Newark board charged with charting course to local control to hold first open meeting

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on September 16, 2015

The Newark Educational Success Board, charged with navigating the course back to local control, will hold its first public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 23. The board was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, shown here in a 2014 file photo.

 

NEWARK – Nearly three months after Gov. Chris Christie announced that more than two decades of state oversight of Newark's schools would come to an end, the board charged with charting its course will hold its first meeting with the public.

The nine-member Newark Educational Success Board will convene at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark on Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. to discuss its work and seek input from the community, city officials announced today.

Much of the discussion will be focused on the state-administered Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) assessment, and the role it will play in the plan for the return of local control.

The assessment, which is used to monitor local school districts and is viewed as a key benchmark for those seeking to prove they are capable of independent oversight.

QSAC scores have proven a contentious subject over recent years, with critics saying the state appears to apply them arbitrarily when deciding whether or not to assume or retain control over low-performing districts.

In 2011, Newark schools received scores in all five categories that put it alongside so-called "high-performing" districts, as classified by the state. Local officials heralded the numbers as a sign that it was ready to reassume local control over the district, but the state thought otherwise, saying in court documents that it still had additional work to do to deliver a "high-quality education" to students.

The scores dipped once again the following year, and a court later that control over the schools was at the discretion of the education commissioner, regardless of any measurements of progress.

Last month, the city's School Advisory Board unanimously passed a resolution asking the state to speed up the assessment process, saying the current wait of approximately a year leaves the district little time to implement strategies for improvement.

Abyssinian Baptist Church's pastor, the Rev. Perry Simmons, a former Newark Board of Education member and one of the nine members of the NESB, will host the meeting next week.

He is one of four members appointed to the board by Baraka, joining former Malcolm X Shabazz High School principal Mary Bennett, parent-activist Grace Sergio and Jose Leonardo, a student Science Park High School and president of the Newark Students Union.

The five members appointed by Christie are former Newark Trust for Education President and CEO Ross Danis, Audible Inc. founder and CEO Donald Katz, former head of Verizon and PSE&G Al Koeppe, state Higher Education Secretary Rochelle Hendricks and Christopher Cerf, the former state education commissioner and recently appointed superintendent of Newark schools.

The event is free and open to the public, and officials said additional meetings will be announced once they have been scheduled.

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