Tag Archive: Newark public schools

Newark Students talk about What Brought Them to Civil Disobedience

Why did students occupy Newark Public Schools HQ for four days last week?

New Jersey, these are your young people, the leaders of Newark Student Union. They are dealing with the knife edge of issues that could easily make it to your own local schools, if they haven’t already. You may remember that one of the demands these high school students, and their parents, made of Christie-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson is that she finally attend the School Board meeting on the 24th, as superintendents should be expected to do. That’s tonight. The meeting’s going on now. And again, Cami has ditched. Here is what the students have to say:

Anderson’s “One Newark” Scheme: The Results Could Be Deadly

Normally the debate over school reform isn’t considered, at least in the immediate sense, a life or death issue. Deliberations concerning teacher tenure, educator workload, class sizes, meal quality, even building conditions can get heated, but rarely overlap with the subject of mortality. But this time things are different. As a former Newark resident and Public School teacher, I am writing to express my serious concern. Due to Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” Plan, and its total obliteration of neighborhood schools, children will probably die. It’s sickening to contemplate. Unthinkable – but logically speaking, all of the pieces are falling into place for an unprecedented series of disasters to ensue.

For the uninformed, Anderson’s “One Newark” Plan has replaced neighborhood schools with a network of schools – charter, magnet and traditional – that parents “apply” to through a universal application. Parents list something like their top two or three choices and through a complex algorithm, students wind up with a school. Sometimes it’s a school they’ve selected, sometimes it is not. The school could be a block away, or on the opposite side of the city. Regardless, come this September, tens of thousands of Newark Public School students will be transformed into hardened commuters, traversing the city’s vast distances by bus, car, light rail and foot to get to and from school. Some daily student commutes will be more than 10 miles through a dense, busy and varied urban environment.

Students at all levels – elementary, middle and high school – will be forced to spend long periods of time in transit. Students will be at bus stops and on busses before sunrise. For those thousands attending after-school events like dances, club meetings, games and concerts, evening bus trips and long walks, sometimes in near-to-total darkness, will be the norm. And it should be pointed out that some games and concerts, especially in the high schools, can end as late as 9 p.m.

Students will be required to do this every day. They will be subjected to the elements during the pleasant, warm mornings of September and during the freezing rainstorms of December. Heat waves, cold snaps, traffic jams, neighborhoods with serious safety issues…all will challenge children and teens, and relentlessly so.

This isn’t a commentary to criticize Newark specifically, but let’s be realistic about this. It’s New Jersey’s largest, densest city. Even to an adult with a car, Newark is a huge, sprawling metropolis of broad, lengthy boulevards and steep hills. The sidewalks in some places are falling apart, and entire stretches of pedestrian walkways, even in the city’s bustling Central Ward, go without proper maintenance or snow removal for weeks at a time.

Add into this mix tens of thousands of overstressed commuters hurrying to get to and from work during rush hours and you’re just asking for catastrophe. Don’t take my word for it. Stand at any intersection along Springfield or Central Avenues at 8 a.m. and you will witness cars, vans and busses bolting by at speeds upward to 50 miles and hour or faster. Trucks blaze through yellow lights like Doc’s DeLorean from Back to the Future. Emergency vehicles regularly shriek down Newark’s avenues with a rapidity that, from the perspective of a confused Fourth Grader, approaches light speed.

Now I know that we all take our lives into our hands whenever we venture out of bed each morning. Every step we take is with God’s Grace, no doubt. But if this plan is implemented, the odds of a child coming into harm’s way, either through an accident or as a victim of a crime, will increase astronomically. Every day tens of thousands of children will be moving through and learning in neighborhoods far away from their homes, parents and guardians.

Many parents in Newark don’t have cars, because one of the main advantages of living in a big city like Newark, with its workable public transportation system, is that some can do without them. Additionally, many of Newark’s parents and guardians are low-income and desperately poor. In the case of an emergency, caregivers could take hours to get to school to attend to a child in distress. In inclement weather it could take longer.

These are all disturbing speculations, but they’re not the stuff of fantasy. There are many reasons to stop the “One Newark” program, but perhaps the logistical and perilous nightmare it will create for Newark’s children is the most compelling. We send our students to school to learn, not to die.

I hope I am wrong. But if I am not, the responsibility will lie completely and instantly with Superintendent Anderson and ultimately with the Governor himself. Children are not adults; they’re not independent agents responsible for themselves. Anderson has enacted this drastic, heartless plan and she will be held to its results

Transforming Newark

The two biggest items in the Newark budget are school education which is controlled by the state and the police department which is now under federal monitorship. Soon the city will likely have to cede authority over its budget in order to gain State funds and other assistance to balance its books. Gov. Christie in Belmar yesterday said he is “Newark’s number one fan” but so far this year he has not provided the assistance this low resource city needs.

