Newark principal says his school doesn't need a 'turnaround'

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on April 25, 2015

East Side High School held a pep rally on Saturday after Newark Public Schools designated the school to undergo its "turnaround" process.

 

NEWARK — East Side High School principal Mario Santos on Saturday weighed in on the growing debate over Newark Public Schools turnaround program.

Santos said his school doesn't need to undergo the district's turnaround program.

"A turnaround school is a failing school that needs to be improved," he said in an interview.

"East Side has been on a road to greatness and the results have shown it."

East Side High School was one of several schools the district said earlier this month would become "turnaround schools" during the next school year in an effort to curb struggling performance.

The other schools included Weequahic High School, Ivy Hill Elementary School, Mckinley Elementary School, Hawthorne Elementary School, George Washington Carver Elementary School, Elliot Elementary School, Miller Elementary School.

The designation will mean that teachers will be asked to sign election-to-work agreements, which may require them to work for a longer school day, go through two additional weeks of professional development in the summer and work on multiple Saturdays, according to assistant superintendent Brad Haggerty said.

Under the contract, teachers are paid an additional stipend of $3,000 a year for the extra time.

"In order to turn around schools that are either struggling or even consistently failing we have to go beyond (the) bounds of what the traditional contract provides," Haggerty said earlier this month.

But the designation has sparked criticism from the Newark Teachers Union, which argues that some schools have been improving and educators are not being paid enough for the extra time.

To buttress his claim of improvement, Santos said his school will be implementing the International Baccalaureate program soon, more students have made the honor roll and the school recently had a teacher be honored by Princeton University.

The share of students considered proficient in language arts increased from 67 percent during the 2010-2011 school year to 79 percent during the 2013-2014 school year. While the number of students considered proficient in math has increased from 63 percent during the 2010-2011 school year to 75 percent during the 2013-2014, according to New Jersey Department of Education state report cards.

Santos said the turnaround designation at East Side might discourage some of his best teachers from staying in the school.

"The key ingredient of any great schools is great teachers and my focus and my goal is not to lose any great teachers," he said.

"The term turnaround...can affect that. Obviously, I don't want to lose any great teachers."

Santos is not alone is his discontent with the district's latest announcement. Earlier this month than 70 students walked out of East Side High School in protest of the school's turnaround designation.

And in show of school pride the East Side High School community held a pep rally on Saturday and created the Twitter hashtag #WeAreEastSide.

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