Mayor Ras J. Baraka along with an education advocacy group condemned a series of posters that have appeared throughout the city attacking Newark School Superintendent Roger Leon.
“Don’t let the king close more Newark schools,” one flyer states, with a photo of Leon from a birthday party where he was in costume as a king.
The controversy stems from a letter Leon sent in December to state Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet asking him to not renew the charters of four charter schools - People’s Prep, University Heights, M.E.T.S. and Roseville Community.
Leon also asked the commissioner to “deny any and all requests for new charter schools and charter renewals unless the applicant shows that it would serve a specific educational need.”
In a Jan. 9 letter to Repollet, a lawyer for People’s Prep said Leon’s letter “marks a sad break from the success in the past years with charter schools and Newark district cooperating to advance a common goal of improving the educational outcomes of students, increasing accountability and empowering parents with full access and equity.”
Baraka came to the defense of Leon and said the flyers are “tasteless and sophomoric,” and “based on ignorance of actualities.”
Leon “has the right and obligation to assess all schools in Newark and make sound recommendations on how our limited resources are used to continue to move our district forward,” the mayor wrote in a statement posted to the city’s website.
Kyle Rosenkrans, the executive director of the Newark-based New Jersey Children’s Foundation, also criticized the attacks on Leon while pointing out areas of disagreement. Rosenkrans has worked with the mayor as well as North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. to support candidates for the school board on the Moving Newark Schools Forward slate.
“We support Mayor Baraka, Councilman Ramos, charter leaders, and others who have worked hard over five years to build a culture of collaboration and unity to govern district-charter school relations, and we reject any attempts to erode that progress,” Rosenkrans said.
Rosenkrans noted that previous superintendents Chris Cerf and Cami Anderson, who were both appointed by the state, advocated for the closure of five under-performing charter schools.
“We support the closure of under-performing charter schools in Newark, as it has been key to building what is arguably the best urban charter school sector in America,” Rosenkrans said.
“But the decision is ultimately up to the state, not the superintendent,” Rosenkras said. “And risk of closure is part of the deal all charters signed up for: they get more flexibility in exchange for greater accountability than district schools.”
Rosenkrans said his primary objection is how the district entered its objections to the renewal of the four charter schools.
“In its blanket calls for the state to reject `any and all’ new and renewed charter school applications unless they meet an opaque standard for `specific educational need,’ the district set forth an overbroad position that we think should be reexamined,” Rosenkrans argued. “But that objection doesn’t merit the ad hominem attacks we saw yesterday.”
The school board has a scheduled a meeting tonight, where parents and advocates of the four charter schools are expected to turn out in large numbers.
Rosenkrans said the state should look at the individual circumstances of each of the four charter schools and make targeted decisions about each--with a focus on objective measures of student learning as well as minimum requirements like fiscal health and student safety.
State Test Score Proficiency - Last Five Years
|ELA % Proficient||Math % Proficient|
|People's Prep CS||15%||28%||24%||34%||13%||5%||7%||5%||7%||7%|
|Roseville Comm CS||28%||34%||39%||45%||35%||25%||41%||41%||41%||30%|
|Newark District Avg.||23%||29%||31%||35%||36%||17%||20%||23%||23%||26%|
|Newark Charter Avg.||43%||49%||51%||58%||56%||36%||38%||39%||44%||44%|
Source: New Jersey Children's Foundation.