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Carlos Martinez, Park Maintenance Supervisor… Noemi Rodriguez, Coordinator Parent-Child Home Program…Luis Pagan, Ass’t Superintendent… Young Designer Enjoys Her Colleagues' Honor

Profile: Carlos Martinez


2 April 2004
Copyright © 2004
Newsday. All rights reserved.

Carlos Martinez

Ground technician, animal care director and maintenance supervisor at Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston


Martinez is 45 and a native of Puerto Rico. He moved to New York City when he was 14 and was reared in East New York. He worked for the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, renovating city-owned, low-income apartments, for six years before joining the staff at the Alley Pond Environmental Center nine years ago. Martinez is married with two daughters and lives in Ozone Park.


"It's the freedom of the job and the involvement that I have with the kids that makes me so dedicated to the job. At [Alley Pond], I do a little bit of everything and everything I do I do with love. I work with handicapped kids as well as the kids who have to do internships or community service. And when you do good things for kids, it comes back to you. Also, I love the outdoor work - the planting and seeing the trees grow."


"We're very busy getting ready for spring. I'm doing a lot of trail repairs - [Alley Pond] has about 5,000 feet, maybe more, that I maintain with wood chips. We're also planting trees and getting the summer vegetable garden ready for kids who come here from the Lexington School [for the Deaf in Jackson Heights]. Also, I'm in charge of the animals. We have snakes, frogs, snapping turtles, chinchillas and iguanas. I'm also in charge of taking care of the repair and maintenance of the buildings and the grounds. I work with volunteers, the kids and the community in general."


"Knowing that what I did during the day made a difference. When I see something that I worked on come out nice, I do feel rewarded. I can actually see the results of my work and that speaks for itself. Nobody has to tell me that I did I good job because, basically, I am my own judge. If it doesn't look right to me, then I'll do it until I get it right."

Noemi Rodriguez


Sheila McKenna

1 July 2004
Copyright © 2004
Newsday. All rights reserved.


Coordinator of the Brooklyn (Region 8) site of the Parent-Child Home Program, which is based at PS 32 in Carroll Gardens and goes into various schools in Brooklyn. The national program is committed to helping families challenged by poverty, low levels of education, language barriers and other obstacles to educational success.


49; native of Puerto Rico, moved to Brooklyn when she was 3 years old. Received a bachelor's degree from Brooklyn College and a master's in early childhood education from Adelphi University. Has worked for the Department of Education for 16 years and is now an early childhood specialist, teaching prekindergarten at PS131 in Borough Park. Married, two children, lives on Staten Island.


"We received a special grant for this program three years ago. My superintendent at the time thought it was a really good idea to try this kind of early intervention and, since I work prekindergarten, thought it was the best place to start. What makes it special is that it is a home-based program and it lasts for two years. We seek out the families in the homes and it's very private. Our workers go in twice a week for 30 minutes a session and emphasize the verbal interaction between child and parent. We help the parents to realize their roles as the most important teacher in a child's life. What we try to do is enrich their vocabulary and all their verbal interaction so that when they start school, these children are ready and prepared."


"I just love to strengthen families. I wanted to build a bridge between the home and the school and this program is the perfect way to do it. Once the students enter school, they already have a connection and made a friend - because most of our workers come from the school setting. They build a relationship that is critical. Also, what we've found is that a lot of the parents we chose did not finish high school and this is way to encourage them to complete their own education and get their GED."


"It's our desire to really spread the parent-child program out into other parts of Brooklyn. Now we service Sunset Park, Red Hook, Boerum Hill, and we would like to go into Crown Heights, Bushwick and beyond."

Camden Hires Luis Pagan To Be Assistant Superintendent


16 July 2004
Copyright © 2004 Courier-Post. All rights reserved.

The Camden City School District announced Thursday that it hired a new assistant superintendent, Luis Pagan, who will replace Esmeralda Vargas, whose dismissal angered Hispanic leaders.

The 48-year-old Puerto Rico native, who lives in Medford, is no stranger to the district, according to Bart Leff, the district's spokesman.

While Pagan most recently served as principal of Lindenwold Middle School, he has also been vice principal at Camden High School, an adult education administrator in the district and supervisor of a School to Career program in the district.

Pagan has also served as a bilingual teacher in the district.

He received the title of Camden County Teacher of the Year from Rutgers University in 1992. He holds a bachelor's degree in natural sciences from the University of Puerto Rico, and holds a master's in secondary education from Temple University and another in school administration and leadership from Rowan University.

Pagan will receive $125,000 per year, the same salary that Vargas drew when she started as the district's only Hispanic assistant superintendent. Her termination in January outraged Hispanic leaders, who said she was dismissed without due process.

