NJER TV’s new video examines the outrage of Newark families who have been gaslighted and ignored by both the Newark Board of Education and Superintendent Roger Leon. As described here, last spring the Board secretly renewed Leon’s 2018 contract for two years even though it didn’t expire until 2023 and in December extended it again for an additional five years.
What’s wrong with that?
Refer, please, to both state statute and the subsequent reaction from the community.
First, New Jersey Code 18A:11 gives the community a right to spend 30 days sharing input on the superintendent’s contract before the board acts. The Newark School Board declined to abide by the law and renewed the contract without even bothering to let the public know. Also, with these two clandestine renewals Leon’s contract has effectively been extended by 10 years while state statute allows a maximum of five-year renewals.
In this video Shennell McCloud, CEO of Project Ready, Denise Cole, and Dr. Vita White explain how their rights were violated and their voices ignored, even though Board member Crystal Williams tried to intervene by making a motion at last week’s board meeting (shown in the video) to slow the process down because “the voice of the community is paramount.” She added, “I think we need to do right by the community and let them speak and let them have their say on what they think should be done.” In response, the other eight Board members ignored her too.
It’s worth pointing out that we are seeing, as Newark mother Jasmine Morrison says here, “a crisis unfolding in our city during León’s watch.” In 2022 only 13% of Newark public school students passed the math portion of the state exams and 27% passed the English part, well below the state average of 37% in math and 49% in English. The situation is worse for Newark’s Black students: only 8% were proficient in math, and 21% were proficient in literacy.
This community wants accountability on the part of their elected representatives. They’ll fight until they get it.
Note: NJER asked the Murphy Administration’s Department of Education for comment–parents directly asked them to intervene—but they didn’t respond.