Crimes against the people of Newark and their children

No, this is not Montclair or Mendham
No, this is not Montclair or Mendham

The woman at the heart of this story doesn’t want me to use her name or her picture–or the names and pictures of her children.  I can’t blame her for that. I don’t know anyone who wants to tell the world about her troubles, especially personal financial troubles.  The story would have more impact if she were willing to provide identifying details and you could see a picture of her and her children, but I understand why she wishes not to do that. The woman, however, is real and I have spoken to her at length. If someone in authority wants to help her, I will tell that person how to reach her.

I will call her Dolores because that means sad. I will call her 8-year-old son David because that is my son’s name. I will call her 4-year-old son Henry because that is my grandson’s name.  All children are our children, after all.

Dolores recently moved to Newark from another town in Essex County.  She is unemployed. She ran out of benefits and she is broke. She and her children were evicted from their last apartment.  Although she and her children moved into the city before the school year began, she was unable to register her children in the school closest to her apartment, Belmont-Runyon.

Newark doesn’t really have neighborhood schools anymore. Rich white people who live in places like Montclair and Glen Ridge and Mendham have decided the residents of Newark must go to the schools they–the rich white people–say they should go to.  So Dolores’s two sons could not go to Belmont Runyon, just a short walk away.

It’s almost funny because those rich white people call this system “choice”  and they tell themselves and their friends how they are bringing “choice” to poor black people like Dolores and her children. Choice, just like rich white people have–but, of course, poor black people like Dolores cannot choose to live in rich white suburbs and go to the schools there.

No one I know can explain why any of this is called choice. I can’t.

If Dolores could choose, she says, she would choose the school a block or so away. Belmont-Runyon. But strangers who can’t possibly  know how it is to live like Dolores chose to send Dolores’s 8-year-old son, David, to a school more than a mile away. It’s called the Hawthorne Avenue School.

To get David to school every morning, Dolores must get up about six when it is still dark and feed and dress her two sons. Then Dolores walks with her two young children to the bus stop and catches the bus that goes partly across town to the Hawthorne Avenue School.

Then Dolores gets back on the bus with Henry to go home. A few hours later, she gets on the bus with Henry again and goes to Hawthorne again to pick up David. Then the three go home.  Soon it will be dark when they come home, too. They spend about two hours a day waiting for, and riding, a bus. It costs $6 a day, which, to rich white people in Montclair and Glen Ridge and Mendham, isn’t a lot of money.

“But I have to borrow it,” says Dolores. Sometimes, she says, she’s tried to sell her food stamps to raise the money for the bus fare. Rich white people in Montclair and Mendham and Glen Ridge rarely see food stamps.

And many, probably most, have cars. When you have a car, driving to a school 15 blocks away takes a few minutes. That’s probably why people in towns like that who make choices for Dolores don’t understand what a neighborhood school means. It’s more than a convenience. It’s a necessity. A necessity now denied to poor Newark parents like Dolores. She cannot afford a car or gas to put into it or insurance. Imagine that.

Here’s something else that’s, well, not really funny. Although David can go to the Hawthorne Avenue School, the rich white people from Montclair and Glen Ridge and Mendham have decided that Henry can’t go to the same school as his big brother. He has to go to a different school far away. There is a private pre-school near Hawthorne and that would be ok, says Dolores, but that one is filled up, too.

“No room,” she says.

People who work for the rich white people in Montclair and Glen Ridge and Mendham have decided that “school choice” means Henry must go to the 13th Avenue School and the 13th Avenue School is way across town, not just from Belmont-Runyon, but also from  Hawthorne Avenue. About 25 or 30 blocks.

Imagine getting two young kids on a bus for a 15 block ride and then taking another child  on another 25 blocks in the opposite direction and getting it all done by 8:30 a,m. Then going home and, a few hours later, doing the whole thing all over again. Try looking for a job under those circumstances.

“It’s impossible,” says Dolores. “No one could. I just can’t get both kids to school on time.”

She also says, even if it were possible,  she cannot afford the bus fare. Can you imagine anyone living in the kind of house Christopher Cerf or Chris Christie lives in not having bus fare?

But they make the choices. And this is the only choice Dolores has:

Henry cannot go to school at all.

