Two NPS Administrators Selected as Finalists for Prudential’s “Newark’s Cornerstones” Competition

Akbar Cook, of West Side High School, and Charity Haygood, of B.R.I.C.K. Avon Academy, were selected for their positive impact on Newark’s future; Voting closes on Friday March 31

Newark's Cornerstones
Akbar Cook (left) and Charity Haygood (right) have been transformational in their daily work serving Newark children, families, and communities

[Newark, NJ – March 30, 2017] As Newark celebrates its 350th anniversary, two Newark Public Schools (NPS) administrators have been selected as finalists for Prudential’s “Newark’s Cornerstones” competition, a contest which showcases leaders across Newark for their dedication in making a positive impact on Newark’s future. Akbar Cook, Vice Principal of West Side High School (WSHS), and Charity Haygood, Principal of BRICK Avon Academy, are two out of eight finalists who were chosen over the course of the last eight months by Prudential, Prudential Center and Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka’s office. Finalists were selected based on the degree to which they represent at least one of “Newark’s Cornerstones” pillars, which include innovation, commitment, and positive influence.

“Congratulations to Ms. Haygood and Mr. Cook, two transformational NPS school leaders who were selected as finalists in Prudential’s “Newark’s Cornerstones” competition for the positive impact they have made on Newark students, families, and communities,” said Christopher D. Cerf, Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. “It’s exciting to witness two devoted educational leaders being recognized for their daily work to build a stronger future for Newark by serving the needs of all students and families and ensuring all children have access to excellent educational opportunities.”

Akbar Cook is the vice principal at WSHS, where he manages school operations related to disciplinary procedures, school climate and culture, and security. Mr. Cook is also the head coach of the WSHS varsity boys’ basketball team, the 2017 Group 2 NJSIAA champions. In addition to his daily work as vice principal and head coach, Mr. Cook has led a variety of transformative initiatives at WSHS. Last summer, Mr. Cook, with the support of the West Side Alumni Group and the MCJ Amelior Foundation, started the Lights On Program, a nighttime recreation program for kids and young adults. Mr. Cook’s program served approximately 80 students per night throughout the summer. Mr. Cook has also partnered with the Community Food Bank of NJ to provide food packs each Friday night to any students and families in need of food on weekends. Recognizing that many kids are not attending school regularly because they do not have clean clothes, Mr. Cook is also working to build a laundromat and study hall at WSHS to increase student attendance and support student achievement.

Principal Charity Haygood has been an educator for over two decades, serving thousands of students and families throughout Newark’s South Ward. Early on, she taught literacy, social studies and science to sixth, seventh and eighth graders at Bragaw Avenue School for nine years. In 2004 and 2005, during her last two years in the classroom, Ms. Haygood received the the Governor’s Teacher Recognition Program Award for her educational contributions. After leaving the classroom, Ms. Haygood transitioned into an NPS administrator role, serving as vice principal at Chancellor Avenue School for five years. In 2010, Ms. Haygood began serving as the principal of BRICK Avon Academy. As one of BRICK Avon Academy’s founding board members, Ms. Haygood, along with five other Newark educators, worked 18 months to develop the blueprint for BRICK (Building Responsible Intelligent Creative Kids). BRICK Avon Academy is one of five NPS schools that is a part of the South Ward Community Schools Initiative.

Out of the eight finalists who have been chosen, the grand prize winner will be selected by the general public through public online voting at Online voting, which has been open to the public since the beginning of March, will close on March 31. The grand prize recipient will be announced on Saturday, April 8, at the Prudential Center on ‘Fan Appreciation Night’ for the New Jersey Devils’ final home game of the 2016-2017 NHL season. In addition to being recognized for their dedication and impact, the grand prize winner will receive two tickets to Prudential Center events, including Devils games, for one year.