We’ll be discussing local control of Newark Public Schools during our live broadcast of Newark Today Thursday October 19 at 8PM. We invite the community to be a part of the audience at Express Newark in the downtown district’s historic Hahne’s building. Your host, NJTV’s Michael Hill will be joined by city Mayor Ras Baraka and a panel of guests. Doors open tonight at 7:15. Newark Today live October 19 at 8PM on WBGO and wbgo.org
Now that Newark Public Schools are in position to regain control of governance from the state, parents are asking if the city is ready.
“To be honest with you I’m not really sure,” said Alexis Jones of Parents Educating Parents, a Newark based organization that advises families towards educational success for their children. “As a parent, I think I should have a say in what happens with my child’s education.”
“There you have it. We have a parent that is unsure and that should never happen in the district.”
Yolonda Johnson is the founder of Parents Educating Parents and the PTA President at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark’s south ward.
“So, because that parent is unsure about the return and are we ready for local control just seals the deal for how fearful I am for regaining local control.”
Yolonda proposes an ad hoc committee of community members to help Newark usher in local control of its schools.
“Me being a parent and just form my experience with my children and lately becoming vocal about certain issues, I’ve learned that Newark Public Schools district does not want a parent who is vocal and has different views.”
Johnnie Lattner with PULSE NJ, Parents Unified for Local School Education says it’s that attitude that’s impeded progress in Newark’s education system over the last two decades.
“Parents, community, students, is a major part of making sure that local control works. Even teachers, even the security guard. Anybody that deals with the public school’s sector needs to be a part of this ad hoc committee to make sure their voice is heard.”
For a lot of city parents, the One Newark enrollment system is like a bad moment in time you can’t help but laugh at.
“#dismantleOneNewarkEnrolls, a.k.a. the enrollment center, a.k.a. universal enrollment. That has been a disaster from day one,” Johnson said.
“We’re in ‘D’ land. Divided, dismantled, disrespected, and destroyed in our community,” Lattner said. “That’s what the enrollment center has done. That’s what the One Newark Plan was created to do. I’m with Yolonda, it’s time to get rid of that whole structure. Let the community come together and decide how.”
Part of that could require an operations and financial audit of the Newark Public Schools system.
“That is actually one of our demands,” Johnson said. “We want a forensic audit, an audit on the budget, we want to know what condition our school system is in before we return back and we want it done we want it not done by the state but paid for by the state. [We want it] done by an outside agency.”
Lattner says the turnover of control is a bit like buying a house.
“You bought a house. Before you buy the house, you have to make sure you have an audit. It’s been 22 years of mismanagement, we know that. [There’s been] several superintendent’s, several people getting arrested from the district. Out of all of that we just don’t want to be handed over the mess of 22 years.”
These parents believe elected leaders are only a part of the puzzle that’s bringing local control back to city public schools.