I tried to explain to her about Christopher Cerf,  a rich white man who lives in Montclair and is the Newark schools superintendent. Cerf runs the Newark schools because another man, Gov. Chris Christie, gave him that job. Christie lives in Mendham and he and his wife are rich, too (their children went to schools that charged $36,000 a year in tuition and they could pay that, no sweat). Anyway, Christopher Cerf likes to go around saying how much he loves the people of Newark and wants to help them and so, I said that, maybe, if I wrote about her, maybe Christopher Cerf would help her.

He probably hates bad publicity more than he loves the poor, black people of Newark.

It will be easier for him to ignore Dolores and David and Henry if no one knows their real names and can’t see pictures of them. He will say I made it all up and that’s the real reason I didn’t use Dolores’s real name or publish her picture. Rich white people in places like Montclair and Glen Ridge and Mendham don’t have to tell the world their stories in order to get help from government. They are the government.

I just think what those rich white people who live in Montclair and Glen Ridge and Mendham do to people like Dolores and her children is a crime.




  1. I posed that same quandary to administration once, when they first started to talk about “one Newark”. My example was imaginary … But l knew that are thousands of Dolores
    in Newark. The response was that parents had to take responsibility!
    Again, I tried what if I am responsible but poor and alone? No answer.

  2. Why is she not offered bus passes? I am not for the whole “choice” program, but I do know that bus passes are provided by the schools for parents and kids that have to take oublic transportation to school. Please suggest to her that she inquires about that from Hawthorne.

    Bob Braun: I don’t think that’s all she needs.

    1. Well of course that’s not all she needs but it is a start.

      1. Dolores shouldn’t have to get bus passes, she should be able to walk.

        You seem to miss the whole point of the story.

  3. 1. If Dolores could get a job w NJ Transit, would she get free family passes?? That’d solve 2 problems but then there’s childcare & timing for drop off at 2 schools …

    When the Christies sent children to parochial schools of “their choice” did state rules allow compensation for transportation?
    2. At $6 day/$120 month busfare, maybe Dolores should home-school. I think the district is required to provide textbooks.
    Bob, has NPS released # of home-schooled youths 2015 cf before One Newark?
    3. Is one of the 77 clergy who signed letter re One Newark able to assist her? Maybe it’s time for Freedom Schools in Newark for other families in similar dilemma.

    4. This is Christie-Cerf-Cami craziness. (Booker too) If this is what Christie can do to 40,000 student district, what could he do to the Pentagon–why is he running for President?

  4. Read all about the calculated demise of the Newark Public Schools in “The Prize, Who’s in Charge of America’s School”. by Dale Russakoff.

  5. 1. If the parents are having a financial hardship they can inquired at the school for the courtesy application. The mileage req is 2.0 for elementary and 2.5 for high school. If this early childhood reach out to that department.

    2. If there a homelessness hardship they can also reach out to the homeless unit her name is Ana Osario from NPS don’t have her number but reach out 973-733-7333.

  6. I see where you have a problem with Governor Christie being from Mendham, and Mr Cerf from Montclair, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason for including Glen Ridge in your attack other than it being a ‘white, wealthy’ Community. Why not include every other Community that isn’t Newark?

    Bob Braun: Glen Ridge is the home of Cami Anderson. Provided by her friends from Montclair. But you’re right, could be any rich suburb.

  7. I think she is able to appeal the decision of the school that her child was assigned to. She can also inquire about the bus hubs,,where they have designated pick up and drop off locations that will transport the children to school and pick them up

    1. It sure would make more sense if her son could just go to the school nearby.

    2. Right, then she could get a lawyer to file the appeal and go to various administrative hearings with kids in tow.

      Think of how the bureaucratic apparatus impacts real people.

  8. My gut tells me that the problem is a lot more extensive. Could it be the family are immigrants and possibly illegal and afraid? (Just guessing) They should seek out some help from neighboring churches as well to get some help. And I agree, the best resolution is that she should be able to take her children to the neighboring school.

    Bob Braun: No, they are African-Americans born in the United States.

    1. Ah, a believer in private charity!

      A bridge to the 19 Century – next stop, the poor house.

