Mayor Promises Smoother Enrollment for Newark Students

Newark will open five assistance centers around the city later this month to help with school enrollment, Mayor Ras Baraka said Wednesday, a year after a new state-run program led to complaints from parents about delays, confusion and ill-considered school assignments.

Baraka also reiterated his goal of returning Newark schools to local control within the next year to 18 months during the news conference.

Newark's school district has been under state control since the mid-1990s following years of mismanagement, low test scores and crumbling infrastructure.

The "One Newark" system, part of the education reforms financed through a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2010, is designed to allow parents to research schools and rank their preferences for public or charter schools across the city.

But it received heavy criticism when it was implemented last year and the enrollment office was overwhelmed with applicants, forcing many parents to be turned away initially. Parents also complained that their children were assigned to schools far from home when they could have attended schools in their neighborhoods.

Baraka said Wednesday that a representative from the school district would be at each of the five enrollment centers, which are scheduled to be open August 27 through September 10.

He said the centers would focus on helping families whose children weren't enrolled yet or who had special needs, but he conceded that he expected families dissatisfied with their assignments to show up as well.

In an emailed statement, Superintendent Chris Cerf, the former state education commissioner who took over the Newark district last month, said he supported the new centers.

"Our teams have been in communication about this effort and we believe it will complement the work already under way at the District's Family Support Center," he said.

Cerf added that the district's office has helped more than 1,500 families find schools for their children in the last month.

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