Thursday, March 17, 2011

Christie Vows Support For Newark School Reforms

In a visit to Ann Street School this morning, Governor Chris Christie engaged in a conversation with students and members of Newark’s education community, reaffirmed his commitment to bringing fundamental reform to Newark Public Schools and underscored the importance of community involvement in reform efforts and the process of selecting a new superintendent.

“It has been 15 years since the State of New Jersey took over public schools in Newark with the hope of transforming the district and ending its failure of so many of our children. But a decade and a half later, with the exception of a few bright spots of progress, we have yet to achieve our goals of providing a quality education to every child. The work of changing Newark’s education system did not begin the day I came into office, but I believe we have brought this issue into sharper focus in this Administration with our education reform efforts and partnership with the City and community at large,” said Governor Christie. “As we endeavor to change the status quo, cooperation at every level – the State, the City’s leadership, Education Task Force, School Advisory Board and the whole community – will be critical to replicate the bright spots and successful models in this school district, and improve the public schools across this city. In partnership, I believe we will finally accomplish meaningful change and reform for the children of this city, and in areas across the state where opportunity is not being delivered.”

The Christie Administration has taken numerous, proactive steps to ensure that every opportunity for reform and progress is seized and that progress continues in Newark, even while the selection of a new superintendent is underway. Rochelle Hendricks, who recently served as Acting Commissioner of the Department of Education, has assumed responsibility for the Newark Public Schools during this transition period. Hendricks is a dedicated, accomplished education professional with the knowledge and background necessary to achieve progress during this interim period. She is working closely with interim-superintendent Deborah Terrell to ensure that the district’s most pressing challenges are met with solutions as soon as possible. Both are working closely with the educational and community leadership in Newark to deal with the serious challenges facing the district today, most specifically the budget gap and the shortage of quality schools.

Governor Christie also outlined the process being undertaken by the State, in cooperation with the Newark community, in the selection of a new superintendent for Newark Public Schools:

The next Superintendent of the Newark Public School system will send a strong signal to the community that Governor Christie and the Administration are serious about real reform and real results. As a result, the process for choosing the next superintendent is built on transparency, community involvement and real input from educators. The selection process, already underway, for finding a qualified, dedicated superintendent has been set out to be broad, thorough and staged to allow for plenty of community input along the way.

· The first stage began in January when Acting Commissioner Cerf solicited names of top candidates in conversations with national reform leaders and local community leaders.

· The second stage was to seek sound input and guidance from members of the community on critical education reform issues, ongoing and emergent challenges that will face the incoming superintendent, and the qualifications demanded of the next superintendent. This began the process of engaging a wide swath of people who live and work in the Newark community:

o The School Advisory Board, headed by Shavar Jeffries, is the body elected by the people of Newark to represent them in the schools and a critical source of advice and counsel;
o Mayor Cory Booker, who is providing valuable leadership as an advisor in the process, offering input and guidance into the reform challenges facing Newark schools, and lending his perspective in the superintendent search process;

o The Education Task Force, a group of Newark community leaders who provide guidance around education policy and consist of leaders from Newark Public Schools, higher education, parents, the non-profit community, and the charter school community;

o Various educational leaders, including principals, parent representatives and teachers; and

o Local representatives, including members of the city council and the legislature.

Each one of these groups represents a different part of the City of Newark and its education and civic community. As such, through each stage of the process, they have provided and will continue to provide counsel on the needs of the Newark Public School System and the qualifications necessary for the next superintendent.

· The final stage of this process, which is now beginning and will continue over the coming weeks, will allow for each of these groups to meet face to face with prospective candidates.

o Finding the next superintendent of the Newark Public Schools can and must integrate a high level of community involvement and investment in the process. Bringing real change to education in the public schools begins and ends with the community; the community’s input will inform the recommendations ultimately made to Governor Christie for this vitally important decision.

At that point, after sufficient time has been spent on soliciting community input and feedback, listening and considering all of the insights and recommendations of the aforementioned groups, Governor Christie will meet with each of the final candidates prior to the Education Commissioner’s final selection being made in May, ensuring that the new superintendent is in place by the end of the school year.

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