Newark Public Schools Releases “Next Three Years: Goals And Priorities” Document

The report summarizes what the district heard in community meetings, and lays out a framework that will guide the development of a full strategic plan later this year.

[Newark NJ — April 06, 2016] – The Newark Public Schools (NPS) announced today that it has released a goals and priorities document that lays out the framework the district will use to create a more comprehensive and detailed strategic planning document later this year.

The document — which summarizes what the district heard over several months of public engagement in community meetings, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and survey collection — shares out what was heard in those sessions, and uses that feedback to form four key priority areas that will guide the district’s work over the next three years. Each priority area comes with a subset of high-level goals as well.

“We are excited to share this goals and priorities document, a result of many months of hard-work and collaboration with families, staff and community members,” said NPS Superintendent Christopher Cerf. “Establishing priorities is essential for our success. They help ensure that everyone, inside and outside the school system, is on the same page about what matters most: that all Newark children have the opportunity to get a free, high-quality public education. These priorities will guide us in making difficult budget decisions so that the most resources get into schools. And they will help us meet the state’s QSAC requirements, which pave the way for the return of local control.”

An outline of the identified goals and priorities are as follows (also captured in the executive summary):

  1. Strengthen academics and student supports
    • Offer more consistent instruction that is based on the new, more challenging Common Core State Standards.
    • Provide more intensive help for struggling students in reading and math.
    • Make instruction more personalized and relevant.
    • Create safer, more welcoming school cultures to support social and emotional learning.
    • Expand special education support in neighborhood schools.
    • Strengthen and expand Pre-K programs.
  2. Great leaders and educators in every school and classroom
    • Retain more of our most effective teachers and principals.
    • Build on the foundation of effective evaluations to provide even better feedback and coaching.
    • Recruit more great educators to Newark Public Schools with “grow our own” efforts.
    • Empower teacher leaders to help mentor their colleagues through our Leadership Institute for Teacher Teams (LIFTT).
  3. Community-centered decisions: parent choice and parent voice in schools
    • Improve how we engage families — focusing on the “3 Is” of better information and more opportunities to provide input and get involved in work groups on issues such as attendance and transparency.
    • We are exploring partnerships with local organizations in areas such as research, communications, and advocacy training for our parents.
    • Improve transparency and accountability to provide educators, families, and the community with more timely, useful information in multiple languages.
    • Plan with the community to ensure the success of current projects (such as the new Community Schools initiative) and work together to identify priority needs going forward.
  4. Efficient operations, sustainable budgets and skilled governance in the district
    • Find operational efficiencies that cut costs with as little impact as possible on schools and classrooms.
    • Improve services and school buildings, including more targeted and thorough procedures to ensure every single water fountain in the district has clean and healthy water.
    • Provide fairer student funding that gives more support to students who need the most assistance, such as those who require self-contained special education programs.
    • Support the School Board through a series of extensive board trainings.

“We are very grateful to our families, staff and community members who engaged in this process so willingly,” said Roger León, Assistant Superintendent of NPS. “Those who provided us with feedback showed a commitment to district improvement across these areas, with a focus on curriculum and academics; and making sure that we have the structures in place to support our students who need it most. We look forward to continuing this conversation with our community members in the coming months, to move from this big framework of ideas to the identification of specific strategies we can use to meet our goals.”

Throughout this process, the district placed an emphasis on community feedback by leveraging community-based organizations, stakeholders, teachers, students, parents and community members through a series of five strategic planning meetings in each ward. Over 500 community members attended the planning meetings, and each ward meeting was hosted by a community-based organization and the local ward council member who helped facilitate several small-group discussions. Parents, educators and community leaders were encouraged to share their feedback and insight on the following subjects: curriculum and academics; student supports; great educators; community engagement; school planning and choice; accountability for progress; and operations, budgets and governance.

In preparing this document, the district presented preliminary findings that incorporated feedback collected across those seven areas, and narrowed goals and priorities to align with what was heard in the first set of meetings.

“It has been a pleasure to be a part of this process thus far,” noted Tia Collier, ‎Project Director at Newark Fairmount Promise Neighborhood. “We are very glad the district has made such a concerted effort to not only reach out to parents and families, but to include organizations like ours as partners in this process. We look forward to continuing to work with them to build on this document to create a strategic plan that creates lasting improvements for the district and our community.”

The district will be sharing more specific information about how community members, families and staff will be engaged and can give feedback on the details of this plan in the coming weeks. An executive summary of the findings and the full document are available here.