Barringer High School in Newark was in chaos today after scores of students and parents marched out of the North Ward school–the oldest high school in Newark–to protest teacherless classrooms, foodless lunch hours, and class sizes reaching into the sixties.
“The hallways are dangerously crowded with students–and so are the classrooms,” said Marco Huertas, a junior.
As part of superintendent Cami Anderson’s plan to provide more “choice,” Barringer was divided into two schools: Barringer STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) and Art. Most of the problems for now are restricted to STEAM.
Anderson fired Wayne Dennis, the principal of STEAM for only one year despite good evaluations and Dennis’s loyalty to Anderson’s “One Newark” plan that has outraged students and parents throughout the state’s largest city. The newly appointed principal of the other Barringer, Muhammed Bilal, quit even before the new school year began.
Wilhelmina Holder, a parent leader who is head of the Secondary School Coalition, said Barringer has been in a state of “chaos” since school opened Sept. 4. Many students sent there under Anderson’s “One Newark” plan either have no schedules at all or temporary schedules that are changed every few days.
“Students don’t know where to go,” she said.
Grace Appiah, 16, a junior, says she has received temporary schedules and has been put in classes she doesn’t need and has been denied classes she does need for college.
“We need the right classes so we can prepare for our SAT tests and get ready for college,” Appiah says.
She says classes–some as technical as chemistry–are being taught by substitutes and teachers who are not certified to teach the courses. She said the classes are overcrowded and do not contain enough seats for all students to sit down.
Barringer is a Title 1 school where many students are eligible for federally subsidized lunch and breakfasts, but many students, she says, are getting nothing.
“They run out of food,” she says. “They hand out bread and cheese.”
She says parents have given their children food to bring to school for breakfast and lunch but they are not allowed to eat the food.
“Students are going hungry,” she says.
Holder says Barringer is badly overcrowded as a result of students sent there under the “One Newark” plan.
Holder and Brenda Scott, a parent leader, sent an email to politicians and school leaders demanding some intervention in the school. They described situations in which there are no classroom instructors–Algebra 2 students are trying to help each other learn; where substitute teachers staff many of the classrooms; where ESL students have no one with whom to speak because there are too few Spanish-speaking instructors.
“This is a school that is supposed to have 600 students and has 700 in one location and 700 in the other,” says Holder.
She says she and Scott spoke with state Sen. Theresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who both represents the area in the Legislature and is chair of the Senate Education Committee.
While Ruiz has done little in the past to oppose Anderson, Holder says the legislator contacted state Education Commissioner David Hespe, a champion of Cami Anderson. Hespe, however, has proven to be useless in getting Anderson to back off the “One Newark” plan that he supports.
Indeed, on the first day of school, Hespe praised Anderson for a “good job.” He promised her opponents to convene a “working group” that would restrain the tone-deaf Anderson–but the group’s members have never been name and it has never met.