Newark Schools Start Spending Facebook Money

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Newark schools are finally using the multi-million dollar gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, with officials handing out the first funds to teachers. Brian Thompson reports. (Published Wednesday, Sep 21, 2011)

    A year after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million challenge grant for Newark schools, the money is starting to be spent.

    In total, almost $7.5 million has been pledged to various schools and programs throughout the troubled school system.

    And other than funds to extend hours at some schools, the biggest grant will be for an Innovative School Fund to turn teachers' creative ideas into real programs that can help students learn.

    "Pull from our teachers the best ideas toward empowering our kids," said Mayor Cory Booker, who sat on Oprah's stage with Gov. Chris Christie when Zuckerberg announced the grant last fall.

    From a pool of $600,000, teachers or teacher teams will be awarded $10,000 grants to develop their ideas into programs that can work.

    The grants are open to teachers both in public schools and in the many charter schools that have started to open up in Newark.

    Acting State Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, an advocate for charters, made what some may have consider a surprising remark about charter schools Wednesday.

    "There are, in this city, some very disappointing charter schools," Cerf said, though he quickly added "and there are some superb charter schools."

    Both Cerf and Superintendent Cami Anderson said any ideas developed in the charter schools will have to be shared with the public schools.

    "We're going to invest in teachers who want to write down their great ideas and share them across the board," said Anderson.

    The concept appeared to be a hit with teachers at the public Harriett Tubman Elementary School.

    Librarian Jackie Iweagwu has long dreamed of a program that would allow students to make their own books.

    "I want an application," Iweagwu said.

    Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY