Newark Mayor Says Dedicated Teachers Can’t Provide the Whole Answer

Mayor of Newark, NJ, Ras J. Barak emphasizes the importance of Community School strategies and how they create successful schools. The following is his opinion piece featured on the Hechinger Report:

“As Newark, New Jersey begins to celebrate the 350th anniversary of its founding as a community, our schools remain vital to the progress of our city. There is nothing more important to the future of our city than the development and education of our youngest residents, the children of Newark. We have an obligation to provide all of our children, not just a few, with the resources they need to achieve in school and succeed in life.

In the 21st century, meeting every child where they are requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses their social and health needs, embraces the cultural diversity they bring to school, ensures they have the opportunities they deserve, and supports school leaders and staff, all while engaging our children in critical thinking and learning.
Galvanizing the assets in Newark to work in the interests of our children, our families, our neighborhoods and our schools is not merely a political or economic issue…this is a moral issue for our administration and the people and institutions in the City of Newark.

Across the nation, 20 percent of all children live below the poverty line. An unfathomable 44 percent of Newark’s children are growing up in poverty. This translates into food insecurity, unstable and unhealthy living conditions, environmental toxins and untreated medical conditions like toxic stress, toothaches, and ear infections. The research is clear; while poverty is the single greatest threat to children’s well-being, we can disrupt its harmful effects on our children and schools. It is our responsibility to do so.

Creating successful schools is not a mystical process. It is grounded in research on best practices and is based on empirical data. Quitman Street School in Newark is an example of how aligning school improvement efforts with investments in health, social services, student supports, and community engagement equip schools with the level of school and community capacity required for success. All schools have challenges. Quitman Street School is no exception. However, Quitman’s steady progress toward transformation is linked to its strategic focus on weaving together resources from inside and outside the school and using those resources to build a responsive culture, integrate student supports and drive a focus on learning. In the spring of 2014, the school, led by Principal Erskine Glover, saw the highest reading gains in the district and the fourth highest in mathematics.

Prior to its designation as a Renew School in 2012, Quitman Street School was part of another school reform initiative called the Newark Global Village School Zone. Global Village was a reform strategy based upon an expanded conception of education that addresses the importance of academic skills and knowledge, as well as the development of the whole child. The Village brought social service agencies, community-based organizations, business, universities, and families together to build partnerships that supported the instructional and educational goals of schools in the Global Village network.”

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