Opposition to school closings and consolidations reflects “the desperation of a few,” according to Newark School Superintendent Cami Anderson.
Speaking after an abbreviated presentation to a raucous, overflow crowd at Rutgers-Newark on Friday night, Anderson said that despite the chilly reception, a “silent majority” of residents backs her proposals.
Anderson outlined plans to allow some lower-performing students into programs at the district’s well-regarded magnet schools; eliminate single-classroom pre-kindergartens and shut several schools and annexes.
The ideas are a response to parents “who are demanding excellence for their kids,” Anderson said. They deserve "schools with more of the winning ingredients to help them succeed," she said.
While highlighting a need to do better, Anderson offered few particulars about why she chose particular schools, the costs of the changes or potential teacher layoffs. Those omissions grated on an initially attentive audience of about 500 people who packed the meeting hall at the Paul Robeson Center, with others left milling around outside because of the limited capacity.
As Anderson proceeded through a power-point presentation, some in the audience questioned why the closings, some based on enrollment, targeted schools in low-income black neighborhoods. Anderson ignored most of the shouted questions, but soon found herself competing with catcalls and what amounted to counter speeches.
“You’re not the community, this is the community,” said Tarrick Tucker in comments that voiced a widespread audience perception that Anderson is paving the way for more privately run schools.
Anderson added fuel to that theory by telling the crowd she favors leasing the closed buildings - “they’re still community assets” - to charter school operators.
Asked afterward if estimates from union sources are correct that several hundred teachers will lose their jobs as a result of the changes, Anderson said, “I don’t know.”
She said the plan is moving ahead without funding from the $100 million grant that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg promised city schools in September 2010.
Asked if the lack of Zuckerberg money has affected budgeting for the projects, she said, “I’m sure we’ll be getting some money from philanthropic sources as we move along.”
As it stands, Anderson would:
* Close Martin Luther King Jr. elementary school and consolidate it with 13th Avenue school into 13th Avenue Tech;
* Close two Global Village Zone elementary schools, 18th Avenue and Burnet, and disperse their students among the remaining four;