Three of the five Newark principals suspended after criticizing the “One Newark” plan have been reinstated. H. Grady James of Hawthorne Avenue, Tony Motley of Bragaw Avenue, and Dorothy Handfield of Belmont-Runyon will return to their jobs Monday. Two others will not be permitted to return to their schools. According to union sources, Deneen Washington of Maple Avenue and Lisa Brown of Ivy Hill School have been reassigned to the Central Office.
The suspension of the principals, 48 hours after four of them spoke at a community rally at Hopewell Baptist Church, created a national outcry against the tactics of state-appointed school superintendent Cami Anderson, the former Teach for America executive and associate of Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf who was appointed to head the Newark schools by Gov. Chris Christie. Support for the principals came from throughout the United States.
The controversy also focused attention on Ms. Anderson’s “One Newark” plan that will close, transfer to charter owners, redesign or otherwise “repurpose” more than a third of Newark’s schools. The plan was announced abruptly last month and parents already have been forced to file a “universal application” indicating which school they wish to attend–so long as the school isn’t one of the neighborhood schools slated for closing.
The uproar about the plan–and the suspensions–led to the introduction of legislation that its sponsors hope will stop the Christie administration from imposing its will on Newark residents. State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) has called the plan “destructive and disruptive” and has vowed to fight it in the Legislature.
The controversy also has redefined the city’s mayoral race, providing a major issue for Ras Baraka, also a Newark school principal, who is now leading in the polls and is championing the opposition to “One Newark.” Rice and others have demanded all candidates declare their positions.
The fifth principal, Ms. Brown, was suspended after an altercation not involving two central office administrators–assistant superintendent Tiffany Hardrick and special assistant Gary Beidleman–and Daryn Martin, the president of the Ivy Hill PTO. According to union sources, Ms. Brown was found to be insubordinate, apparently for supporting Mr. Martin.
Mr. Martin, who has two children in the Ivy Hill School, was banned from entering any Newark school facility after he tried to stop Central Office executives from tearing down notices of a PTO meeting he posted at the school.
Ms. Washington was found to have encouraged parents to boycott “One Newark,” say the union sources.
No word yet on the fate of Jacqueline Bostic, the Central Office clerk who was suspended for criticizing the Newark One plan while on the phone during a break in the ladies’ room.