This is a letter to Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMIllan from Shennell McCloud, CEO of Project Ready and Jasmine Morrison, Executive Director, Unapologetic Parents.They are asking the State Board of Education to provide “much-needed public transparency and accountability” to the Newark School Board’s secret five-year extension of Newark Superintendent Roger Leon. If you want to co-sign this letter, click here.
Dear Commissioner Allen-McMillan:
We believe the process to renew a Superintendent’s contract without a public hearing raises serious legal questions. As concerned citizens, taxpayers, and parents of the City of Newark, we were deeply troubled to learn through news reports that Superintendent Roger Leon’s contract was secretly renewed for a five-year term last May without a shred of public process or community engagement.
We plan to call on the Newark School Board to reverse the contract renewal until a proper public hearing can be scheduled, and we believe the New Jersey Department of Education also has a critical role to play.
We are writing to you as parents, specifically, parents that love Newark. Like so many Newark parents before us, we have fought to provide opportunity for our children and to ensure equity in our district school system. This has been our challenge – and we continue to wake up every morning dedicated to this cause so our kids and future generations can make something of their lives. We have no authority other than our voice, so we ask that you please help us investigate this matter. It is our hope that you can please help the City better understand the actual process that led to Mr. Leon’s renewal as Superintendent and bring much-needed public transparency and accountability to this issue.
Newark’s public schools are in a moment of crisis. Due to the extraordinary challenges our students faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, just 13 percent of Newark students are doing math on grade level, and just 27 percent are reading on grade level. These numbers are unacceptable and should serve as a call for leadership, community support, and the development of new ideas and initiatives.
As parents, we want to fully understand Mr. Leon’s plan to address Newark’s severe learning loss. We believe that Mr. Leon should have the opportunity to answer these and other questions before his reappointment is considered.
Finally, and most importantly, as Newarkers, we have seen firsthand what happens when we lose sight of transparency and strong governance. We remember losing control of our education system to the state. In recent years, through hard work, we were able to gain back local control, elect a School Board, and ultimately build a localized checks and balance system. We fear this siloed decision on Mr. Leon’s renewal represents a time long passed in Newark, and these actions represent a system of governance that we worked so hard to fix. If we do not address this issue immediately, we fear that the City could quickly begin following the same path that took local control away from Newark in the first place.
It is clear that what happened this Spring regarding Mr. Leon’s renewal was wrong – there is no other way to say it. While this way of doing things might have been accepted years ago, Newark is a different community now – with higher expectations and a far stronger value system. We hope this letter can help create a collaborative, community-based, and transparent public process where Newark’s families, community members, and advocates will not be shut out of the public discourse. Newark’s children deserve better and our great community deserves a voice and accountability.
We would like your direction and assistance so we can act together and address this issue now.
Shennell McCloud, CEO of Project Ready
Jasmine Morrison, Executive Director, Unapologetic Parents