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Op-Ed: One-Year Deal for Newark’s School Chief Is Not a Vote of Confidence

Superintendent Anderson’s single-year renewal is a signal to the community to refocus its energy and redouble its efforts

rosie grant
Rosie Grant

I’ve been so dismayed watching the Newark school registration chaos. It breaks my heart that parents and children are being treated like second-class citizens, in order to register for seats in public schools. It’s hard to believe that this is anything other than planned sabotage. What does a community do when it’s in substantial disagreement with its legal leadership? If this happened in Paterson, I’d be organizing a boycott too because wherever there’s oppression, there will be uprising! We’re watching it unfold in Ferguson, we’ve seen it throughout history, and we’ll continue to see it as long as people are oppressed.

We on the outside, who care about the advocates, the parents, and the children, support their right to speak their truth and to push back. Parents and community members have advocated tirelessly for change, so that Newark could have a superintendent who respects parent, student, and community voice and works with the community to build and improve the public schools. Paterson Education Fund successfully advocated for this in Paterson when the state gave Dr. Evans a one-year contract.

We intensified our advocacy efforts and engaged a broad stakeholder group in a campaign to keep him in place. The people won and our children won. As a result, we’re seeing increased test scores, improved graduation rates, and more students enrolled in college.

I firmly believe what Dr. Martin Luther King expressed in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If the dictators win Newark, then it’s only a matter of time until they turn their sights on other communities, including ours.

So here’s my advice. Superintendent Anderson initially got a one-year renewal. That said something. One year is not a vote of confidence! In my opinion, a one-year contract (even with options to extend) says -- let’s hold off until we see what happens or let’s buy some time to develop a plan B. We’ve seen what happened! It tells me it’s time to refocus the community engagement and advocacy campaign.

We need to listen to the people in Newark who are advocating for change and opposing the “One Newark” plan. They live and work there and have a real stake in its success. They have a vested interest because it’s their children and their schools.

It’s time to make the case, to intensify the efforts and to get the point across. No amount of professional expertise can trump the passion that parents feel for their children and their will to see them thrive. I encourage my Newark colleagues to take full advantage of this one-year window. Organize, centralize, come as one! We’ve got your backs.

Rosie Grant is executive director of the Paterson Education Fund.

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