Newark Mayor Announces $12.5 Million Community School Initiative




South Ward Community Schools Initiative and Opportunity Youth Network will empower and support city’s most traditionally overlooked families and youth

Newark, NJ – December 1, 2015 –Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, the Newark Municipal Council, Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher D. Cerf, and the Foundation for Newark’s Future (FNF) today announced the launch of two groundbreaking community initiatives, the South Ward Community Schools Initiative and the Newark Opportunity Youth Network (OYN), that will help provide educational and support services to the city’s most vulnerable young people.

The Foundation for Newark’s Future is investing an initial $1.2 million for planning and launching the two initiatives, and FNF funders expect to invest up to $10 million total in community schools and up to $2.5 million in OYN. These investments will enable a number of community based organizations (CBOs) to come together to offer services and support to families in need in the South Ward as well as alternative education services for disconnected youth throughout the city.

“Today’s announcement finally makes a longstanding vision a reality,” said Mayor Baraka. “I would like to thank the Foundation for Newark’s Future for stepping up and making these two important initiatives – the South Ward Community Schools Initiative and the Opportunity Youth Network – possible. After today, we can begin the important work of improving educational outcomes for those who need it most. As a Newark native, a 22-year Newark educator, and the City’s Chief Executive, I know how important it is for us to work together to make the City of Newark an excellent place to live and raise a family. These two programs will help us lower the dropout rate, create more jobs, improve the quality of life for families throughout this city, and thus transform Newark into a City we can all believe in.”

The South Ward Community Schools Initiative will allow for the creation and ongoing support of Community Schools, an intervention model that provides academic, social, emotional, and health services support to those students who need it most. More than one-third of Newark’s children are living in poverty, and even higher percentages are concentrated in the South Ward. This initiative will bring together community organizations and institutions to improve student achievement and youth development outside of the classroom through programs before and after-school, on weekends and over the summer that aim to nurture the whole student.

“The initiatives we are announcing today will enable us to lift up some of Newark’s most traditionally overlooked populations and provide more young people with educational opportunities and support services,” said Superintendent Cerf. “Thanks to Mayor Baraka and the Foundation for Newark’s Future, as well as our community partners, we will be able to directly reach families in need in Newark’s South Ward as well as disconnected youth across this city, providing them the support they need to improve their educational outcomes and achieve career success.  I have no doubt that the South Ward Community Schools Initiative and the Newark Opportunity Youth Network will help transform lives and have measureable impact for our children, youth and families.”

“I am also excited to ensure that these schools operate on a level playing field with respect to other public schools in the city, including magnets and charters,” Superintendent Cerf added. “By giving them more control over budget, staffing, and curriculum, these schools will have a greater opportunity to both compete and succeed.”

The Foundation for Newark’s Future funders expect to commit up to $10 million towards this critical community schools effort, starting with an initial planning and launch grant of $600,000. The South Ward Community Schools Initiative will serve as a pilot that is targeted for a 2016-2017 school year launch.

“Community Schools are an approach to education that require every stakeholder including parents, students, educators, city agencies, universities, and local organizations to work together to provide opportunities and resources in neighborhood schools for all children to thrive,” said City of Newark Chief Education Officer Dr. Lauren Wells. “The community has been calling for these schools in Newark because across the nation community schools are transforming learning and improving outcomes for children. The South Ward Community Schools initiative brings us one step closer to achieving for every child in Newark.”

The Strong Healthy Communities Initiative (SHCI), under the leadership of Director Monique Baptiste-Good, will serve as the lead planning agent for the South Ward Community Schools Initiative.

“The South Ward Community Schools Initiative has been a dream for so many of us, and I am proud to be working with the Mayor, Superintendent, and other community stakeholders to ensure this project will be a success,” said Director Baptiste-Good. “It is our hope that this project will give our most underserved families in the South Ward access to the tools and resources that are critical to life success.”

In addition, the Foundation for Newark’s Future funders expect to invest up to $2.5 million to help launch the Newark Opportunity Youth Network, an intermediary that will provide educational and support services to some of the city’s most disconnected youth. Approximately 20 percent of Newark’s young people, age 18 to 24, do not have a high school diploma. More than 3,800 of Newark’s dropouts are either unemployed or under-employed. Nearly 1,000 students fall behind their classmates each year, placing them in danger of dropping out or not being able to find a job. The City of Newark, Newark Public Schools, Rutgers University-Newark, the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, the Prudential Foundation, Victoria Foundation, and the Foundation for Newark’s Future came together to establish the Newark Opportunity Youth Network to address this disengagement crisis and establish a network of campuses and programs led by local community based organizations (CBOs) to provide educational, social and job training services throughout the city.

“The Foundation for Newark’s Future is proud to invest in these smart, innovative, life-changing community initiatives that will have a profound impact on some of Newark’s most vulnerable populations,” said Foundation for Newark’s Future President and CEO Kimberly Baxter McLain. “I would like to thank Mayor Baraka and Superintendent Cerf for their leadership on these issues and look forward to seeing the results these programs will produce not only in the classroom but in the lives of each of these kids.”

The Newark Opportunity Youth Network has identified five CBO partners to spearhead these efforts across all wards: La Casa de Don Pedro, Urban League of Essex County, New Community Corporation, Rutgers TEEM Gateway and Leaders for Life, Inc.  Additional community partners will be added in subsequent years. The Newark Opportunity Youth Network will help to strengthen the city’s workforce, reduce the rate of dropouts, and positively alter the life trajectory of thousands of school-aged youth.

“These are both important initiatives to expand opportunity for Newark residents,” said Rutgers University-Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor, referring to the Community Schools and OYN initiatives. “Helping to bring the many young people who have left school before graduating back into a formalized learning setting will benefit Newark’s development in so many ways. These efforts are so important for Newark’s future and we at Rutgers University-Newark and the Newark City of Learning Collaborative (NCLC) together look forward to working with our partners to make them a success.”

The expected $12.5 million investment marks the start of the last series of donations the Foundation for Newark’s Future will be making in the final year of its five year commitment to funding educational success in the City of Newark.

“Over the last five years, we have met with so many incredible community leaders who all share a common goal to providing an excellent education for all of Newark’s children,” said Ms. McLain.  “We are looking forward to working with stakeholders in the coming weeks and months to support programs and initiatives such as Community Schools and OYN that have the potential to result in meaningful and long-lasting impact.”