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Newark schools chief goes back on promise of extra days off, angering teachers


Superintendent Roger Leon had promised in August to end school two days early if snow days were not used. but reversed that after student performance declined

Newark’s superintendent of schools and teachers’ union are doing battle over a broken promise.

A number of other districts in New Jersey have decided to extend the Memorial Day weekend with unused snow days. Newark schools chief Roger Leon had promised teachers two extra days off as well, but has reneged, citing students’ poor performance.

Jessie Gomez, a reporter for Chalkbeat Newark, a non-profit that covers education, says it’s a hot-button issue.

“The conversations in the last board meeting were very tense with at least two board members being in favor of the teachers union,” she said. “It’s a possibility that the superintendent could reconsider his stance but he seemed very firm at the last meeting, he said he would not extend the holiday break, he was very clear in his no.”

Leon promised in August that he would end the school year two days early if snow days were not used. But during the school year, tests showed student performance deteriorating and absenteeism rising.

“In the current data, at least for last spring’s assessment scores, students really scored low in reading and math standardized tests, and Newark public schools have an issue with chronic absenteeism,” Gomez said.

She said while the two days likely won’t make much difference in how students are doing, let’s see what else the district does.

“Are they providing extra support for tutoring, are they providing additional workshops or perhaps including new curriculum to help raise these reading and math scores?” she asked.

The teachers say two extra days of classes won’t do much to help all this, and that other teachers may be reluctant to come to Newark where a promise is apparently not always a promise.

Janice Kirkel is a lifelong award-winning journalist who has done everything from network newscasts to national and local sports reports to business newscasts to specialized reporting and editing in technical areas of business and finance such as bankruptcy, capital structure changes and reporting on the business of the investment business.