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‘One Newark’ Reorganization Kicks Off Second Year, Learning From the First

Three-quarters of families selecting schools for their kids won placement at one of three top choices

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Year two of the “One Newark” school reorganization plan for the state-run district may prove even more crucial to its success or failure than its controversial debut year.

And, from the district’s perspective, at least, it’s been so far, so good.

Superintendent Cami Anderson yesterday released the results of the first stage of the universal enrollment system for 2015-16, reporting that three-quarters of the families choosing schools had their children approved for one of their top three choices for the next school year.

As they were last year, charter schools were the top picks in the universal enrollment system, especially in the elementary and middle schools.

The most popular schools for K-8 were North Star Academy, TEAM Academy and Peter’s Academy topping the list. The most popular district schools were the Ann Street and First Avenue schools.

The 9,899 students participating in the new enrollment system was down from last year at this point, as it now focused on those entering transition years like kindergarten and freshman year of high school. Last year, the new enrollment system was open to all families, and 12,000 students were included in the first round.

A second round of registration starts in May.

Still, the relatively successful first round this year was in sharp contrast to the rancor and criticism of last year, when even Anderson acknowledged that there were significant problems at the onset of the “One Newark” initiative.

Anderson said she made improvement in staff and training related to the registration procedures, and took extra measures to accommodate siblings in making the matches.

In the end, 76 percent of applicants saw matches with their first three choices of schools, she said, and 95 percent of incoming kindergartners had a top-three match.

Anderson yesterday celebrated the success of the school-choice initiative so far, holding a press event at Quitman Street Community School and inviting 75 families who got their first-choice school under the new process.

“We have worked hard over the past year to implement the changes needed to ensure equity throughout the district, and this is an exciting step for all schools in Newark and for Newark families,” Anderson said in announcing the second-year numbers.

Board President Rashon Hasan, attending the event, said afterward that it was clear that progress has been made.

“When you look at where we were last year, where there were a lot of rumblings,” he said, “it seems the district has really taken ownership this year. It seems this year that folks really get it.”

Many logistical issues still need to be addressed, he said, starting with the school district’s student-transportation system.

And he said that he doubts critics will stop expressing their concerns about the equity of the process and whether all neighborhoods are best served.

“But it was important that they put in a process for this year to hear from the community, and to show that they listened,” he said.

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