The superintendent of the state's largest school district on Monday unveiled the final details of a wide-ranging plan to overhaul Newark's struggling schools.
Superintendent Cami Anderson said the first phase of the plan will focus on the city's most consistently underperforming schools with declining enrollment and will involve a combination of new schools, closures and consolidations meant to ensure more high-quality public school options in the city.
On Monday, she announced the district would open eight new schools by September at the sites of closed or consolidated schools. The plan also involves expanding pre-K programs in underserved neighborhoods, implementing new single-sex schools in some areas, making magnet and charter schools more accessible to a wider pool of Newark students, rebuilding high schools and giving principals more autonomy.
Monday's announcement was made before a small group of supporters at a local school slated to house one of the newly consolidated schools.
It contrasted with a large contentious public meeting Anderson held last month to assuage angry parents after The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that several longtime Newark public schools would be closed or merged under the plan. Although Anderson said parents had attended Monday's meeting, several stood outside with protest signs and said they hadn't been allowed in.
Anderson said that she had held more than 112 meetings with families and civic leaders during the plan development process and that she had tweaked certain aspects of the final plan based on community feedback.
Mayor Cory Booker has repeatedly said education reform is a key priority of his administration, though Newark schools are under state, not city, control. He said Monday that Anderson's plan gave him ``a sense of relief and a profound sense of hope.''
Booker said the city and nation should be "feeling a sense of shame and agony'' over statistics that show only one quarter of students at Newark's worst-performing schools are able to pass basic proficiency tests.
Anderson said her plan was aimed at creating a school system that graduates every student and leaves them ready for college and a career.
The city's public school system is the state's largest, with 75 schools and a student population of about 40,000. It has been plagued for years by low test scores and poor graduation rates.
The district, which has been under state control since 1995, spends nearly $24,000 a year -- more than twice the national average -- per pupil.
Anderson was appointed last year to lead the district.
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