Julian can’t go to the school next to his house–“One Newark” and Chris Cerf won’t allow it

Sara Ferreira looks at the pplayground behind her house--the Oliver Street playground--where her son cannot go to school.
Sara Ferreira looks at the playground behind her house–the Oliver Street playground–where her son cannot go to school.

Sara Da Silva-Ferreira stands at the fence at the back of the property members of her family have owned for years in Newark’s Ironbound. She looks past the rough chain-links right into a school playground she knows well because she played there as a student and now her daughter Gabrielle attends school there, too. Her cousins attended the large elementary school as well. The familiar sight of the playground and the tall school walls looming behind it  makes Sara sad and angry now because she has been told for two years   that her son Julian cannot attend the same school. The Oliver Street School.

Sara Ferreira, outside her home on Pacific Street, describes her shabby treatment by school officials.
Sara Ferreira, outside her home on Pacific Street, describes her shabby treatment by school officials.

“I’ve never had any problems,” says Ferreira who works as a private bank security guard. “But now my son cannot go to the same school her sister attends. I don’t understand.”

This is called “school choice” in the Newark public schools, part of the “One Newark Enrolls” plan that disperses children throughout the city instead of allowing them to attend their neighborhood school.

This is called “school choice”–and those words have become a political slogan for Chris Christie, the  governor who proclaimed himself the “decider”  over the Newark schools and is running for president.

But there’s a catch. The choice of where Julian Ferriera can attend is not the parent’s choice. It is a choice made by some bureaucrat, probably imported from New York City, in an administration headed by Montclair entrepreneur Christopher Cerf who became Newark school superintendent as part of a deal that, its supporters say, will eventually bring local control back to the Newark schools.

Christopher Cerf–the same man who decided years ago to rearrange the enrollment patterns in Newark as a $500,000 consultant–because he is a champion of charter schools and the new enrollment plan would close neighborhood schools and open new charters.

But even if local control does come to Newark, it won’t come in  not in time for Julian to attend the school located behind his backyard. The school his sister attends. That is mother attended. That his uncles and cousins attended.

Julian Ferreira--who can't go to the school next to his home.
Julian Ferreira–who can’t go to the school next to his home.

Julian’s mother doesn’t have a lot of interest in the politics surrounding the Newark public schools nor much time to get involved. Sara and her husband Peter, a mechanic, often work six days a week to pay the rent on their apartment in the four-family where they and other members of the family live.  They leave early in the morning, long before school opens and rely on Sara’s mother to get the children off to school. Sara and Peter Ferreira just needed a pre-school for their four-year-old son and they just assumed Julian could attend the same pre-school that welcomed Gabrielle three years ago.

“I just registered Gabrielle at school and they took her in, no problem,” says Sara. Gabrielle is now 8 and a second-grader at Oliver Street.

Last year, Sara tried to register Julian for the pre-K-3 program at the school behind her home.  He was not admitted. She appealed the decision–the appeal was ignored. This April, she checked the Newark Public School website every day to see when registration for the pre-K-4 program opened. As soon as it did, she filled out the form on line and went to the school. She thought there was no way Julian would be rejected.

But he was.

“How is it possible the class could fill up so quickly?” Sara wants to know. She says she knows children from other neighborhoods are attending Oliver Street–even children from other towns. But she doesn’t want to ruin things for other parents. She wants her son to attend the school his sister attends, the school right behind their home.

Sara was told to report to the enrollment center run by the Newark Public Schools on Montgomery Street. She was told to bring financial information–including her last three pay stubs–and proof of medical insurance. She was never told why.

“But then I received a letter saying Julian was on he waiting list,” she says.

The white shed behind the chain link fence on the Oliver Street in on the Ferreira home property
The white shed behind the chain link fence on the Oliver Street School yard is in on the Ferreira home property

She sought help from her councilman and member of the state Assembly. The politicians told her there was nothing they could do. She also sought help from the Newark Teachers Union and was referred to #ParentPower.  Frankie Adao from that group told this site about her story.

In the past, former superintendent Cami Anderson would exploit the pain of people like Ferreiras to say her enrollment plan was working. It was creating demand for good schools and that is what it was supposed to do.

