Newark superintendent defends 'One Newark' before Board of Education

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on November 05, 2014

NEWARK — Newark Public Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson defended today the progress of her controversial reorganization plan before the Board of Education.

Board members pressed the embattled schools chief to explain the public controversies swirling around One Newark, which involve relocating schools, expanding charter schools and changing school leadership.

Anderson said the plan will better position the district to offer a better and more equitable education to city residents.

“We feel proud of our progress,” Anderson told the board during the first of a series of presentations to be made before the the board from superintendents in state-controlled school districts.

“We are very deeply committed to implementing…One Newark.”

Anderson’s remarks before the board come after the superintendent told a group of reporters that the reforms made under One Newark would only be continuing.

Board president Mark Bierdon asked why the local media organizations reported a rocky school year start at the Barringer academies

Barringer Academy of the Arts & Humanities Scholars and Barringer S.T.E.A.M. students started the year off with temporary student schedules, overcrowded classrooms, and vacant teacher positions

The superintendent echoed previous explanations given by the school district, saying the district had to replace the Academies’ two principals just before the school year began, which resulted in more teacher turnover.

Additionally it took time to adjust student schedules so that they were tailored to students needs, Anderson said.

“We’re basically back on track,” she said. “Those leadership changes did deal us some setbacks that we wished hadn’t happened.”

Board member Arcelio Aponte congratulated Anderson on rising scores in local high schools in recent years but asked why 4th through 8th graders were not seeing the same success.

“I’m puzzled to see that the numbers are trending down,” he said.

Anderson said there is a lot of “noise” in the NJ ASK data that makes it hard to analyze, including changes to the test that have not been transparent.

Additionally, the district has lost some of its higher-performing students because they are choosing to leave the district for charter schools, Anderson said.

Board Vice President Joseph Fisicaro asked Anderson to explain her decision to stop attending Newark Public Schools Advisory Board monthly public meetings.

Anderson said she is still working with the board during its business meetings and at other times, but the public meetings were too focused on political grandstanding and personal attacks than education issues.

Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe added that the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board would be working on improving its governing and meeting structure as part of the transition process of receiving fiscal control.

“That’s a work in progress,” he said.

Anderson has come under fire from local elected officials and activists, who say the reorganization plan favors charters schools over neighborhood schools.

State. Sen Rice is hosting a press conference on Thursday to tout a bill he introduced that would give some state legislators the power to subpoena the school district.

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