NPS Begins a Series of School Community Conversations With Parents, Students and Educators

Superintendent Cerf engages community members in a dialogue about district plans and priorities


[Newark, NJ – November 18, 2015] – Newark Public Schools (NPS) announced this week that it will begin a series of more targeted meetings with families, students, educators, and community members over the next few months. These conversations, called School Community Conversations, are a continuation of the work Superintendent Chris Cerf has been engaged in since joining the district in July, when he began speaking with community members about the district’s challenges and successes. They will be focused on how the district can best identify and act on key priorities as it continues to work towards the transition to local control.

“Our team is committed to partnering with educators, students and families to identify a clear vision and set of goals to move the district forward. These conversations will allow us to meet directly with school community members in an informal setting to ensure that their views are reflected in our planning,” said Christopher D. Cerf, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools.  “Our greatest responsibility is to the families we serve. This is another opportunity to have an open and honest conversation about how to best serve our students.”

NPS held its first School Community Conversation meeting on Monday at Harriet Tubman Elementary School with a group of about 20 parents. All parents at the school were invited to attend, and those who joined were able to sit with Superintendent Cerf and members of his team to discuss the strengths of their school, and suggested areas for improvement. These informal conversations will be held in a different district school with groups of students, teachers, parents and school leaders being invited to participate monthly.

The district will continue these conversations with the Newark community as part of the strategic planning process that was announced last month. The district intends to partner with board members and the larger Newark community in the coming weeks and months to identify key priorities as a part of its broader effort to create a sustainable organization. These conversations will be a critical step in the process that the district expects to culminate into local control.

“It is encouraging that the district is opening up a line of communication and meaningfully engaging with parents, students and teachers to improve our schools,” said Verndry Elliot, parent and member of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). “I look forward to seeing how our dialogue with the district will impact Newark’s children in the months and years ahead.”

The strategic planning process will also include an open survey and open community forums in January and February to ensure all voices are heard. School Community Conversations will help the district identify broad priorities and inform NPS as it develops strategies to not only improve the district’s performance on the State’s accountability system known as QSAC, but to identify what the district needs to best serve Newark students and their families.

“We understand there is a great urgency from the Newark community to move towards local control,” added Superintendent Cerf. “Our overarching goal is to work together with educators and families to ensure that we are making substantive progress on this transition, while doing everything we can to ensure we are leaving a district that is prepared to provide a high quality education for our children. Our hope is that these community engagements help us achieve both of these goals.”