Christie and Baraka on schools: New board will pave way to local control

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on June 26, 2015

After 20 years under state control, Newark schools will be transitioned back, Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said Friday. File photo of a 2014 meeting between the two politicians.

 

TRENTON — It's a deal 20 years in the making.

After two decades of state control, the Newark school system will be transitioned back to the hands of its residents, via a roadmap outlined by a newly appointed board, Gov. Chris Christie and city Mayor Ras Baraka said in a joint announcement Friday afternoon.

"Together, we have created a Newark Educational Success Board that will be charged by us with developing a clear, specific pathway with appropriate timelines and benchmarks for the return of local control to the Newark community," the politicians said in the announcement.

Addressing complaints from city residents that the state-controlled district was not responsive to the community, the two said the panel "will immediately begin to solicit input from and engage the local community in its deliberations."

The announcement comes less than a week after the state confirmed controversial Superintendent Cami Anderson would be stepping down, and that former Education Commissioner Chris Cerf would likely replace her. The state board of education is slated to vote on Cerf's appointment on July 8.

The group – a panel of nine people with four appointed by the mayor and five, including Cerf, appointed by the governor – will be tasked with providing a return-to-local-control plan, with benchmarks, by the end of the 2015-16 school year, the announcement said.

The goal is to "(restore) full local control as soon as possible after the established benchmarks have been met," it said.

The other members of the panel are:

  • Mary Bennett – Educator, Coalition for Effective Public Schools
  • Ross Danis – President and CEO, Newark Trust for Education
  • Honorable Rochelle Hendricks – Secretary of Higher Education
  • Donald Katz – Founder and CEO of Audible, Inc.
  • Al Koeppe – Trustee, St. Benedict's Preparatory School; Former CEO Newark Alliance; Retired CEO Verizon: Retired COO PSE&G
  • Jose Leonardo – Student, Science Park High School
  • Grace Sergio – Parent, Newark Public Schools
  • Rev. Perry Simmons – Pastor, Abyssinia Baptist Church 

The panel will also work to outline what the district will look like after the state hands it over. The two said the panel will help "ensure that the problems that led to the state takeover of the school district will never reoccur."

The joint statement puts aside past differences between the two politicians. Baraka – a longtime proponent of local control – refused to endorse Christie for reelection in 2013, and has been critical of the time Christie has spent out of the state in preparation for his anticipated presidential run.

But, in their statement, the two said they would work together throughout the transition process. 

"We have also agreed to communicate fully and effectively with each other throughout the transitional period and with students, parents and the community," they said.

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