But it also was destroying neighborhood schools–and certainly not just in the Ironbound. All last summer, parents complained about how their children had to find ways of getting to schools across town. Neighborhood schools like Bragaw Avenue in the South Ward were closed and turned into charter schools.

When neighborhood schools close, neighborhoods disintegrate and die. Neighborhood schools are part of the glue that keeps neighborhoods together–and neighborhoods keep cities alive. Much of what this struggle is about has to do with the destruction of neighborhoods and the gentrification of the city–the conversion of real estate to money for people who live in places like Montclair and New York City.

Some people believe the Ironbound is a wealthy neighborhood. It’s not. It’s a gritty, working-class area where men and women like Peter and Sara Ferreira struggle to survive. Just the same way as men and women in the north and central and west and south wards struggle to survive in the largest city in New Jersey, a state dominated by suburban politics and politicians.

The corner of Pacific and East Kinney streets. The building to the left is the Ferreira home--the building to the right is the Oliver Street School.
The corner of Pacific and East Kinney streets. The building to the left is the Ferreira home–the building to the right is the Oliver Street School.

There are no great lawns there, no tree-lined boulevards, no enormous playgrounds. A lot of brick and siding multiple-family homes. But, until recently, the Ironbound and other Newark neighborhoods did have one benefit suburban children enjoyed–local, neighborhood schools within safe walking distance of their homes.

After the deal to bring local control back to Newark–the school system has been run by the state since 1995–was announced, Mayor Ras Baraka called for an immediate end to “One Newark” and a return to neighborhood schools.

But “One Newark” endures. If it lasts a few more years–Cerf has a three-year contract–neighborhood schools might completely vanish from the city. Local control will mean authority over a school system dominated by charter schools and public schools far from the children’s homes. Untangling that will be a challenge.

Sara Ferreira understands she is caught up in the midst of turmoil that affects virtually all public school children and parents, no matter what ward they live in. But she worries first about Julian and Gabrielle.

`I want them to go to school here, near our home, in our neighborhood,” she says.

But Sara Ferriera lives in Newark–and so she can’t have choice.

 

 

 

18 comments

  1. MMF

    This is not the first time we’ve heard about the school administration asking for financial information. What possible excuse could there be for them to request this when registering a student? Same with proof of insurance. I’ve never had to provide more than proof of residency here in my nice suburb.

    • Danyka L

      I completely understand. Im going through the transfer process as well. I live 2 blocks away from the school I chose is 15 blocks walking distance. But now my son will be put on a waiting list too. Lets see if the “one newark ” things sticks for long. I doubt it.

  2. Marina jorge

    I agree with Sara Fereira. There are many schools in Newark and there should be a law for the distance on children to go to certain school. There are many students coming from different city’s to Oliver I live right in front and do see many students come and know many students that don’t live in Newark coming to Oliver …

  3. Mythoogy

    Mr. Braun, don’t stop doing what you are doing. You have found your life’s work and you truly are fighting “The Good Fight”. People need to see the corruption that is building up around them and you, through your sources are keeping the public informed and aware.

    It’s as I have posted many times to you personally, “These corrupt individuals never expected the push-back that they are receiving from the citizens of Newark.” You have led the charge and continue to do so even as you are disappointed by those that should be behind and in front of you.

    The decapitation of Cami Anderson as superintendent of the Newark Public Schools shows people, on a national level, what can be accomplished when people are informed about crimes against children.

    To all teachers statewide, when you see something corrupt happening to our babies report it. Document it. Blog it. Destroy it.

  4. Jason

    Sad, that a resident to a neighboring school has to relocate her child to a different school. The school refusing to accept the child is a part of the board of education. While other students who Reeside closer to others neighboring schools are register to this school. The board of education needs to out and really check out these parents who live out side of Newark who own property in the ironbound and still have there children going to school here in Newark. There using there rented properties to house there children into school here in the ironbound.

