Moment of Truth Arrives for One Newark

Friday, 05 September 2014 15:54 Walter Elliott

 

Those in and around Newark will know how well the One Newark Plan has so far worked - or has not worked - by the time you read this. One Newark - including its controversial enrollment, transportation and school co-location aspects - was to take effect as early as 6:15 a.m. Sept. 4.

That is about the time the first parents and students who chose the free shuttle bus service will gather at eight school bus hubs. Thirty bus routes are to take what Newark Public Schools estimated on Sept. 3 and 3,300 Pre-Kindergarten through 12th Grade students to 70 public and participating charter school buildings.

Those taking the shuttle buses will see institutional and infrastructural changes at some of those hubs.

Newton Street School, a hub where seven routes are to start and finish, is to reopen as an adult education center. Madison Street School, a hub for four other routes, has been relaunched as a charter school. Maple Avenue, a hub for five more routes, is to be an Early Childhood Center. Miller Street is open only as a transit hub for Louise A. Spencer-bound students.

Students, whether they walk in ONP-designated "Safe School Zone Corridors," take the ONP shuttles, ride on NJTransit or are driven, will find major changes in at least a fifth of their schools.

Bragaw and Alexander Street schools have also been relaunched under charter school management. Newark Vocational High School and Newark Early College are being housed in West Side High School.

Seven schools, including the now-Speedway Academies, have been added to the Renew School ranks. They are to supposedly get extended instructional hours, classroom technology and "wraparound" social services for students and their parents.

Most of the students - especially those displaced by their neighborhood schools' being closed, renewed, resited or "charter-launched" - were to be matched with at least one public or charter school under Universal Enrollment. UE, with or without its center at NVHS's old building at 301 W. Kinney St., bases its selection on a computer algorithm known only to those at the 2 Cedar St. Central Office.

NPS administrators and affected parents and children remain at odds as of 5 p.m. Sept. 3 on the volume of "unmatched' students to schools.

State District Superintendent Cami Anderson, as late as her 11 a.m. Sept. 3 press conference here at old NVHS/now-UEC building, said there are "190 to 200" unmatched students. Critics, as late as Sen. Ron Rice's public hearing on ONP Sept. 2, say that the unmatched are more like 1,000.

"Local Talk," at Rice's Monday night hearing at City Hall, also heard of teachers, staff and administrators who have not yet been assigned to a school. It is not clear whether these NPS employees are mainly in the "staff pool" or are having individual difficulties.

"Local Talk" came away from Sen. Rice's hearing - whose findings are to be taken to his colleagues in Trenton for action - realizing that One Newark would take effect 6 a.m. Sept. 4.

Administrative Law Judge Ellen Bass, who was going to hear ONP opponents' motion to grant a cease-and-desist injunction here 10 a.m. Sept. 2, postponed that hearing.

Bass, instead, has requested that NPS and opponents have a conference call in the near future.
Several Newark Board of Education panelists are looking to hire their own attorney and to cut off Anderson's salary until she returns to their regular public meetings. Their resolutions, however, would be heard later this month.

Gov. Chris Christie has not returned calls about whether or under what condition would he intervene. Acting state Education Commissioner David Hespe has said that he wants to review ONP's implementation with many parties "in about 10 days," or Sept. 14."

There are critics who say that Sept. 14 is too late to stop or alter ONP's course.

Several community groups have called for a parent-and-student boycott Sept. 4-5. The Newark Student Union is calling for a student shutdown and march on 2 Cedar St. 10:30 a.m. Sept. 9.

You may well sense the anger and frustration expressed by students, parents and support staff by the time you read this.

Anderson and Rice - the latter joined by eight of his local State Legislature colleagues - get the frustration, even if their views are in high contrast.

"Part of the problem is that there aren't enough high quality schools," said Anderson during her Wednesday morning press conference and simulated shuttle bus run/tour. "We can't afford to waste any day, any hour and any minute. This year's Third Grade is all our Third Graders have. That's why I'm pushing to have all of our schools prepared for a high quality education for all our students."

"My colleagues and I have been getting calls and visits from families and students about One Newark and Universal Enrollment," said Rice Tuesday night. "One Newark has been conceived and undertaken without community input. This' nothing personal, but the school superintendent has stopped listening to community members."

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