The dismissal was overturned in February by Gov. James E. McGreevey, who is empowered to override school board decisions under the Municipal Recovery Act. The veto came after City Council Member Israel Nieves failed to garner enough council votes to approve a resolution calling for the governor to override the dismissal.

School board members voted to not renew Vargas' contract in March, which ended June 30, according to Leff. Alberto Rivas, a Newark-based attorney retained by Vargas, had no comment on Pagan's hiring and would not say whether his client was planning a lawsuit.

Vargas did file a civil rights complaint in January with the state.

Nieves could not be reached Thursday, but Jose Delgado, a former school board member who was critical of Vargas' termination, said he recalls Pagan from his previous experience in the district.

"He is a very knowledgeable and principled individual," said Delgado.

Delgado said the hiring of a Hispanic doesn't change his concerns over Vargas' termination.

"That's nice," he said. "He's also a very competent individual. But, it does not erase the alleged injustices suffered by Mrs. Vargas."

Leff said the hiring was approved unanimously at a special board meeting in June. School Board President Philip Freeman could not be reached for comment Thursday. The hiring took effect July 1.

Pagan's credentials include state certification as a bilingual/bicultural teacher, a science teacher, math teacher, biology teacher, supervisor, principal and a certificate of eligibility as a chief school administrator.

He has served on the state's Urban Advisory Committee, the Governor's Advisory Panel on School Vouchers, the state's Advisory Committee on Bilingual Education, as well as other state and city committees.

Reach Luis Puga at (856) 541-3994 or


Age: 48

Born: San Sebastian, Puerto Rico

Residence: Medford

Experience: Lindenwold Middle School principal for 2 1/2 years

Family: Single, no children.

Young Designer Enjoys Her Colleagues' Honor


5 August 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Star-Ledger. All rights reserved.

* Name: Wendy Cruz

* Age: 23

* Hometown:Newark

* Occupation: Junior interior designer

* Achievement: Honored with the Silver Award from the New Jersey chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

She was honored by the chapter for her work with Grad Associates, P.A., one of the oldest interior design firms in New Jersey.

Cruz, who joined the firm four years ago, was recognized for her work on an interior design project for PSEG Global and PSEG Energy Holdings at their renovated office at Raymond Boulevard and Mulberry Street.

Cruz learned she won the award moments before she received it at the chapter's awards ceremony in June.

"I am sitting at my table, and they had a PowerPoint presentation," Cruz said. "A picture of our project (was displayed) and I said, 'Look, Susan, that's our project.'"

"I felt honored," Cruz said. "This to me was special because it was the first project I worked on. I was just so happy, and it was really a good two weeks because I learned after that I received a 4.0 at my school. For me, I was on Cloud Nine."

* At work: Cruz's award came nearly 10 years after she decided to become an interior designer.

Sitting in her mother's kitchen in North Newark, Cruz said it was her mother who helped her identify her aspiration.

"I was talking to my mom and I said, 'I wish I could have a job where people could pay me to make their spaces look aesthetically pleasing to them,' and my mom said, 'You know you can,' and that is how I became interested in it," said Cruz, who is earning her bachelor's of fine arts in interior design from the New York School of Interior Design.

Cruz, who was born in Comerio, Puerto Rico, and raised in Newark since she was 8, majored in business at Essex County Vocational Technical High School in Newark. She graduated from there in 1998 and enrolled in Berkeley College in Paramus, where she received her associate's degree in applied sciences of interior design in 2000.

Shortly after her graduation, she was offered her current position at the firm.

"I was thrilled," said Cruz of getting her first job out of college. "I walked in, and it was just a joy for me because it was something I had been waiting so long for. It was a like a dream scene."

Cruz works with other designers on commercial space projects. The firm has worked on projects for U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Jon Corzine, and corporations such as New York Life Insurance and Environ at the Gateway Center. She is currently working on a relocation project for Schoor DePalma in Parsippany.

"I am a mix," said Cruz of her design style. "I am a contemporary minimalist, but I like a lot of elegance."

* Outside of work: During her free time, Cruz enjoys spending time with her boyfriend of four years, Tito Gonzalez, singing in her church choir and riding her bicycle in Branch Brook Park, close to her Newark home.

"I love being outdoors," said Cruz. "I grew up in Puerto Rico, so when I have a bright sunny day I am as happy as I can be. Even if it's just watching leaves being moved around in the wind, to me it is so soothing."

* Family: Lives with father, Juan Cruz, a pastor at the Church of God in Manhattan; mother, Laura, social worker; sister, Marcelly Hernandez, 25. - Rob Williams

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