  9. Dolores means pains, triste means sad. Lol. These stories are very common. Not only are parents and students having to travel long distances now but it also creates an unnecessary budgetary burden for the district. One HS in newark is doling out bus tickets for over 600 students. Do the math for 185 school days and two tickets per day. That’s approximately somewhere between 350k and 400k. Not a bad deal for NJ Transit.

    Bob Braun:

    1. “Doling out”?

      Like “on the dole”?


  10. I would like to help…I was just in this same situation last school year and with the help of complete strangers in the city of newark…one hand washes another

  11. I see alot of commenters don’t get it. I guess it’s because it’s not happening to them in the town they live in. Try having to do this for three years and maybe, just maybe you’ll have a little empathy. I pray she gets the help she needs. This should never have been allowed to happen much less continue. It’s sad and disgusting what people who have a little power and money choose to do to people of lesser means and call it helping or “Choice”. If it’s such a great idea, why haven’t you put it into practice in your neighborhood schools?

    1. The blindness you note is the exploding head of the wealthy white liberal who can’t reconcile contradictions, face racism, and the cognitive dissonance of privilege in a corrupt political economy.

  12. This commentary stinks of patronage and white supremacy and is a red herring. Reminds me of the old argument that slaves are much better on the plantation where their basic needs were met than free- how far would they have to go to find a job? how would they feed their families without farm land? While it is more than unfortunate that this family must pay such a price to get their kids a quality education, it is preferable to the alternative- being locked into a failing school.

    1. Then you think maybe some of the wealthy white suburban kids could take a bus to that quality education you see in Newark’s private schools?

      Then Newark’s poor black kids could get on the same buses back and take those kids’ seats in those wealthy white suburban districts that surround Newark.

      Sound good?

  13. For all the tumult, NPS Renew Schools haven’t done better by students. There are plenty of African American parents/citizens–including educators–who are displeased w One Newark. They comment on this site or Mr Braun’s Facebook page. So It’s unclear what triggered your reaction.

  14. I realize that people who comment with suggestions for “Dolores” are trying to offer help but it seems like they are missing the point of Bob’s post. Why the hell should she have to seek out the clergy or apply for any type of special help rather than simply send her son to her neighborhood school, as any suburban parent living as close as tens minutes away from Newark can? I feel sure that Bob is capable of offering this woman many suggestions for how she can at least marginally improve her situation, and so rather than concrete suggestions I think (excuse me Bob for taking the liberty) that he is simply shouting about this gross injustice into the internet void…hoping that people will feel enraged enough to rise up and fight what is being done by the State of NJ (i.e. Christie and Cerf) to the families of Newark.

    Bob Braun: Exactly.

    1. Yes exactly.

      But so many people are cowed by the Neoliberal model that they can see no alternatives.

      That’s what has to change – and the people of Newark were becoming aware and empowered and working for alternative – before Baraka cut the deal with Christie.

  15. I have worked in the district for 13 years, at 5 different schools – just as students get shuffled around, so do teachers – a new job every year? How does that make teachers experts in their field? In my town, my sons teachers have been teaching their same grade in their same class for 15 plus years – I feel confident that they are experts in their field and can effectively teach my son. It needs to stop now

    1. jill,

      I am running neck and neck with you. I am in school number eight in sixteen years. I am Partially Effective and well past 50. It is not looking good.

  16. PESupporter, Comments with suggestions aren’t necessarily missing Bob’s point–they can be pointing out the absurdities that parents confront under Cerf & CamI’s regimes. And the irony that Christie children were likely eligible for transportation to parochial schools.

  17. Dolores and the needs of her children get in the way of corporate profits. That is not allowed.

    So, the rich white people who make the decisions about Dolores’ housing and school needs make sure that they first guarantee corporate profits.

    Real estate speculators, young urban entrepreneurs and school privatizers drive the decisions of the rich white people in suburbs who dictate housing, employment, food, and educational needs of poor black people living in cities.

    Yes, you do note the remarkable and ugly hypocrisy of calling this system “choice”.

    Thank you for writing this and please keep on this narrative.

  18. Bob

    How can your followers help Dolores and her children? They are in peril and need community support.

    So many of these stories in Newark it breaks my heart.

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