Central High School, founded in 1911, is located in Newark, New Jersey: the largest school district in the state and one of the oldest systems in New Jersey, dating back to 1676. After decades of struggle by School Officials, Parents, Staff, Students and the Community the new Central High School finally opened under the leadership of Principal Ras Baraka in August of 2008. This was a fulfillment of the Community’s dreams. The new Central is now a Beacon of Hope for the student to achieve academic excellence and compete in a global society.
The location of the new Central High School stands in stark contrast to its previous address. Whereas; it was once surrounded by state colleges and universities, it is now a symbol of the gentrification that is occurring in Newark, in particular, 17th Avenue. The neighborhood features new architecture in the form of franchised corporations, a community pool, a new community center, and community garden apartments where the residents take pride in the maintenance of their properties. Nevertheless, most of our student population continues to be drawn from economically disadvantaged areas of Newark. The recent economic downturn highlights the social and economic problems, high unemployment, homelessness, and poverty that affect so many in the City of Newark.
In order to meet these challenges the new Central is positioned to be a true force of change for the community. Central High School offers a childcare center, a public park equipped with a track, and football field. The new facility is designed to be used by the community it serves, for example: community meetings, public forums, and local organizations have already taken place utilizing the auditorium, the gym, the swimming pool and the cafeteria as their hub.
Despite these social solutions, we recognize that true change for Newark will come via higher academic achievement. To this end, we have embedded professional development for our staff that is research based, teacher led and student centered. While we have not completely met our Adequate Yearly Progress Indicator under “No Child Left Behind” we have seen incremental gains over the last three years in the areas of Language Arts, Mathematics, and gains towards meeting our adequate yearly progress.
Our focus on academics has led us to believe in: the power of literacy, the importance of RIGOR, and the role of relationships as they relate to the education of the whole child. Therefore; we have instituted a school-wide uniform policy that has achieved 75% participation among students and staff. This percentage reflects the internalization of our philosophy and mission and an increased sense of “School Pride.”