Newark Public Schools Announces Formation of Community Attendance Committee to Combat Absenteeism

[Newark, NJ – February 17, 2016] Today, Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf announced the formation of an Attendance Committee comprised of Newark community members and district leaders to focus on reducing absenteeism across Newark Public Schools. Students across the district continue to be chronically absent at rates well above the state average, and that high rate has remained essentially unchanged for many years.

“High absenteeism directly undermines a child’s learning and academic performance in the classroom, compromising their long-term success,” said Superintendent Cerf. “There are a number of great things happening across our schools, but if a child is not present in the classroom, it makes it difficult for educators to help them succeed. We are committed to doing everything in our power to address this critically important issue. The formation of this committee, in partnership with the broader Newark community, is an important step to better understand why students are chronically absent, and to help design effective community-wide strategies to address this challenge.”

The Newark Public Schools Attendance Committee will bring together the school district, city agencies and community groups to work together to identify solutions to combat absenteeism.

Advocates for Children of New Jersey Executive Director Cecilia Zalkind, whose organization recently released a study on chronic absenteeism across New Jersey school districts, will play a critical role in this effort. “The findings in our report, Showing Up Matters, signal a call-to-action among district and community leaders. We are eager to partner with Newark Public Schools and the broader community to address this urgent problem,” said Zalkind. “The best response to research is action, and this is what we are committed to do in the weeks and months ahead. We are confident that through this collaborative effort we will be able to design strategies that effectively address the specific challenges facing our students and families.”

In addition to the targeted work of school leaders and the attendance committee, the district has initiatives underway, such as the South Ward Community Schools Initiative, and the Opportunity Youth Network that aim to support students and families outside the classroom to improve student attendance rates.

“I am so grateful to our educators, who work tirelessly each and every day to help combat this challenge. We are forming this committee because we recognize that this is a problem we cannot solve on our own,” said Superintendent Cerf. “It’s one that requires deep collaboration and partnership across the city. I look forward to working closely with the committee to improve our attendance rate and to ensure that our classrooms are great learning environments for our young people.”

Confirmed members of the Newark Public Schools Attendance Committee include the following individuals:

  • Cecilia Zalkind, Advocates for Children of New Jersey
  • Crystal Fonseca, NPS School Board
  • Nathan Ruben Dos Santos, Student Representative, NPS School Board
  • Bari Erlichson, New Jersey Department of Education
  • Monique Baptiste Good, South Ward Community Schools Initiative
  • Kathy Duke-Jackson, First Avenue Elementary School Principal
  • Angela Mincy, Barringer STEAM Academy Principal
  • Wilhelmina Holder, Secondary Parents Council
  • Lucious Jones, Parent Representative
  • Monica Darko, Parent Representative
  • Mike Mallairo, NTU Representative
  • Mike Iovino, Teacher Representative