Newark Public Schools Begins Official Transition to Local Control

District and community prepare to move forward, together, to continue progress for Newark students.

[Newark, NJ – January 31, 2018] – Tomorrow, after more than two decades of State intervention, Newark Public Schools (NPS) will be officially returned to local control. Superintendent Christopher Cerf announced in December that he would resign, effective February 1, 2018, as the last state-appointed Superintendent of the Newark Public Schools. Following this announcement, the School Board voted to appoint Deputy Superintendent Robert Gregory to serve as interim Superintendent while a national search is conducted. The Newark Board of Education will assume full authority of the Newark schools on February 1, 2018.

“I believe that the City of Newark is prepared for local control,” noted Superintendent Christopher Cerf. “In the last few years, the conversation in this city has become more and more focused on our central goal – to improve life outcomes for Newark Students,” Cerf continued. “It is that collective focus by thousands of individuals – educators, community members, city leaders and others – that has created momentum in our schools and the undeniable progress being made by Newark students. I have great confidence that as this transition moves forward, school district and elected leaders will continue to work together to build on the foundation that has been put in place to make Newark Schools a model for the country.”

On Tuesday, December 19, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) approved the transition plan that allows for the Advisory Board to become the official Newark Board of Education on February 1, 2018. The plan, which was presented to the board at a public meeting in December, provides the board the full authority and responsibilities afforded to local school boards on February 1, and includes a detailed timeline and set of milestones to guide the district’s transition over a period of two years. The search for a new superintendent will be headed by a seven person committee made up of school board members and Newark stakeholders. The plan, an accompanying letter from the commissioner, and a presentation shared at the meeting are available at the NPS website.

“I want to thank Superintendent Cerf for his service. I look forward to working with the Newark Public Schools and the Newark Community as we move forward into this next phase,” added Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “Newark is on the rise and the return of local control, along with the progress our students are making, is one more example of how this city is on an upward trajectory.”

In returning the district to local control, the State board of education cited substantial progress made in recent years as core to their decision. These points of progress include (Also available in attached document):

  • Since 2011 the district’s graduation rate has improved nearly 20 percentage points, from the high 50s to 78%.
  • Newark now outperforms the vast majority of comparable districts in NJ in reading and Math, moving from the bottom third among comparable districts, to outperforming 80% of them today.
  • When looking just at students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch (a common proxy for poverty), Newark students outperform all other large school districts in the US that take the same exam.
  • Today, African-American students in Newark are three times more likely to attend a school with test scores above the state average than they were in 2009.
In addition to academic progress, the state board of education cited the district’s organizational improvement, as well as the increased collaboration between district and city leaders around school governance. 
 
For example, the district has worked with the school board and city leaders over the last two years to examine legacy line items and contracts to combat consecutive $70 million dollar projected deficits. These actions not only closed the initial deficits, but allowed Newark to invest an additional $6 million directly into schools for the 17-18 school year. Due to these efforts, the district is on solid financial footing for the upcoming school year even if the Murphy Administration fulfills only a modest portion of the campaign promise to fully fund the legally mandated formula (Newark is currently underfunded by $140 million dollars according to SFRA).  A few of the actions that led to this improved financial outlook include:
  • Renegotiating health and prescription benefits, saving the district approximately $10 million annually with comparable services.
  • Identifying better ways to fund district facilities by increasing the number of projects submitted to the School Development Authority and issuing $30M bonds.
  • Moving the district’s central office building into a more modern and efficient space saving the district $2 million annually.
  • Selling twelve unused school buildings to the Newark Housing Authority in an innovative partnership, saving the district more than $1 million annually while bringing over $10 million dollars to the district immediately.
  • Increasing revenue by advocating for proper funding with the State and raising taxes to ensure Newark is paying its local fair share.
  • Renewing the progressive collective bargaining agreement established in 2012 that offers bonuses for performance and raises based on educator effectiveness, creating a predictable cost structure for the district’s largest contract through 18-19.
“I want to express my deepest gratitude and admiration to the school board, the Newark community, its extraordinary educators, and the more than 55,000 students and their families who have worked so hard to build the foundations for a bright future,” Superintendent Cerf said. “Thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do for Newark students.” 
Deputy Superintendent Robert Gregory will lead Newark Public Schools as interim superintendent during the Superintendent search process, which is expected to be finished by July of 2018. Robert Gregory is a third-generation Newarker, as well as an experienced educator and school leader who began his career as a history teacher over 20 years ago with the district.
“I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to serve Newark Public Schools during this historic time,” said incoming Interim Superintendent Gregory. “I look forward to working with the school board, our educators and the Newark community to ensure that we are doing everything we can to continue to improve outcomes for all Newark students.
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Newark School Progress Data (01/24/2018)
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