“Newark at a Crossroads” Looks at the State of Newark Public Schools, One Newark Plan and Zuckerberg’s Donation

Baraka discussed the state of the Newark Public Schools and how eager he is for the schools to go back to local control.

By Michael Hill

Newark at a Crossroads has Mayor Ras Baraka — a former teacher and principal — telling Steve Adubato why he’s eager for local instead state control of schools.

“What would be different?” asked Adubato.

“Well, one we would have an opportunity to govern ourselves and control our own destiny and begin to become committed to community schools,” said Baraka.

“Community schools” as opposed to former Superintendent Cami Anderson’s One Newark enrollment — splitting families up and sending siblings across town to different schools.

“Is that a major piece of your agenda or do you say that was that agenda?” Adubato said.

“Here’s how I think about it. We have to get away from the words and the brand,” said Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf.

New Superintendent Cerf says he wants to give parents choices in where their kids go to school, so the district gives consideration to “sibling preference”.

“You want to give a preference for that open slot to a parent who already has a child in that school,” said Cerf

“Because it would be an inconvenience if those kids were split up?,” said Adubato.

“Exactly. They’re going off to work. They don’t want to go to multiple, different campuses to drop their kids off,” Cerf said.

“He says that but it’s not true,” said Frankie Adao of Parent Power Movement Team.

Adao says an Ironbound mother turned to his Parent Power Movement Team this summer. She has one child attending Oliver Street School, but another was assigned to a school across town — until Adao says he got the news media involved.

“We had to do our own hooting and hollering and getting parents what they need,” Adao said.

Adao is among the skeptics that Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation and the matching amount have benefited Newark public schools.

But, Kimberly McLain of the Foundation for Newark’s Future says $170 million has been invested, including $48 million for teacher contracts.

“One, the contract is designed to reward those teachers who are getting good results and are doing well in the classroom. Two, it’s designed to provide the supports that good teachers who need extra support, they could get it through the contract and thirdly, it is designed in a way to exit the low performers. And we believe that those three components is what will leave us with a mix of teachers that are dedicated, that are compassionate, that are competent,” said McLain.

“You give 27-year-old a $100 million and he gets snookered by professionals,” said Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon.

Abeigon is president of the teachers union and says the reform movement is skipping the basics.

“The traditional schools are still falling about for the most part, have still been ignored. It’s the second week of school and many of them are still waiting for supplies,” he said.

We’re in this together
For a better-informed future. Support our nonprofit newsroom.
Donate to NJ Spotlight