NEWARK, NJ — Addressing criticism and concerns from community members regarding the district’s new enrollment platform, Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger Leon held nothing back at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. 

Responding to what he suggested was misleading information being given to the public by charter school staff who spoke during the public portion, Leon defended the system redesign and set the record straight on who it would serve. 

“One of the things about me is that I’m not new to this city, I’m not stopping by in this city. I don’t think it’s good to take advantage of the children who live in the city or the parents who live in the city,” Leon said. “Let me make it clear: We have an online system in this city. We will always have an online system in the city. Newark Enrolls is not a charter school opportunity.”

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In October, the board voted to close online enrollment after the Dec. 7 to Feb. 14 enrollment period, igniting pushback from charter schools that must now comply with new rules and guidelines in order to participate in Newark Enrolls. Jennifer Quinonez, the front office coordinator for Great Oaks Legacy Charter Schools, asserted that the decision to “deactivate” the website limits school choice options for families. 

Match letters will be sent to families on or about April 12, according to the board, which is testing the new registration system under the company Schoolmint. 

Leon and board members restated that while the rules of the game have changed for charter school participating in Newark Enrolls, which is owned and paid for by NPS, the application process will still be accessible via NewarkEnrolls.org during the designated enrollment period. Families who miss the enrollment period, want to switch schools or enter the district after its close will have to apply in person through any traditional district school or designated enrollment center during operating hours. 

The change creates a roadblock for charter schools, who previously were able to receive students wanting to switch schools after the end of the enrollment period. Lamar Washington, event coordinator for Greater Oaks, spoke on behalf of parents and families who attend charter schools, claiming that the alleged deactivation will have a severe effect on the community. 

“I ask that you consider the families who express desire for educational choice but may be elderly, may be disabled or can’t afford the luxury of taking time off work to visit their local NPS [school] or enrollment site,” Washington said. “I’m here this evening not as an advocate for traditional schools, charter schools or private schools, but as an advocate for parent choice.”

Parents and community members appeared confused about the status of online enrollment, which will still be available during the enrollment period. Leon proposed that the misunderstanding was a result of a lack of communication from charter school leadership. 

“It’s extremely important that everyone understands. When I say application window, maybe I should say ‘application online’ window. The only way you can go to another school is during this window of time,” he reiterated, citing the memorandum of understanding signed by the board.