NEWARK, NJ - Newly appointed Superintendent Roger León signaled at a board of education meeting last night that a massive reorganization was coming to Newark Public Schools.
“I'm a superintendent who is working in this school district that is not organized the way this superintendent believes it needs to be organized,” León said. “Then in April, when we submit to the board the budget for the next fiscal year, we will, in fact, reorganize the whole entire school district, from the top to the very bottom, leaving no one out in between.”
León was selected as head of the district in May. He’s the first superintendent to be appointed by the nine-member school board since the state took control of the district about 22 years ago. During that time, the state education commissioner - and not the school board - selected the superintendent.
The superintendent's statements came at a board of education meeting held at Hawkins Street Elementary school last night.
“It will create a level of accountability that I believe the last five superintendents under the state-operated school district would agree is consistent with the work that they have established," León said of the impending reorganization. “This is not creating something new. It is organizing ourselves to do something better.”
The first steps in an overhaul within the district were reported by Chalkbeat Newark in June, about one week before León officially started working as superintendent. The move eliminated 31 positions from the district.
León spoke of that action last night too.
“One of the first actions that this board took was assisting the superintendent with the reorganization of the school district and that occurred with the elimination of 31 in particular titles that I understood created a level of angst with certain people. Let me be clear, of the 31 people, there was approximately $3.6 million that was saved and - and - we eliminated some positions that were never filled which approximated $4.3 million.”
He added that when the district is in a financial constraint, it often eliminates custodians, security guards or teacher aides first. The 31 positions that were eliminated reportedly included administrative positions.
“I did not sacrifice one group versus another group, but I was trying to send a strong message: that this district is not organized the way this superintendent needs it, and that when we take actions we will be aggressive in how we actually take action.”
Seven principles have been hired this year, along with 200 new teachers, León said.
A strategic plan for the district is being finalized by the superintendent. León said it will bring clarity about the goals of the district for the decade starting in 2020.