Newark Schools Superintendent Chris Cerf said Newark Public Schools’ decision to move its headquarters is part of a broader plan to save the cash-strapped school district some $70 million.
Cerf said moving to 765 Broad Street would save the district $2 million annually over its current lease at 2 Cedar Street, which expires at the end of July.
“With our current lease expiring, we began looking at ways to save taxpayer dollars while making sure we are serving our students and community in the best way possible,” Cerf said. “Our decision to relocate our headquarters to 765 Broad Street makes sound, financial sense, delivering over $2 million in savings to the community every year.”
The board voted 7-2 at a Feb. 13 meeting to approve the 16-year, $42.5 million lease for 100,000 square feet of space. Board member Crystal Fonseca, who voted against the lease, said NPS should own its own building.
“I personally don’t feel comfortable as a taxpayer in this city with a family that has children in this city,” Fonseca said. “I just don’t see that we’re going to invest money to lease property in the city when we can own property.”
Cerf said the 765 Broad Street location is conveniently located downtown two blocks from the current location. It will house also house several additional programs to make the space more student and family friendly.
Cerf said the offices will ensure a street-level center dedicated to family support and community engagement as well as a state-of-the-art science laboratory and technology center in the lower level, which will expand educational
The new headquarters will feature built-in work stations, saving additional furniture costs and providing flexible workspace options for employees. The new layout will help district staff improve their collaboration across school networks and departments, as well as help district leaders attract and retain talent who value working in a modern environment. The district is expected to occupy the new pace starting in August.
“It will be an ideal space not just for district staff, but also will benefit the entire community by giving students access to valuable resources on-site,” Cerf said.
Cerf said the savings from the lease are part of a broader effort to reduce $70 million in expenses to close a budget deficit that he that he inherited. The reductions came after a two-year plan focused on modernizing and creating efficiencies that have been needed for decades while not having an impact on the classroom.
Cerf said the district has saved $25 million from a reduction in employees without placement, $23.1 million in non-salary cuts in the central office, $6.3 million from a reuction in central office staff, $5 million savings in benefits, $3.5 million in mid-year title funds and one-time insurance payment and $2.1 million in cuts in non-salary items at the school level.
Cerf noted that only a year ago, the district faced close to a nearly $100 million budget shortfall that would have impacted classroom instruction. The cuts that were made, along with selling vacant buildings, reducing bank taxes and changing health insurance plans have left classroom instruction virtually unscathed, he said.