Ras Baraka (73626)

School control in Newark, N.J., must be followed by full involvement of residents in planning for future of city schools, according to Mayor Ras J. Baraka in a press release from the City of Newark Press Office. “Time has shown that the state control has not improved our schools,” said Baraka.

The Amsterdam News asked the mayor’s press secretary about his strategy on how the Newark residents can help take control of the schools and hopefully improve the quality of the education. The press secretary stated, “The mayor began listening to and talking to residents about local control through a series of town halls during the winter months, in an organized effort to collectively envision the education system that will benefit all of Newark’s schoolchildren.”

The press release said, “As authority returns to our local school board, ultimately it is the residents, particularly the parents and caretakers of Newark’s children, who must seize this moment to forge new conversations and actions that focus on building up our school district for the students of today and future generations of Newarkers.”

A July 29 report on the New Jersey local news website, NJ.com, stated, “This board has not been taking this lightly at all. We have been training to prepare ourselves for local control … The public needs to understand that at the end it’s not just about the board members, we’re going to need the public to be our partners.”

In addition to Baraka’s plan for Newark’s schools, the press secretary mentioned that in addition to the community forums that the mayor will continue to hold for feedback on the future of the schools, the Newark Board of Education will also hold meetings within the community over the next several months. This contact is mandated by state law regarding the transition process.

Even though control of Newark’s school system will be local, NJ.com mentioned that Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf said state oversight of Newark schools will continue—like it does in every other New Jersey school district—even after local control is returned.

“The state constitution imposes on the state the obligation to create a thorough and efficient system of schools,” said Cerf. “That constitutional duty belongs to the state. Traditionally, the state delegates to local school boards that authority but it’s always subject to state oversight, and when state control happens is because the state goes, ‘Hey, we asked you to run this school district in a financially responsible way and you’re not doing it.’”

The mayor himself stated, “The reality is that the acquisition of local control is not a panacea. There will be multiple challenges, both fiscal and organizational, but they are our challenges to overcome, and if we work together in the city, they are not insurmountable.”

Baraka added, “[My] office will be actively involved to ensure that the voices of Newarkers are represented in the transition planning and implementation process and that the process is transparent and well communicated to residents.”