Activists ramp up fight against 'One Newark' school plan

By Naomi Nix/The Star-Ledger
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on May 27, 2014

By Naomi Nix and Peggy McGlone/Star-Ledger Staff

ewark Student Union members hold a press conference about a meeting they had with Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson and Education Commissioner David Hespe.


NEWARK — With just a month to go before the end of the school year, activists said today they will continue their fight against the school district’s controversial “One Newark” plan.

Newark Student Union leaders met yesterday afternoon with Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson, state Education Commissioner David Hespe and others to discuss their concerns.

“I felt we were brushed to the side,” student union member Tanaisa Brown said after the meeting.

At a press conference following the meeting, about a dozen students said they demanded the district stop the implementation of One Newark, a plan that involves shuttering school buildings, turning high schools into smaller academies and using district properties for charter schools.

They also said they want Anderson to leave and asked for the implementation of Newark Promise, a grassroots-generated outline of priorities for the school system, which favors neighborhood public schools.

“We believe it is crucial for community stakeholders to be given the opportunity to have input into important education issues, and to have education officials answer their questions,” Hespe said in a statement.

Anderson echoed similar thoughts in an interview with the Star-Ledger.

Today's meeting occurred a week after student activists staged a sit-in, forcing the Newark Public Schools advisory board to end its meeting early. The students stayed overnight in the district headquarters at 2 Cedar St.

The next day Anderson said she supports students expressing their opinions, however, she said they were being coached by adults.

The students said today that though they receive resources from adults, their opinions are their own.

“The Student Union will not give up,” president Kristin Towkaniuck said of their fight against the district overhaul.

Earlier today, parents at Bragaw Avenue School, a K-8 building that is slated to be occupied by TEAM Academy, a charter school, talked about the complaint they filed with the federal Department of Education and Department of Justice.

The complaint argues that Anderson’s One Newark plan violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because it discriminates against African-Americans students.

The parents also railed against the enrollment decisions recently released, where they learned which schools their children will attend next year.

“My children deserve to attend their neighborhood school,” said Veronica Branch, who has two children currently enrolled at Bragaw.

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