Special Report: Renewing Newark’s Schools, An Overview

In this first part of a yearlong series, ‘A Promise to Renew’ goes into the classrooms at the Quitman Street school to learn more about the latest efforts at reform

A Promise to Renew
If there were points on a map of education reform in New Jersey, if not the country as a whole, one might be at the corner of Quitman and West Kinney streets in the Central Ward of Newark.

There stands the Quitman Street Community School, a brick and glass building erected in the pre-riot 1960s, a school like its city that has been beaten down and subject to so-called rebirths, renewals, and reforms a few times over the past decades.

It’s a place where principals have turned over a dozen times in the past 25 years, a school swept up in the state’s takeover of the district in 1994, a school trying to keep pace with the city’s emergence as a national haven for charter schools.

And now a new superintendent is in place by the hand of Gov. Chris Christie and a $100 million gift — announced on Oprah, no less — from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

At Quitman, reform is another new principal, a pledge to re-energize its teachers — and replace a number of them — and a new push for improvement as one of Newark’s eight “renewal schools” under Superintendent Cami Anderson.

The Hechinger Report and NJ Public Radio have joined with NJ Spotlight to share Quitman’s story over the next year, dispatching a team of reporters to cover its daily trials and triumphs and the lessons it provides for schools and communities nationwide.

Today’s dispatch, running in all three venues, is the story of principal Erskine Glover two years on the job and newly empowered by Anderson to select much of his own teaching staff.

This story is the lead-up to the decisions by the charismatic principal, not just determining the fate of the teachers but pivotal in this latest reform effort.

It speaks to the issues of teacher quality that permeate New Jersey’s and the nation’s debate on teacher tenure, evaluation, and test scores. It is a story of the impact of the community on a school — the strength of its families and the struggles with poverty and crime.

And it is a story we hope our readers and listeners will connect with, joining us in a conversation about Quitman and education reform.