 years. The NECSD is safe and provides a superior education which it must in order for us to have our children here. The diversity and exposure provides to them pride, strength of character, walking around sense, wisdom, self esteem unlike any other local school district.
How does the Newburgh Magnet School System work and what do you like and dislike about it?
The Magnet systems provides concentration of education particular to each of the different elementary schools and allows students to attend any one of the schools around the district regardless of what neighborhood they are from. This results in no “neighborhood schools” where everyone in the neighborhood attends the same school. This is unfortunate socially, preventing neighbors to be invested with each other in the same school. However, this has tremendous value in exposing diversity starting in Kindergarten and forging friendships across the district regardless of neighborhood concentrations of similar socio economics, race or ethnicity.
What advice would you give parents who are considering moving to Newburgh and sending their children to NECSD?
Each family, family dynamic, child, student is different and may have different needs and different comfort levels. However, if you speak to those of us in the district, if you visit the schools and speak to teachers you will receive an understanding of the school district atmosphere. If you believe in building the whole child, with superior education, opportunity and comprehensive exposure to art, music, theatre, culture, athletics and pride accompanied by exposure to positive diversity, real world experience, knowledge, sense, wisdom, esteem, understanding, and appreciation, you will learn there is not another school district in the area that comes close.