Activists declare Newark Public Schools boycott a 'success'

By Naomi Nix | The Star-Ledger
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on September 04, 2014

A group of activists are calling for a boycott of Newark Public Schools. Some of them protested outside Quitman Street Community School during a press conference held by Newark Public Schools.

 

NEWARK — A small group of Newark activists today reiterated their call for a boycott of Newark Public Schools to protest the district's controversial reorganization plan.

"The boycott today has been an overwhelming success," said Jitu Brown, the national director of Journey for Justice, a coalition of community organizations including Newark's Parents Unified for Local School Education. "Parents are voting with their feet."

The district in December announced One Newark, a reorganization that involves relocating some school communities to new locations, converting some grade levels to charter schools and changing leadership at existing schools.

Superintendent Cami Anderson said today during a press conference that kids need to be in school from "day one." Today was the first day of school for district students.

But organizers criticized the 'One Newark' plan today during a separate press conference, saying the plan de-emphasizes neighborhood schools in favor of charter schools.

The organizers demanded the district halt the 'One Newark' plan and return control of the school system to a locally-elected governing body.

The state has operated the school district since 1995, but the Newark Public School Advisory Board recently retained fiscal control of the district, giving it the power to vote on contracts.

The activists have also set up at least three "freedom schools" -- one of which was a church and another of which was a community center -- where students received some academic instruction and meals. Boycott organizers said the "freedom schools" were alternatives for parents who could not keep their children home but wanted to participate in the boycott.

Wilhelmina Holder, a local activist and grandmother of three Newark Public Schools students, was critical of the implementation of One Newark.

"Keep your children home," she advised parents at the press conference.

Organizers said they could not provide a full count of how many people participated in the boycott.

The activists have been publicizing their boycott during the past few days and have received support from South Ward Councilman John Sharpe James.

The group plans to meet with parents Friday evening to determine their next steps.


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