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Newark to open 4 high schools and 7 charter schools in less than 3 months, report says

June 13, 2011 by  

NEWARK — A controversial plan to be released today calls for creating four new high schools in Newark and opening or expanding seven charter schools inside existing city schools.

Newark Schools superintendent Cami Anderson said there are no plans to close any schools this fall, but five will be consolidated. Anderson will present the plan to the school advisory board Tuesday.

Anderson said the plan targets two priorities: giving Newark students and parents more options and making the district more fiscally efficient.

“This is one step in a comprehensive plan that could be happening in the next few years,” she said Sunday.

School board member Nakia White emphasized the city’s need for more choices.

“I believe the new model will provide our children and parents with those options. It is not a complete resolution. I think it’s a snapshot for a new beginning. In terms of the charter schools, those are options as well,” she said.

Newark’s schools — the largest and among the most troubled in the state — have been under the microscope for months.

The plan is a scaled down version of one that has divided the city’s educational community and political leaders since details leaked in February.

That original plan included six new high schools and 11 new and expanded charter schools.

Mashea Ashton, chief executive of the Newark Charter School Fund, said the updated plan shows that district officials listened to the community.

Chris Cerf, New Jersey’s acting schools commissioner, envisions Newark’s schools as a model for the rest of the state — and also for other cities across the nation. He emphasized the community’s input and its impact. The latest version is not “scaled back,” he said — it’s simply the final, “kid-centric” product.

“It guarantees that birth circumstances are not a determinant of educational equality,” he said. “This is going to be a system of schools — as opposed to a school system.”

To pay for the changes, the high schools will be funded in part by a $100 million grant from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. And the district will lease excess space to charter schools by offering 1,400 seats, bringing in $800,000 in revenue. The district says a steady decline in enrollment over the past decade has left as many as 15,000 seats vacant. .

Anderson said the plan was a step forward for the future. “If we execute operations well, build relationships across schools, and principals and parent leaders work together — this will be an important step towards building a system of great schools.”

By Seth Augenstein and Eunice Lee/The Star-Ledger

Staff writers Jessica Calefati and David Giambusso contributed to this report.

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