Newark school board tackles teacher pay, charter schools in new report

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

NEWARK — The Newark Public Schools Advisory Board presented a report this week assessing the school district's progress on a host of issues.

In the 39-page report, the board analyzed the district's personnel issues, budget constraints, student achievement and operations. The report makes 20 findings and offers recommendations for improvement.

Newark Public Schools Advisory Board chairman Rashon Hasan said in a letter to Newark
Public Schools superintendent Cami Anderson that the report is part of an annual assessment the board is required to make of the district under state law.

"Our Board views this initial assessment as a starting point and a work in progress: each recommendation has been thoughtfully developed in the spirit of making the district a highly functioning and more capable organization," Hasan wrote.

Here are four of the report's most interesting conclusions:

1. The cost of teachers without jobs is growing. The Educators Without Placement Pool, a group of educations who have not been selected by a principal for a staff position, has increased from 81 employes during the 2011-2012 school year to 271 employees during the 2013-2014 school year. The cost of that pool has grown too from $6,396,288 in the 2011-2012 school year to $22,573,340 in the 2013-2014 school year.

"These sharp increases in both EWPS population and costs means that the district is financially exposed to a practice which has not produced its intended outcomes," the board said.

2. Teachers are being retained. The share of teachers from the 2011-2012 school year who remained in the district the following year was 89 percent compared to 85 percent of teachers from 2013-2014 school year who remained in the district this school year.

"We believe that these retention rates are favorable, and the Board encourages the district to continue employing these retention methods, assuming that the quality of instruction is superior and that academic results will improve," the report said.

3. Charter schools keep growing. Charter school enrollment has increased from 4,890 in 2009 to 10,745 students in 2014. Coinciding with the rise in student enrollment is a rise in the district's payments to charter schools from 74.5 million in FY 2010 to 213 million in FY 2015.

"We acknowledge that the expansion and growth of charter schools has provided a broader variety of school options, but we also know that this variety comes at a steep price: declining enrollment in traditional schools means enormous financial pressure on the district and is the root cause for employee layoffs and reduction in per pupil resources," the board wrote.

4. But parents like both charter and public schools. Through universal enrollment, parents are allowed to rank up to eight of their top schools and then enter a lottery to be placed in one. Families' number one choice for K-8 schools was evenly split between charter and Newark Public schools. But of the top 12 k-8 schools most likely to be selected as the number one choice, none are public schools in the West or South Wards.

But families overwhelmingly chose district schools as their top choice for high school with Science Park High School, Technology High School and East Side High School topping the list of the top 12 families listed as their number one choice.

 

 

 

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