Board Holds Annual Meetings with Leaders of State-Takeover School Districts

John Mooney | January 7, 2014 | Education
Education officials from Newark, Paterson, Jersey City and Camden to state their case on Wednesday

state seal
Where: Busch Campus Center, Rutgers University, Piscataway.

When: 9 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2013

What it is: The state Board of Education continues its schedule of special meetings with the leaders of New Jersey’s four school districts that are under state control. The board is responsible for approving the state’s control of the school systems and overseeing their progress. It must also approve any changes in the state’s control of these districts, including new contracts for the superintendents.

What it means: The testimony has proven to be a useful annual check-up on the status of the state’s control of its largest and arguably most-troubled school systems. The takeovers, once viewed as a pioneering effort, have proven to be a vexing puzzle. The Christie administration has been quietly negotiating to give back some control in the Newark, Jersey City and Paterson school districts, while it has more recently stepped up control in Camden schools.

The schedule: The superintendents of each district are slated to give a half-hour presentation, followed by a 15- to 30-minute period for questions from the board. There will be no public testimony.

Keeping informed: “This will present the issues, the progress that is being made, the challenges that are being faced,” said board President Arcelio Aponte. “This is meant to make the state board members aware of what is going on.”

Plenty going on: The state’s four takeover districts – Newark, Paterson, Jersey City and now Camden – have been at the heart of the Christie administration’s school-reform efforts, with the central issue for each being the balance between the state’s role and local control.

Newark: State-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson is slated to testify about her push to reorganize the district with new closures and consolidations of schools. Those plans have faced strong resistance from community activists.

Camden: In the newest of the state’s takeover districts, reforms are still in their early stages, as state-appointed Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard has yet to unveil his strategic plan. But a push for new charter schools is already under way in the city, and those plans are sure to remake what is arguably the state’s neediest school district.

Jersey City: The state’s second-largest school district has sometime been overlooked in school-takeover debate. Some controls have already been given back by the state and talks with the district are continuing. Jersey City’s case has proven to be one of the success stories, with big gains in graduation rates and little of the community protest seen elsewhere.