  5. fernanda

    I’m in the same situation my 4 kids goes to Oliver and I’m been trying since last year to get my son that’s now 4 and he didn’t find a spot this is crazy

  6. Elizabeth Perez

    Yes i dont like this idea at all. I live in North Newark and My 3 yr son has been accepted to North Ward Child Development Center the Mansion on Clifton Ave in which my 5 yr old attened for Prek 3 & Pre K 4 . i am highly upset and furious that my 5 yr old will be attending a school 17Min away from my home!! Why does my son have to go to the other side of Newark in which i am nowhere familiar with!!!!! Brick avon academy???? I never heard of that school. I have no idea how i will do this. When both my boys have to be in class at 8:30 there is no way in hell this is happening. This situation has me beyond stressed out and so nervous. I work in Hackensack. And now have to worry about both my kids going to school. Something that should be so exciting for me to enjoy my second son attending school. Has become a nightmare!! I just dont understand there are so many schools closer to me.

  7. blackbutterflii

    One morning I was interviewing with principal for a position at a school in Newark. I witnessed a parent cry and plead for assistance with getting her son to school on time. He didnt get into their neighborhood school. He was one of 4 children who was sent across town for kindergarten. Also Newark hadn’t approved for transportation by company school buses yet for this particular school. All thr staff said their was nothing they could do. The referred her to people from the administration that would only take messages and wouldn’t help. As a result her son missed so many days from his first year of school which will affect him and his family.

  8. Lisa

    I am so glad Sara finally went public with this issue! Her children are entitled to attend their neighborhood school! Just another example of nepotism in Newark

  9. yasmin

    People are stuck on NPS and didn’t bother looking into other PreK school in your area. There’s IEP Ironbound and also the agency I work for Community Development Institute -CDI HS. There’s school down Ironbound section. Call 973-242-2671 and ask about it.

  10. jeanette

    This is absolutely crazy that they are sending these kids to schools so far from home I work hard to pay for my rent to live in a good neighbor hood and to send my kids to school in my neigborhood. The board of education wants to send parents to court when kids have many absences but how will a parent send 2 kids to school on time when they have to go to different locations I am so upset with this I want my kids to go to school together to grown up with the neighborhood kids. I want to wlk down the street and hear a kid tell their parent hey that’s my friends lil sister.

  11. Nina Jacobs

    So who exactly can help these parents? Since the administration won’t and the local politicians CAN’T…this is in the Ledger. Can’t 7 On Your Side or Better Get Baquero on the news make something happen?

  12. Ruth Hoernig

    I am a resident of Newark whose children are all grown, but I work with children in the Central Ward. The One Newark so-called plan is so destructive to our kids, our neighborhoods, and our families.
    Here’s a thought: Fix ALL the schools and make them equally good. Then put all the kids back into their neighborhood schools where they can make friends who live near them and where they can actually GET to school without being in danger.

  13. Andrea Wilson

    This is ridiculous children should be able to attend schools across the street or block away They shouldn’t have to go 15 blocks halfway across town to attend a school. It is an Inconvenience to the parents

  14. Nataliz

    Unfortunately I had to deal with Newark One last year! My son, who is autistic, wasn’t even placed in a school!! I then tried to enroll him in a charter school only to be told they had ridiculous wait lists. A few days before school started my only option was to enroll him in St. Francis Xavier, which turned out to be a total blessing. As long as I live in Newark he will be attending private school, it’s sad since I received an amazing education in Branch Brook Elementary & Technology High School, both Newark schools.

  15. lola

    Get out and attend peaceful demostrations, get a good lawyer and sue Cerf personally, boycott and hold kids out, something drastic must occur in order for change to happen. This is criminal, yet we do nothing to push back.

  16. lumi

    We refuse to participate in this nonsensical enrollment system. Our neighborhood school in Branch Brook Elementary which is one of the good non-charter schools. We know we will not be matched there and aren’t interested in sending a kindergartner across town or not be as good. Instead we will be eating the cost of monthly tuition at a Catholic school in a neighboring town because know all too well that educational quality and opportunity build the foundation for everything that comes after. Fortunately we have the financial ability and transportation to do so, but many others do not. Which is why we all have to fight for what is right.

  17. Pingback: Teachers: Chris Christie Wants to Punch You “In The Face” | Daniel Katz, Ph.D.

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