August 18, 2015

Commencement of Summit

On Saturday, June 6 2015, Leadership Newark hosted its 2nd Public Policy Summit.  The program covered in great details education and public safety policies affecting the Greater Newark area.

Student Success Dependent on Strategic Alliance

On discussing what a successful district looks like, former Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Cami Anderson shared that the core values for ensuring student success are: 1) efficiency, 2) equity, and 3) excellence.   In addition, Cami addressed the controversial concern of state and local control.  As a state appointed Superintendent, Anderson is aware of the conflict and tension this poses when having conversations with local officials.   Local control of Newark Public Schools has been a recurring request of community residents and local officials, which is set to begin transition shortly.

The REAL Experience in Newark

Moderated by former Newark Trust for Education’s Executive Director, Ross Danis, a panel of parents and students continued the discussion of education in Newark. Parents, Omayra Molina and Sheila Montague and students Adewumi Aderibigbe and Dennis Rodriguez provided their personal accounts on their experience in Newark Public Schools.  Rodriguez, a student at Newark Leadership Academy spoke on supportive measures that his school provided him. It was supportive to the extent that he channeled the same support into his fellow classmates who were younger and sought after a role model.  Aderibigbe, a 12th grader at West Side, on the other hand shared challenging experiences such as counselors that were disconnected with her plan due to sudden organizational changes.  The problems were so apparent, she said.  The conversation continued as parents Montague and Molina discussed navigating the school system, especially after the One Newark implementation, which, according to Newark Public Schools’ website, provided families more school choice.

Hard Conversations Are Recipe for Successful District

Following the panel discussion, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka discussed his vision of what education should look like in the state’s largest city.  “Hard conversations need to be held,” said Baraka.  “To ask oneself, ‘can’t we all just get along,’ is a total insult.  You’re implying my frustration is not valid.”  The Mayor went on to discuss his vision of having Newark’s Public Schools return to local control.  In addition, he discussed the importance of community partnerships, apprenticeships for students.  “What we need is investments in jobs and we also need a plan.”

Solutions-Oriented Workshops

“Summits like these are useful in information sharing, discussing best practices and discovering new perspective, and building your own perspective,” said New Community Corporation Director of Special Projects Richard Cammarieri.  The purpose of the six workshops offered at the summit was to educate and inform stakeholders on the resources needed to improve the climate of education, crime and public safety in Newark.  The workshops, in Teresa Brown’s feedback, met her expectations.  “The presentation provided clear steps to address adult literacy.  I am adult learner so I can attest to the solutions provided do impactful adult learning in a positive way,” said Teresa Brown, LN ’16.  Brown attended the workshop on Newark’s adult learners. Facilitated by Dale Anglin and Mahako Etta, the workshop highlighted the plan in place with the Newark City of Learning collaborative and their commitment to have 25% of the Newark adult population to attain a post secondary degree by the year 2025.    “We highlighted some key issues, I also think that we had people at the table that could provide insight on solutions that we could use to impact the issue,” said attendee Mecca Keyes on the workshops she attended.

Todd Clear:  “Collaboration is the Core Strategy for Effective Public Safety Plan”

“You can’t get what you need with the police alone,” said Provost of Rutgers University-Newark, Todd Clear.  Clear went on to explain that policing is a community effort and subsequently shared various initiatives underway through Rutgers.  Through research and evidence based strategies, various programs like the Braga Unit, the Safer Newark Council, the Newark Violence Initiative, and more support the effort for safe neighborhoods.  The Newark Violence Initiative, for example involves studying people in gang activity, Clear said.  Discovering and identifying key relationships in that discussion is critical as it builds trust, the next step is to call a meeting that summons all individuals in gang activity and informs them that the violence must end now.  To ensure buy-in, Clear stated that the initiative “promises services and follows up” with the individuals to ensure their transition into a civic-based life continues smoothly.

Ryan P. Haygood:  “Be Hopeful”

To capture the dual-themed summit, Keynote speaker, Ryan Haygood, provided an inspiring note.  Touching on the current occurrences of police enforcement turned fatal, the former litigator of NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and now President and CEO of the New Jersey Insitiute for Social Justice, discussed the recurring consequence of brutal police force and community relations.  “Riot is the language of the oppressed,” said Haygood. The oppressed, he continued, includes those in poverty, facing racism, and those who are disengaged from their society or community.  Additionally, he shared the importance of being informed by the real challenges facing our community.  Being informed, he continued, allows society to ask “where do we go from here?”  Haygood continued on to share that hope is what motivates us to keep going. “Being hopeful allows for boundless opportunities to bring light to where its dark.  Being proximate to things we’re passionate about, especially where there is injustice and inequality is key to changing our communities into health communities.” To accurately portray what he means by being proximate, Haygood presented an image of a young child invited to attend an event in which United States President Barack Obama spoke at.  The young child’s teacher took the initiative to get through the crowd of excited Obama supporters and just when she felt the close proximity to Obama, she immediately lifted the young boy over her shoulders which afforded him the opportunity to hi-five the President.