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For years I experienced and witnessed school reform in NYC. The new schools movement spearheaded by Michele Cahill was a good one. New York City was plagued with large comprehensive high schools that were graduating about 50% of their populations and were havens of violence. Something had to be done. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein felt like they didn’t need to hear the voices of the community and involve them in the process.
The lack of transparency and bulldozing led to distrust of the NYC community to anything proposed by the Department of Education. Now, Mayor Bloomberg has historically low approval ratings and questionable success rates.
I had higher hopes for Newark. The million dollar door-to-door survey seemed to be a step towards community involvement unheard of in New York City. Then something went wrong. In February, six new schools were proposed that were new to the school community including the school advisory board.
At the Advisory Board business meeting this past Tuesday, March 15th, it was the first time that the community and board heard about the school options.
Some comments made by the board members and/or community residents:
I’m not sure how these small programs with small enrollments will help solve bigger problem in Newark Public Schools
I'm not against these programs. I'm against kicking out other programs to put in new schools
Why open new schools instead of fix the schools we already have
If there was more communication and transparency from the beginning there wouldn't be such opposition to the new school models.
I can’t argue with any of these statements, they are true and valid points. The gap between the community survey and the new district school announcements was filled with opportunity that wasn’t taken.
I can only hope that the Newark Public School system learns from the mistakes of NYC, rights the ship and engages the Newark community to give students more school options.
If new schools in Newark don't open the only people who loose are the students who deserve more options.
This post has also been published on the blog, The Education Traveler.