Enter Newark’s new mayor Ras Baraka, an educator, former council member, and community activist who vowed to “take back Newark” from outsiders, and campaigned on the populist slogan “We are the mayor!” His desire to empower the community is welcome and necessary, but for the moment, with outsiders controlling the levers of power, his task will not be easy. His unenviable job is no less than to transform this city.

A new Rutgers University book Inside Newark: Decline, Rebellion, and the Search for Transformation provides recommendations for action. The book begins by brutally recounting the last fifty years of Newark history, but with more sorrow than anger. Its author Robert Curvin describes his involvement in such events as the rebellion of 1967 and past mayoral election campaigns. He is a long-time Newark resident and activist who is is currently a Visiting Scholar at Rutgers. He concludes with common-sense suggestions to which Ras Baraka and all people concerned about this city should pay heed.  

Why Newark Students Are Boycotting School to Protest Christie

Post is by Trina Scordo, Executive Director, NJ Communities United

The Newark Students Union have organized a massive student boycott of Newark Public Schools today because many of them are too young to take their vote to the polls – but they are not too young to exercise their first amendment rights to protest and expose Chris Christie’s real record on public education.

On a daily basis these young people experience the consequences of Chris Christie’s intentional underfunding of public schools, his refusal to follow the funding formula and his total lack of concern for local control of our public schools.

For Christie this is really about his agenda for co-opting community resources; not the actual needs of the community.  If that wasn’t already obvious based on the fact that he’s cut funding to Newark Public Schools by $56 million dollars, then it should be even more glaring after his infamous statement to the press a few months ago claiming that he doesn’t, “care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”  

This wasn’t just another episode of Christie’s public bravado. This remains his clearest statement yet on his opinion of public schools in general and Newark Public Schools in particular. His rigid ideological opposition to proper funding, community participation and fixing our schools’ broken infrastructure is designed to destabilize public education in New Jersey and replace it with a for-profit charter school model controlled by investors, corporations and the economic elite, instead of the parents, students and communities who have a vested interested in our children’s future.  

The ACLU-NJ on transparency in Newark Schools: your questions answered

promoted by Rosi

In Sept. 2010, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, NJ Governor Chris Christie, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey announced an exciting step for education reform in America: Mark Zuckerberg would be donating $100 million to improve Newark public schools, a potentially transformative opportunity. This week, nearly a year later, the ACLU-NJ filed a lawsuit on behalf of a local parents’ group to find out how that donation, and the plan for what to do with it to benefit their children, came about, since the City of Newark refused to share.

The city of Newark hasn’t responded with details, but the mayor of Twitter has: @CoryBooker: All grants of Zuckerberg $ have been made public. New grant announcements coming in Sept RT @bluejersey Update public on Zuckerberg’s gift

The next morning, he told the Newark Star-Ledger that he had disclosed everything, and that the records don’t exist. Wait, what? Below, you’ll find a detailed q+a to clear up as much as possible on our end.

You’re suing over the Facebook money. What does that mean?

The Secondary Parent Council, a 30-year-old group of parents and grandparents of Newark schoolchildren, requested records about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s gift to the Newark Public Schools using New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (that’s OPRA – not to be confused with Oprah, who hosted Mayor Booker, Zuckerberg and Governor Christie on her TV show to announce the gift Sept. 24, 2010).

The City of Newark told the group that it could not provide those records (citing reasons that contradict New Jersey law). We’re asking a judge to decide whether the rejection of the request for information violated the law. If so, then Newark will have to turn over those documents.

What information did the parents ask Newark for?

In a nutshell, letters, emails, memos and any other documentation between June 1, 2010 and April 15, 2011 (the date the request was filed) related to Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift supporting the Newark Public Schools.

Shouldn’t they just accept the money happily, no questions asked, since it’s a gift?

What Mark Zuckerberg has done for Newark is incredibly generous, and we don’t want to take away from the potentially staggering implications of this donation. But part of what made this gift so extraordinary was the promise from all involved – Zuckerberg, Booker and Christie – to be completely transparent with the public, and many parents and grandparents now feel sidelined and disappointed.

But at the same time, this is a gift to a public institution.

There’s more …

Twitter is a poor substitute for transparency (even for the social media mayor)

promoted by Rosi

UPDATE 6:10pm: @CoryBooker just answered @bluejersey’s Tweet: “All grants of Zuckerberg $ have been made public. New grant announcements coming in Sept RT @bluejersey Update public on Zuckerberg’s gift”

So, ACLU, want to dispute that? – – Rosi

Where’s the Facebook money? Tweet that question to Mayor Booker right now if you’re curious.

Laura Baker, a grandmother of a Newark public school student and a member of the Secondary Parent Council (which sued Newark today), explained why she wanted to go to court for the details of Facebook’s $100 million donation to Newark Public Schools.

“The city talks a lot about transparency, but we haven’t seen a thing,” said Baker.