Newark, NJ--The state education commissioner has approved the transition plan that will allow for the full return of operational control to Newark Public Schools to take formal effect on February 1, 2018.
Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf presented the approved transition plan to the Newark Public Schools board at their public meeting this week.
“This plan puts the district in the best position to transition to full local control, while ensuring that it builds on the progress it has made over the years,” said Gov. Chris Christie. “This is something we have been working toward throughout my administration and was made possible through the leadership of our Education Commissioner, Superintendent Cerf, school administrators, teachers, parents, and the community.”
In September, the State Board of Education approved a resolution requiring the Newark Public Schools and the NJDOE to collaborate on the creation of a transition plan to full local control.
The comprehensive transition plan calls for the local advisory board to become the official Newark Board of Education on February 1, 2018, and includes a detailed timeline and set of milestones to guide the district’s transition over a period of two years.
The transition plan was developed with direct input from the Newark community through public meetings in November, and based on feedback from the NPS staff, NPS Board members, the Newark Education Success Board and representatives from the Mayor’s office.
“Our goal with the Local Control Planning Meetings was to provide an opportunity for parents and the community to be a part of the process of the transition back to local control,” Cerf said. “I want to thank those who attended the sessions and offered ideas and solutions about the future of NPS and most importantly, how to collectively ensure academic success for our students. We look forward to completing the process and the return of local control to Newark.”
NPS Deputy Superintendent Robert Gregory said one of the most important elements of the return to local control was community engagement throughout the process.
“While amongst the first of many essential steps on our path towards local control, the community meetings provided an opportunity for us to listen and for the community to be heard," he said. "We are beginning to see the city come together and unite around a central purpose and goal, to ensure every child is afforded a thorough and efficient education. We look forward to incorporating community feedback in our continuous renewal and improvement efforts and remain confident and committed."
State Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington praised the district for its efforts in regaining full local control of the district.
“Thank you to the leaders of Newark for their collaboration on this transition plan, and congratulations to the district staff, board members and the Newark community on this historic milestone,” she said.
The State Board of Education voted unanimously in September to return the city to local control after the city relinquished its self-governance to the state in 1995, when a judge determined that too many of Newark's schools and students were failing.
The move to full local control has been anticipated for several years and approval of the transition plan notes years of collaborative efforts to achieve the milestone.
The process of returning local control began in 2007 with the adoption of QSAC, or Quality Single Accountability Continuum, a monitoring and evaluation system used to measure performance in public school districts.
In 2014, the district regained control of fiscal management, with control of personnel management returning in 2016.
In July, Harrington revealed that the district was above 80 percent in all QSAC categories, including instruction and program, fiscal management, governance and operations and personnel.
In August, control was handed back to the district in two final categories.
In a September TAPinto Newark interview, Cerf noted district gains in PARCC scores, graduation rates and matriculation as a direct result of the foundation that has been set in place.
In addition, core standards such as a district-wide curriculum, improved student assessments, new evaluation standards for teachers, teacher retention and school choice have significantly helped in moving the district forward, Cerf said.
Cerf, a former New Jersey education commissioner, took the helm of the district in 2015 with the goal and directive of returning the district to full local control, expressing confidence at the time that he could restore self-governance to the district.
“In 1995, the state basically said that it had delegated power to Newark but it wasn’t getting it done, so we’re going to step in until you get it done,” Cerf said. “At the end of the day, the state has the constitutional duty to provide quality education to children. The state now has the confidence that the district will be able to discharge a free, quality public education. There is a sense of unity that I think has been lacking in past years. We have a unity of purpose in giving kids a free public quality education.”