The start of the school year in Newark has been simply remarkable. As the District welcomes back students and staff from summer vacation, the implementation of the historic ten-year strategic plan and the hard work of everyone involved is yielding intended results.
The start of every school year brings about a sense of excitement and hope, but the intentionality of the work in Newark is signaling a move toward A Brand New Day. This is clearly evidenced by the increases in student enrollment, the District's response to the national teacher shortage, and progress on student achievement. Enrollment is at an all-time high, vacancies are at an all-time low, and student achievement is at unprecedented levels.
Over the summer, Principals, school administrators, teachers and staff, and central office employees have been working diligently in preparation for this school year with professional development opportunities and curriculum upgrades. In collaboration with the Council of the Great City Schools and the College Board more specifically, teachers have been preparing during the summer for students this school year unlike ever before.
The District expanded its summer offerings to students across the city in Newark. The elementary programs included a wide range of options including: Summer Plus (with a mandatory component in the elementary grades), K-Ready Kindergarten Bootcamp for rising Kindergarten children, English Plus for second language learners, Extended School Year provided 28 additional days of instruction and services for children with exceptionalities, Alvin Ailey Dance Camp, Summer STEM Academy, Summer Sports Camp, and Summer Visual & Performing Arts Academy.
This summer, high school students were presented with a choice of 19 programs held at 16 locations inclusive of district high schools, Seton Hall University, Misa Hylton Fashion Academy, Clara Maass Hospital, Montclair State University, NJIT, and locations in Minnesota. The Future Leaders Program was reinstated, employing high school students in central office departments, where they gained valuable work experience. This was the fourth summer of implementation of modules for credit recovery. The District began to implement this strategy during last school year as well, and its success, will also be implemented during this school year. This strategy is part of the At-Promise Initiative in the elementary grades, which is maximizing resources and services for students in their redefined alternative education program and helping them to unlock their full potential. At both the elementary and high school levels, students were tasked with a purposefully curated Summer Reading list, inclusive of thoughtful activities students will share with their teachers and classmates in the coming days and weeks.
With boundless enthusiasm and excitement, Superintendent León welcomed over 8,000 district staff at the 6th Annual District Staff Convocation declaring, “The convocation is symbolic of our shared commitment to empowering the next generation of leaders, thinkers, and change-makers. As we gather to celebrate our progress, we eagerly anticipate the challenges and triumphs of the future. A Brand New Day signifies the fresh perspectives and innovative approaches we bring to teaching and learning in Newark."
This year's convocation encapsulated the spirit of renewal, growth, and the infinite possibilities that await. Superintendent Leόn's transformative journey has led to remarkable progress and innovations within the District, fostering a positive culture and climate and an environment of excellence and camaraderie.
Superintendent Leόn wrapped up the convocation by recognizing employees who have dedicated 25 years or more of service to the District. He also charged each staff member to call five students to remind them of the importance of attending school on the first day and to help them start the school year strong, a part of his Give Me 5 Campaign to improve attendance.
The District starts the 2023-24 school year with the lowest number of vacancies in the past five years, over 600 new instructional and non-instructional hires.
In addition, central office staff members will continue the tradition of supporting Principals on the first and second day of school. Their role is to help the Principals create a welcoming and engaging school environment by doing whatever needs to be done to ensure learning takes place on day one and to let them know that NPS Cares.
"As we embark on this new school year, I wish all of our students, teachers, and everyone who play a role in educating our children, a much successful school year. We look forward to celebrating all that you will achieve this year," said Asia Norton, Board President.
In Newark Public Schools, Every day matters. Every moment counts!
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About Newark Public Schools
The Newark Public Schools is the largest school district in New Jersey and dates back to 1676. The District currently enrolls over 39,000 students in 63 schools. After more than two decades of state operation and upon return to local control in 2018, the District has opened 9 new schools under Superintendent León’s leadership with an additional portfolio of new options to be announced in the coming years. The Newark Board of Education serves as a beacon of educational excellence, dedicated to nurturing the potential of every student. With a commitment to innovation, inclusivity, and fostering a love for learning, the District continues to shape future generations and make a positive impact within the community.