The “One Newark” plan is a disaster for the city’s families. Now, even the district leadership all but admits it by again postponing crucial deadlines. Parents who were promised a “match” with a new school this week won’t be getting it until next month. Other parents won’t know until days before school opens. And to make things even worse, some Newark school principals yesterday received instructions that, if literally followed, would require them to turn away from their schools all children who had a right to be there. How can the city’s parents feel comfortable with educators who cannot even express themselves in understandable language?
It’s what happens when you place the fate of school children in the hands of bungling, overpaid amateurs who got their jobs because of connections with Teach for America and charter schools and who are now trying to impose a political agenda on the people of a city just to please a governor.
“One Newark” was not only unworkable in design but now the state regime running the schools is so incompetent it can’t figure out what to do about the transportation and special education problems it created. Once more, its implementation has been delayed, leaving Newark’s parents dazed and confused.
In emails, conference calls, and “backpack” letters home—many of which never found their way to the children—Christie-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson said she was postponing the promised registration of thousands of children in their new schools, including the many new charters whose operators have the most to gain from this disaster.
The reason: Anderson still doesn’t know what to do about the massive transportation problem created by the “One Newark” mess—and still doesn’t know how to handle the placement of special education students, especially those whose parents might want to go to charter schools that are unprepared to deal with them.
The thousands of families—numbers differ–who signed up under the Universal Application plan were promised they would receive notification of where their children would be placed by mid-April. Now, it won’t happen until mid-May. And, for some children, it won’t happen until August.
Anderson herself, who hasn’t been in town for the last two weeks, posted an unhelpful letter on the NPS website, announcing the latest delay. Don’t forget– the original deadlines for applying under the Universal Application plan already were delayed twice.
Anderson’s letter contends that, after consulting with “focus groups”—remember she won’t attend Newark school board meetings as required by law—she has decided to postpone sending out so-called “match” letters to families letting them know where their kids will go to school.
“The district is working to identify transportation options before sending match letters,” Anderson wrote.
How nice—now that she’s decided to send children scrambling across the city, Anderson finally figured out she has to find ways of getting them there.
The letter also reveals a new problem—the necessity to create a second round of the Universal Application, apparently because not enough parents signed up for the first round. Or, as Anderson says, “to ensure that those students and families who did not previously participate are aware of their options and can receive a school match by this summer.”
In other words, the original recruitment drive—touted as such a sign of support for this crazy plan—fell on its face and has to be redone.
But Anderson’s letter still isn’t telling the whole truth. In e-mails and conference calls from Newark’s very expensive leadership, principals were told the district simply isn’t ready to send out match letters because it hasn’t solved transportation and special education problems. Don’t forget—Anderson’s favored charter schools won’t take special education classes because they are not equipped to deal with special needs children.
Here’s an email sent to me by a Newark principal in which $175,000-a-year assistant superintendent Peter Turnamian explains the problems.
Dear Network Leaders,
I hope everyone is well.
A family letter is being finalized and will be sent to you (hopefully) before noon today. This letter should be sent home in back packs today.
The postponement of the registration period is necessary so the District my (sic) better prepare transportation (beyond bus tickets) solutions for families that may require transportation to accept a match at one of their top choices.
Please do the following today:
– Ensure the family letter is sent home
-Meet with your enrollment team (POC, clerks, parent liasons (sic), etc…) – Update them about this development
– Update registration plans
Between now and May 12th, please continue to market your schools aggressively. Please consider planning an Open House and/or school tours. During our next meeting I will share some preliminary data about how many unfilled seats are currently projected for your school.
In preparation for May 12th, it is imperative your enrollment team is prepared, willing and able to register all families at your school that produce a match letter. It is essential no family, even a family with a child who has an IEP (one that requires services you may not currently offer), is NOT turned away (sic). Between now and May 12th we will connect with you about specific students that may fit this category in hopes of limiting any surprise factor that may occur on May 12th.
Regardless, I can’t stress enough the importance of you turn keying this message to your enrollment team. If families are turned away from a school with a match letter we will be looking to school leadership for an explanation. This is a huge mindset shift across the district. It will not be successful without your leadership.
Please reach out with any questions, suggestions or concerns.
To be honest, I found this letter so incompetently written I sent it back to both the principal who sent it to me and to the Newark school administration to ask for its authenticity. I delayed posting this blog for a day waiting for a response. I now believe it to be authentic, although the NPS has yet to respond.
Let’s try that sentence about special education students again:
It is essential no family, even a family with a child who has an IEP (one that requires services you may not currently offer), is NOT turned away.
Yes, the letter is poorly written—and the worst is the reference to special education students. This sentence literally means the opposite of what was intended: It is essential no family, even a family with a child who has an IEP (one that requires services you may not currently offer), is NOT turned away (sic). The sentence, as written, means all families should be turned away—no family will not be turned away when what he means is no family will be turned away. Yikes.
Turnamian is both a Teach for America graduate and a founder of the Greater Newark Charter School.
It’s that “mindset shift” I guess—write exactly the opposite of what you mean and leave everyone guessing. Welcome to the new world of educational reform.
By the way, those backpack letters never got to many schools in time to be sent home with the children yesterday. If the district can’t send home letters describing how bad their plan turned out to be, imagine how bad the implementation in the fall will be.