Newark Public Schools Welcomes Students Back to School

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District spent summer preparing for successful 2016-2017 school year

[Newark, NJ – September 6, 2016] – Newark Public Schools (NPS) welcomes over 35,000 students, over 5,500 employees and nearly 70 principals back to school today. Students and faculty across all schools look forward to a successful first day thanks to the hard work of the Successful School Opening Team (SSOT), who put forth a comprehensive effort to ensure schools across the district were prepared and ready to welcome back teachers and students for the 2016-2017 school year.

“Our dedicated teachers, school leaders, and staff members are thrilled to open their school doors to Newark students and families today,” said Christopher D. Cerf, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. “As we embark on this new school year, I am excited and optimistic about the direction we are headed and remain confident that if we continue to work together we can accelerate our progress and move closer to assuring that all of Newark’s children have access to a free, high quality public education.”

This marks the fifth year NPS has convened a SSOT that focuses on all elements of school readiness across the district such as facilities upgrades, staffing, school enrollment, and professional development. The SSOT is led by several departments – including purchasing, facilities, transportation, food services, talent, academics, and the family support center – that are integral in ensuring principals, teachers and students have the resources they need for a successful school year.

“One of the main priorities for the Successful School Opening Team has been to ensure that every student throughout the city of Newark is able to enter a safe, healthy, and welcoming learning environment on the first day of school,” said Valerie Wilson, School Business Administrator at NPS who is responsible for overseeing the SSOT process. “The district is excited about the substantial steps that have been taken this summer to reach our goal that will have a positive effect on student achievement.”

The Facilities Office prioritized and addressed hundreds of major projects to be completed prior to the start of the school year. Projects included interior and exterior building upgrades, as well as thorough cleanings of all schools. There was a specific emphasis on water testing this year, with approximately 8,500 water samples taken in 70 locations. In addition, significant steps were taken to ensure that all students and teachers have access to healthy and safe drinking water options on the first day of school.

The facilities team also worked diligently to ensure that millions of dollars of high priority projects at schools were ready for the start of the 2016-2017 school year, including: the re-launch of the new North 10th Street school, the re-location of the South Street school building, and building preparation for the South Ward Community Schools.

The district’ Talent Office focused heavily on school staffing, including working with schools to recruit and hire more than 250 new teachers this year. As a result, schools across the district are 98 percent staffed for the 2016-2017 school year – with the fewest vacancies at the beginning of school year in recent history at NPS. In addition, school and district leaders have worked together to ensure that every position with a vacancy has an intermediate solution in place until the position is filled, ensuring that every classroom is accounted for.

“Newark Public Schools is committed to ensuring that high quality educators are at the front of every classroom leading our children—they deserve nothing less,” said Larisa Shambaugh, Chief Talent Officer of Newark Public Schools. “We all remember meeting our new teachers on the first day of school. To this end, our office continues to work with each and every principal to ensure that our students have the best educators to experience a positive learning environment from the very first day of school.”

Over the course of the past month, the district invested in a month-long Principal Leadership Institute (PLI) training that helped district and school leaders learn about high impact instructional strategies, curriculum and operations that will positively impact teachers and students in the upcoming school year. Additionally, approximately 300 school leaders, including principals, vice principals and teachers spent over a week at Montclair State University learning how to implement these strategies in a way that will allow them to support all educators at their schools throughout the school year.

“In order for our students to attain an excellent education, our educators and school leaders must have access to extensive professional development to learn and improve important skills that can be applied in the classroom,” said Brad Haggerty, Chief Academic Officer of Newark Public Schools. “Thanks to these intensive and constructive meetings, educators are receiving the tools and resources they need to create positive learning environments and improve student outcomes. We believe this work will help us build on recent progress and accelerate student learning this year in our schools.”