Newark Mayor Ras Baraka Wednesday held a press conference at which he announced the creation of “enrollment assistance sites” designed to help families register their children for school this fall. The official statement released indicates five sites, one in each ward (locations listed below with the mayor’s statement), would be staffed by “volunteers and staff from the Newark Public Schools.” Unsurprisingly, Newark schools superintendent Christopher Cerf saw the statement as support for the “One Newark” enrollment plan and put out this statement: “I support any initiative that provides parents with information and resources to help them choose a school that works best for their child. Our teams have been in communication about this effort and we believe it will complement the work already underway at the District’s Family Support Center.”
Confusing? Well, yes.
This is the headline in the NJ.COM coverage of the same story: “Baraka says ending One Newark ‘the only answer” to Newark school issues.” The full story can be found at http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2015/08/baraka_says_ending_one_newark_the_only_answer_to_n.html#incart_river
On the one hand, the mayor appears to be criticizing the “One Newark” plan as he had in the past. Still, Cerf is expressing gratitude for the cooperation he is receiving from Baraka in helping “One Newark” work.
It shouldn’t be missed, however, that in the mayor’s statement, the needs of wrongly enrolled special education and other special needs students would be a priority of his “enrollment assistance centers.” This is what the statement says:
“The Enrollment Assistance Sites will support families that have been placed in schools that don’t meet their needs or that cannot provide services to which children are entitled, including Special Education and English Language Learner program. Volunteer staff members will complete intake of issues and complaints, and work with Newark Public Schools on each issue.”
Interesting. And important.
But there’s Nothing about the need for many children to travel across the city to attend school. Or the separation of families, with two more children going to two more different schools. And, of course, it suggests the Newark Public Schools will still have final say.
Must be a kinder, gentler “One Newark” enrollment plan.
A plan originally drawn up by Christopher Cerf himself when his private consulting firm, Global Education Advisers, was hired by the Newark schools.
In his statement, Baraka pushed for community education and praised the work of “Newark Board of Educational Success,” the nine-member committee, dominated by Christie appointees–including staunch charter supporters–who are supposed to be drawing up a plan for the return of local control.
The most interesting reading in the NJ.COM story was a passage about the mayor’s attitude toward charter schools. This is what The Star-Ledger’s on-line service reported about that:
“Baraka has said that he would not seek to reduce the number of Newark charter schools, which have flourished in the city in recent years and now educate approximately 40 percent of students. He stressed that he was not seeking a debate on the merits of the charter or public systems, but simply that they are organized in a way that works for all students and their parents.
“However, he urged the charters to expand the number of grades in their facilities in order to ease the district’s long-running issue with overcrowding. Some of the operations have taken up in former district buildings, but are serving fewer grades than the schools they replaced, he said.
“He also requested that the district conduct an investigation to ensure that all students in the city’s schools are actually residents, which he hoped might provide some added relief.”
Hmmm. Considering that the explosive growth of charter schools is draining funds from the city’s public schools, resulting in the closing of public schools, the dismissal of teachers or their assignment to “rubber rooms,” or other inappropriate placements–something that costs city and state taxpayers $35 million a year in wasted money.
And charter schools provide their students with benefits denied to neighborhood public school students. Just go over to what used to be the Bragaw Avenue School –now KIPP’s “Life Academy” charter school–listen to the hum of air conditioners.
Just because charters–and those who make money from them–are politically powerful doesn’t mean they are not inherently discriminatory. Some children are winners–and some are not.
Maybe, the “Newark Educational Success Board” will evolve into the Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans, a locally controlled school board that oversees a district with no public schools, just charters.
Just what Mark Zuckerberg and former Mayor Cory Booker and Gov. Chris Christie want.
This site could not attend the mayor’s press but the full text of the mayor’s statement released by City Hall afterward follows:
— Mayor Ras J. Baraka, the Newark Municipal Council, Chief Education Officer Dr. Lauren Wells, and other dignitaries held a press conference today in the City Hall First Floor Rotunda, to announce the opening of Enrollment Assistance Sites to help families register their children for school in the coming school year. City Hall is located at 920 Broad Street.
Five Enrollment Assistance Sites will be created, one located in each ward in the City. The Sites will be staffed by volunteers and staff from the Newark Public Schools to ensure the efficient flow of information to residents, families, and parents. The Office of Comprehensive Community Education in the Mayor’s Office will oversee the initiative, which will operate from August 27 through September 10, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. A list of centers is given below.
“This is a proactive step to solving problems that have become endemic to a dysfunctional system,” the Mayor said. He also noted other issues that required addressing, such as overcrowding resulting from the One Newark Plan and the enrollment of non-Newark residents in district and charter schools, calling for an audit of enrollment across the district.
“Our schools and City are intimately connected, which means that everything happening in our City affects our schools and everything happening in our City affects our schools. We are making progress in reclaiming our schools and being able to determine the future of our children’s education,” the Mayor said. “Sustained progress requires the people of the City are seen and treated as a part of the solution to all of the problems that face both our city and schools. It is time for us to be actively involved in solving the problems facing our district. We cannot wait for local control to be returned. We must have agency now.”
In addition, the Mayor discussed local control of the Newark Public Schools, the Newark Educational Success Board, and his vision of education in Newark after local control is returned.
“I have been fighting for local control so that we can organize the resources of our city to work in a way that helps our schools and our children be more successful – so that we, the parents, the residents, the educators, students, those elected to represent us, and all of the stakeholders of this city are directly involved in determining what the education of our children looks like,” Mayor Baraka added. “You elected me because I told you that when I got into office, I would do everything in my power to restore control of Newark Public Schools to the residents of this city. We are now at a point where there is real work happening to bring local control back.”
The Mayor noted that when local control is returned to the Newark Public Schools, it will enable the School Board to develop a systemic community schools strategy built on partnerships with non-profits, businesses, and colleges to ensure that children and schools have all the resources they need to engage children in learning. These schools would include citizenship projects: wrap-around supports; and, GED; citizenship, and ESL programs for families and residents.
“Community schools are getting results all across the country,” Mayor Baraka said. He pointed out that Community Schools in Tulsa, Oklahoma, outperform non-community schools by 32 points in math and 19 points in reading. In Nashville, Glencliff High School has increased its graduation rate from 66 percent in 2008 to 81 percent in 20111, and that Cincinnati went from an 84 percent dropout rate to a 100 percent graduation rate between 2000 and 2009.
The Enrollment Assistance Sites will support families that have been placed in schools that don’t meet their needs or that cannot provide services to which children are entitled, including Special Education and English Language Learner program. Volunteer staff members will complete intake of issues and complaints, and work with Newark Public Schools on each issue.
For more information on the City of Newark, please visit our website
To visit the City of Newark’s official photo galleries:
School Enrollment Support Sites
Donald Tucker Center
23-35 Elizabeth Avenue
Jehovah –Jireh Praise & Worship Church Center
505 South 15th Street
277 Oliver Street
The Willing Heart Community Care Center
555 Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd.
Ebenezer Pentecostal Temple
204 Montclair Avenue