Newark Charter School Fund, Newark Public Schools collaborate on fireside chat event

Newark Charter School Fund Executive Director Michele Mason, author David Osborne and Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Christopher Cerf took part in a fireside chat about education last week Credits: Elana Knopp
Author David Osborne and Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Christopher Cerf discussed education in the City of Newark at a fireside chat last week in downtown Newark Credits: Elana Knopp
A fireside chat, hosted last week by the Newark Charter School Fund, the Progressive Policy Institute and The 74, featured author David Osborne and Superintendent of NPS Christopher Cerf Credits: Elana Knopp

The Newark Charter School Fund, the Progressive Policy Institute and The 74 recently held a conversation with David Osborne, author of "Reinventing America's Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System,” followed by a fireside discussion with Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Christopher Cerf and NCSF Executive Director Michele Mason.

Osborne, who has authored several books--including the New York Times bestseller "Reinventing Government"—presented his vision for education reform for cities like Newark and offered up charter schools as 21st Century models of public education.

In his recently published book, Osborne profiles the most dramatic improvements currently taking place in cities such like Denver, Washington D.C., and New Orleans--cities that Osborne said embrace a public education system that relies on school autonomy, accountability and choice.

Sign Up for E-News

The event, held at Great Oaks Legacy Charter School in downtown Newark, was attended by a number of distinguished guests, educators, students and alumni, including former president of the New Jersey Charter School Association Sarah Tantillo and current NJCSA president Nicole Cole, among others.

Osborne outlined the thesis of his book—that public schools should be treated as charter schools—and noted that traditional schools are saddled with a centralized and hierarchical organizational model that is more than a century old.

“Key decisions were made at headquarters," he said. "The schools were cookie-cutter and school districts were monopolies."

The charter model is beginning to spread to school districts, said Osborne, citing New Orleans as the fastest growing school district in the country, with all schools to operate as independent public schools as of next year—the first school district of its kind in the country.

“It is a network of schools operated by independent leaders,” he said of the charter model. “The people who run the schools can actually run the schools. It’s a shift from rules to accountability through results.”

New Jersey was the 25th state to enact charter school legislation since the New Jersey Charter School Program Act was passed and signed into law in 1995 under former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, with the state’s first charter schools opening in 1997 with 13 schools in five counties and fewer than 1,000 students.

Today, 89 charter schools in 17 counties across the state serve nearly 50,000 students, with Newark boasting 21 charters of its own.

Osborne lauded charters for offering different kinds of schools for different kinds of kids and railed against the "one size fits all" model of education.

“Putting all kids in one kind of school is profoundly unfair to kids,” he said.

Mason, who emceed the event, noted the progress Newark schools have realized over the last few years.

The district has made significant gains in recent years, with core standards such as a district-wide curriculum, improved student assessments, new evaluation standards for teachers, teacher retention and school choice have significantly helped to move the district forward.

Marked improvements in PARCC results in both ELA (English/Language Arts) and Math over the last five years have propelled citywide growth of Newark students, while graduation and matriculation rates have increased dramatically.

“It’s such a critical time to be having this conversation,” Mason said. “We are starting to see some really great gains.”

Both Cerf and Osborne expressed pride and excitement at the progress the school district has made and discussed increased collaboration in the city between district and charter schools.

“The myth is that collaboration between the charter and district sector doesn’t exist but that’s not true,” Osborne said. “We need to collaborate on education and share what’s working, but we also need to be prepared to do political battle and win.”

While Osborne emphasized charter-district collaboration, Cerf noted that realizing tangible gains in the district has always been his highest priority.

“I can guarantee you one thing,” Cerf said. “If our goal six years ago was to have collaboration, we would have been stuck in the same place. Collaboration is not my highest goal; improved grades and graduation rates are. If we can embrace that value, then the opportunity for collaboration is possible.”

Cerf noted the improvements the district hopes to build on.

“Very few schools have success without a great leader,” he said. “Change starts in the classroom. I’m a big believer in the autonomy in exchange for accountability model, which is a charter model.”

Cerf also touched on other germane issues, such as the need for an improved state funding formula, PARCC testing and his future goals for the district.

“I will feel very, very satisfied if the foundation we’ve built is something upon which a better house is built,” he said.

Mason lauded Cerf for his success in moving the district forward.

“You really have been the right leader for us,” she said. “This success is a reflection of you.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


LUPE Fund, Inc. to Announce the 2018 Young Latina Leadership Scholarship Recipients during Power of Women Reception

April 16, 2018

Newark, NJ – The LUPE Fund, Inc. will announce the selection of seven outstanding undergraduate students to receive the 2018 Young Latina Leadership Scholarship during their annual Power of Women Reception. LUPE Fund’s Power of Women Reception and 15th Anniversary Celebration will be held on May 2, 2018, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Waterside Restaurant, located at 7800 River Road in ...

TAPinto Newark Gala Scene

As gala season approaches, TAPinto Newark has launched a Gala Scene section to provide a space for non-profit organizations to post announcements about their upcoming galas and submit a short writeup about their gala afterwards.

TAPinto Newark invites non-profit organizations to submit a press release about their upcoming galas. After the gala is over, please feel feel to upload a short story ...

Making Our City Bloom Gala Will Benefit Greater Newark Conservancy

Linda Bowden, Regional President of PNC Bank, New Jersey will be the event emcee at the “Making Our City Bloom Gala” to benefit the programs of Greater Newark Conservancy on May 10th at Nanina’s in the Park in Belleville.

The Conservancy provides educational programs that enrich the lives of thousands of inner city children from pre-school to high school. Sustainably-raised ...

High-Tech Gadgetry Fuels the 35th Anniversary of the World Series of Birding

April 6, 2018

BERNARDSVILLE – For any real competitor, there’s the ultimate competition: think the Final Four. Or the Super Bowl. Or the biggest cucumber at the state fair.

For birdwatchers, the not-to-miss event is the annual World Series of Birding, to be held Saturday, May 12. It’s a proud New Jersey exclusive.

Individuals and teams fan out across the state for a ...

Rutgers protesters planned at Tuesday's Board of Governors meeting

April 9, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - If you believe what you read on Facebook these days, it would appear that more than 100 protesters will be storming the Rutgers University Board of Governors meeting at noon on Tuesday, April 10.

The reason? 

Contracts are set to expire in June for  20,000 faculty and staff members at the university.

But that is not the only issue at hand. There are a laundry ...

Safe Sleep for Babies Requires Effort from All

April 10, 2018

For more than a decade, my organization, Keeping Babies Safe (KBS), has sounded the steady drumbeat of safe sleep awareness, which in turn has created bans on dangerous products and has helped enact laws that work to ensure babies are sleeping safely.

In 2018, KBS kicked off its latest awareness campaign designed to promote safe sleep practices and products ...