NPS Announces South Ward Community Schools Initiative

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

I have exciting news to share with you today.

This morning, I had the honor of standing with Mayor Ras Baraka, the Foundation for Newark’s Future, and many other dedicated community partners to announce the launch of two groundbreaking community initiatives: the South Ward Community Schools Initiative and the Newark Opportunity Youth Network. Both of these initiatives are designed to provide critical educational and support services to the city’s most vulnerable young people.

As you likely know, over one-third of Newark’s children are living in poverty, and even higher percentages are concentrated in the South Ward. In recognition of the barrier to academic success these conditions can be for children, our community partners are coming together to create the South Ward Community Schools Initiative. This initiative will engage community members in a process to determine how best to give school and community leaders more autonomy over school-based decisions and access to outside resources, so that they can provide students with the academic, social, emotional, and health services they need to be successful. By giving principals more control over budget, staffing, and curriculum, this initiative marks a critical step forward in leveling the playing field for Newark families in some of our highest need school communities.

We are also launching the Newark Opportunity Youth Network, an intermediary organization that will provide educational and support services to the city’s most disengaged young adults.  This new citywide intermediary will bring together the systems, expertise, and experience of Newark Public Schools, Newark City of Learning Collaborative, Newark Workforce Investment Board and the City of Newark to create a diverse network of coordinated programs and services for “opportunity youth”. It will also empower local community-based organizations to provide educational, social and job-training services that increase our students’ graduation rates and help create job opportunities that improve the quality of life for Newark families.

I am proud to work with all of our partners and community leaders to help provide more educational opportunities for our young people.  Today’s announcement is a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together, and I look forward to working with all of you to make these initiatives a success.


njcomBaraka, Cerf announce $12.5M plan to rescue needy Newark schools | A coalition of city officials gathered at City Hall Tuesday to announce a new initiative they hope might blaze a path toward erasing the glaring and often controversial disparities across Newark’s school system. Mayor Ras Baraka and Superintendent Chris Cerf were among those on hand to detail early plans for the “South Ward Community Schools Initiative”, which would provide a variety of supports to students in the some of the city’s neediest schools. … FNF has pledged a total of $1.2 million to help plan the initiative and the Newark Opportunity Youth Network – a separate program aimed at steering dropouts and other disconnected youth toward obtaining a diploma… If successful, officials said they hope to replicate the program in other schools around the city, though funding could present a major issue in a district still wrangling with a significant budget deficit. “As we expand and invest in this initiative, we will make sure that we not in any way short change any of the other schools in the district,” said Cerf. (, 12/1/15)

apNewark Launching Community Schools with Facebook Money | The foundation managing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation for education in Newark will finance a new project that helps poor students. The Foundation for Newark’s Future will invest $1.2 million now and up to $12.5 million total on two initiatives unveiled Tuesday in Newark. They will include additional support to students living in poverty, including programs in school and the community… The initiatives announced Tuesday will include bringing community groups and institutions together to help students both in the classroom and in after-school programs. Newark schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf said the schools will have more control over their own budgets, staffing and curriculum. The South Ward Community Schools Initiative will start as a pilot program next school year. The Newark Opportunity Youth Network will provide educational and support services, including job training. (Associated Press, 12/1/15)

wbgoAUDIO: Newark Announces $12.5 Million Community Schools Initiative | City officials gathered at city hall in Newark today to announce a multi-million dollar effort, funded by The Foundation for Newark’s Future, the organization created to manage the $100 million Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated to the city in 2010 to reform the city’s school system, to create community based schools in the state run district in one of the city’s most embattled neighborhoods. Mayor Ras Baraka says the $12.5 million South Ward community schools initiative, funded by the Foundation for Newark’s future, will provide support beyond the classroom, in an effort to address the social ills that often affect student success in impoverished communities like Newark’s south ward. “We are going to ensure that all of our children are alive and well and healthy in community schools and we’re going to begin this effort in the south ward.”… State appointed superintendent Christopher Cerf says the district is in full support of the plan. “This was a sensible research based initiative that we should join and get behind.” The plan is set to launch at Malcolm X Shabazz high school by next fall. If successful it will be expanded throughout the district. (WBGO News, 12/1/15)

njspotlightNew Initiative Revives ‘Community Schools’ Approach in Newark | Mayor Ras Baraka stood in the vaulted City Hall rotunda with state-appointed schools Superintendent Chris Cerf and a diverse crowd of union, community and foundation leaders to launch the South Ward Community Schools Initiative… Cerf said planning will start immediately for bringing new programs and services into Shabazz High School, an anchor of the South Ward, and to the three or four of the elementary and middle schools that feed into it. The aim is for the program to eventually go citywide in every ward, Cerf and Baraka said, but even which South Ward schools will take part is still undetermined. Central to the process, they said, will be listening to the community’s voice… Whichever school is chosen for the initiative, Cerf said the plan is to give the schools greater flexibility and freedom in shaping their budgets, a clear nod to the attraction of charter schools. Among those new freedoms will be the ability to hire staff and to direct funding to address specific needs, he said, something not typically afforded Newark’s public schools. “I can assure you they will be given the tools and the support to create a level playing field with any school in the district, district or charter,” Cerf said. (NJ Spotlight, 12/2/15)

PoliticoNewark officials announce new initiatives to support city’s youths | Newark city and school officials announced the launch of two initiatives they hope will improve the educational and job prospects for youths in the South Ward, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods… Tuesday’s news signaled a shift in tone between the city’s mayor and the school superintendent. (POLITICO New Jersey, 12/1/15)

Fios1VIDEO: Newark launches initiative to aid vulnerable students from South Ward’s community schools | Lawmakers, school officials announce program that will provide families with ongoing academic, emotional and health services (FIOS1 New Jersey, 12/1/15)