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Mayor-elect Baraka unveils “The Newark Promise: Excellent Neighborhood Public Schools for All” plan

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Today, mayor-elect Ras Baraka unveiled "The Newark Promise", an alternative vision to superintendent Cami Anderson's "One Newark" plan. The Newark chapter of the NAACP, the Newark Teacher's Union, NJ Communities United, and the Abbott Leadership Institute are among the groups listed as "Founding Members" of the plan. According to the document outlining Newark Promise, embedded in full below, its mission is to create "a high-quality system of neighborhood public schools that is able to serve all of Newark's children and youth."

As we reported yesteday, the unveiling of the plan is timed to coincide with the 60th anniversary – to the day – of the Supreme Court's landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, in which the court ruled that racially separate schools were inherently unequal, and violated the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The decision ended de jure school segregation.

From their view, One Newark reinforces educational inequality and destabilizes communities, because it removes an anchor institution – the community school – from Newark neighborhoods. The Newark Promise plan calls first for a moratiorium on implementation of the One Newark plan (the initial school placement and transportation plan was rolled out earlier this week), then calls for Newark to work towards building a strong network of community schools.

Its creators said they consulted with the community and embedded community input into the plan, in contrast to Anderson, whose plan they say solicited no community input and sought no community buy-in. According to the report, the group enaged the community through town hall meetings and community surveys.

The plan proposes a "comprehensive, multi-year strategy" for improving Newark schools along ten dimensions:

1. "Out of school challenges" that affect the context in which students attend school

2. Improving facilities, and in particular integrating more modernized tech and green space

3. Modernizing in-school resources, starting with replacing out-dated textbooks and other commonly used class materials

4. Creating a more comprehensive and individualized curriculum that emphasizes active learning, the arts, physical outlets, and apprenticeship programs in addition to college readiness

5. Providing teachers with state-of-the-art instruction methods and ongoing training, as well as leadership opportunities within the school system

6. Enabling holistic, meaningful assessment of schools that don't rely soley on testing to guage schools' performance

7. Creating a positive school climate that uses law enforcement as a last resort, prevents bullying, and employs a constructive, ameliorative response when conflicts do occur

8. Ensuring schools are accountable to the commmunity, and not solely to metrics defined from the top down

9. Enabling "democratic governance" through local control (Newark Public Schools have been state-run since 1995)

10. Securing funding to support those goals through more efficient use of resources, and adopting a "more appropriate policy" with regard to charter schools, which they say are siphoning funding from traditional public schools

The plan also envisions community schools that serve as learning and services hubs for the broader community. That would entail offering everything from childcare, early education, and before-and-after school activities to comprehensive health and social services, job placement, and continuing education options.

The plan envisions the mayor and city council taking the lead on strategic planning for the plan's details and implementation. It would also involve hiring more support staff to provide the diversified instruction, smaller class sizes, and services it recommends.

A full-text version of the document is embedded below.

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About Andaiye Taylor

Andaiye is currently a fellow at the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. She holds a master's degree from Columbia University Journalism School, was formerly the director of content marketing at Bitly, and was the 2012 recipient of the Erik Lars-Nelson prize for excellence in reporting and writing. Andaiye is a Newark native, Newark resident, and the show runner at BrickCityLive.com. Email her at andaiye@brickcitylive.com, and follow her on Twitter @andaiye.