The Destruction of a City
The recent announcement by Cami Anderson of her intention to ‘restructure’ the Newark Public School System by closing many neighborhood schools is a direct attack on public education in our state. She follows the lead of Governor Chris Christie who has made it his personal agenda to undermine teachers unions, even if it undermines the stability of schools and communities in the state’s largest city. Cami Anderson’s plan is a case in point –even blue ribbon schools and well-performing magnet schools are potentially on the chopping block. The dismantling of the Newark Public School System paves the way for private educational entities that run more like businesses than schools with responsibilities to the districts students and families. Kipp Charter Schools is one of the management companies set to purchase buildings and run schools within Newark. Kipp Schools have been plagued by lack of oversight, exploitation of teachers, non-compliance with Federal law as it pertains to students with disabilities, fiscal irresponsibility, and questionable hiring practices.
We were appalled to get a first-hand account from a teacher of Newark about how Superintendent Anderson proposed to implement her new policies. The superintendent’s team informed the staff that the entire faculty is essentially fired. They will all have to re-apply for their jobs for the upcoming school year with no regards to previous job performance. This is an appalling method of treating employees that have spent years of their lives working to educate a community of children. In no other profession, would such management techniques be allowed. People should be valued and treasured for their experience as well as utilized as mentors to support new teachers. Teachers that are not immediately re-hired by the administration staff will be given the choice to be placed in an “Employee Without Placement” pool to await a possible position.
Not only are teachers facing elimination of their positions, various programs within the school curriculum are also under scrutiny. With the current emphasis on high-stakes test results, it is quite possible that many programs that make for a well-rounded education will be placed upon the chopping block. Any school that is designated as a “redesign” school will face an overhaul of course offerings and selections. It is a very natural conclusion that any arts and music educational selections will be destroyed as emphasis will be placed strictly upon subjects that can be easily tested. To do this will destroy a part of a child’s education that can never be regained. Exposure to these outlets are what allows a child to explore any natural talents that may lie within. Such an agenda will be devastating to the children of Newark
New Jersey started the ‘school choice’ voucher program under the guise of allowing all students to have equal opportunities to attend schools that would best meet their learning and social needs. The program that is being set up under the reorganization of Newark Public Schools is going against this very principle. The very choice that these students are supposed to have is being taken away from them as they are being placed by the district itself into different schools. Parents are being told to complete an application to enroll their students in a new school. There has been little transparency about what is really going on within this district and parents have been given little say in the decision making process. Our public schools system was built upon the foundation of the creation of a structure that was charged with the purpose of meeting the needs of the community it served. Why is this role of our educational systems being ignored?