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At the last Newark Board of Education meeting, parents, teachers, and students blasted Superintendent Roger Leon and board members about the racial tensions at the district’s High School of Global Studies, where Black students, currently 30% of the student body and dropping, report harassment, bullying, and ostracization.
As student Samiyah Dunham asked Board members, ”How would you feel every morning if you wake up and remember that you’re going to a place that doesn’t want you there?”
It’s not that the Board doesn’t know about it: Board President Dawn Hayes’ daughter went there until the school transferred her out after a “physical altercation.” Her daughter, a “super honor roll” student and the former student body secretary, did not feel comfortable continuing her education at the school, Haynes said. “If a child’s school is not welcoming, how are they going to learn?”
But board members seem incapable of overseeing Leon’s performance, the primary responsibility of a school board, whether he’s attacking public schools attended by almost 40% of Newark students, spending taxpayer money on self-indulgent litigation, cajoling the board into illegally extending his contract, or ignoring district students’ “staggering” learning loss. In the case of Global Studies, reports Oscar James, “students said he and other district officials tried to bribe them into shutting up about the situation by throwing them a pizza party.”
This two-and-a-half minute video displays the betrayal and anger community members feel from an unresponsive administration. One after another, the head of the Newark NAACP, parents, teachers, and students plead with Leon and the Board to confront a crisis at its heralded new high school described two years ago as “a place where a diverse student body converges with no borders.”
Will Leon and the Board intervene? A pizza party just won’t cut it.
This Wednesday, February 15th, at 6pm at Newark City Hall, Mayor Ras Baraka is holding a town hall to address the School of Global Studies situation and the broader issue of race relations. The event, titled, “Black and Latino Unity Through Education,” is open to the public. Board members and Leon have been invited.