Newark parents, teachers, students take protest to Trenton

By Peggy McGlone/The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on March 28, 2014

Young people participate in a rally outside the State House against the One Newark reorganization plan and the school district's proposal to layoff thousands of teachers in the next few years.


TRENTON — Their focus may have broadened, but their anger remains laser sharp.

Hundreds of Newark parents, teachers, students and community activists rallied in Trenton on Thursday to demand the return of local control of the city’s schools and full funding for the state’s largest school district.

Many of the same people have marched in Newark several times in the past few months to protest Superintendent Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” school reorganization plan. Unveiled in December, the proposal calls for the relocation and consolidation of one-quarter of the city’s schools and turns some neighborhood schools over to charter operators.

Carrying signs proclaiming “Tests Don’t Teach” and “Public Schools Are Our Schools,” the protesters braved the cold weather for more than 90 minutes while some 30 speakers — from parents and students to union representatives, elected officials and political candidates including Newark mayoral hopeful Ras Baraka — called for reforms ranging from more money for city schools to Anderson’s ouster.

“We say ‘no’ to One Newark and ‘yes’ to our Newark,” School Advisory Board Chairwoman Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson said. “We are ready, willing and we are able to govern and plan on behalf of our children.”

Baskerville-Richardson voiced the crowd’s frustration with Anderson, the stateappointed superintendent, whom she said has not listened to the community.

“You cannot hate me and love my child,” she said to loud cheers.

Reached after the rally, Newark Public Schools spokesman Matthew Frankel said the district is committed to its reforms.

“We are committed to moving the district forward and creating 100 excellent schools for each and every child in Newark, which means spending our time working every single day to target resources for our schools and classrooms, investing in and supporting our educators, and communicating with our families,” Frankel said.

Several speakers also called out Gov. Chris Christie and his policies, which they say support charter schools at the expense of public schools.

“It’s time for us to take back our public schools from the bureaucrats, from the test companies and from the politicians who want them to fail,” said Wendell Steinhauer, president of the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. “These are our schools.”

Although the majority of the crowd came in buses from Newark, there were groups from Paterson and Camden. Several dozen students fired up the crowd.

“We are fighting to get our schools back because if we had our schools we would not allow One Newark,” Kristin Towkaniuk, a student at Science Park High School and president of the Newark Student Union, said at the start of the rally.

Towkaniuk said the students submitted permission forms from parents to miss school for the event, which she described as “history in the making.”

“Sometimes we have to sacrifice class time for real world civic engagement,” she said.“This is something we really believe in.”

Many Newark residents and parents said they made the trip to Trenton to ensure their voices are heard.

“We are here to save our schools,” said Beverly Miller, a board member of the Newark NAACP. “Cami’s not listening to the people, but if this isn’t a statement, I don’t know what is.”

Tawana Thomas, whose son attends Mount Vernon Elementary School, said the situation in Newark is a civil rights issue.

“It’s a violation of our civil rights. We should all be entitled to a decent public education, and our children should not be discriminated against,” she said. “You can’t overlook us, that’s why we are here. You’re not going to treat us like we don’t matter.”

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment