New Jersey Returns Some Control to Newark

Published December 1, 2007

Newark’s public schools took their first steps back to local control in mid-October when the state Board of Education approved a resolution to return limited management power to the district after more than a decade of state control.

The vote was unanimous and expected after Education Commissioner Lucille Davy in July recommended the partial return. The district’s Public School Advisory Board will now have control over certain facility and management operations; the state will still maintain its power over finances, personnel, and instructional programs.

“Hopefully within a reasonable period of time, we will be able to return full control,” state board president Ronald Butcher said after the vote. “It’s progress, and I’m very excited about that.”

Failing District

Samuel Gonzalez, chairman of Newark’s advisory board, also applauded the vote.

“The state’s been here some 11 years, and it hasn’t done any better a job,” Gonzalez said. “I think the local community is ready.”

The state since 1995 has controlled the Newark school district, which was the third district to be seized by New Jersey due to charges of management and educational failure. The state also operates schools in Paterson and Jersey City through a state-appointed superintendent.

Returning Control

In recent years, the state has sought to begin ceding those controls back to the districts as they have made progress in areas like fiscal operations, personnel, and instruction.

After a review under the state’s new monitoring system, Davy this summer recommended Jersey City regain control over finances and governance, and the state board formally approved that resolution [in September]. Davy has yet to recommend any local controls be returned in Paterson.

However, Butcher said he expected each district would start to get more control back as they focused on areas highlighted in the state’s reviews. The state is to conduct a new review of each of the takeover districts in six months.

“At that point for all three, hopefully the story changes,” Butcher said.

John Mooney ([email protected]) is a staff writer at the Newark Star-Ledger newspaper, where this story originally appeared on October 18, 2007. Reprinted with permission.