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Newark to Regain Local Control of Its Schools

After two decades under state control, Newark schools will return to local governance by the end of the next school year.

The announcement by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and  Newark Mayor Ras Baraka came Friday, a week after the news that Superintendent Cami Anderson, who led Newark schools since 2011, was stepping down by July 8 and that her replacement would be Christopher Cerf, a former state education commissioner .

The troubled Newark school system has been under state control since 1995, with the community—parents, activists, local politicians—agitating in recent years for the right to run the school system.

Those voices were amplified during Anderson's tenure, with current Mayor Baraka, a former Newark high school principal, running an election campaign that was largely focused on ousting Anderson.

Some parents and students boycotted the first week of school last year, largely a protest against Anderson's One Newark school reform plan and other concerns. Earlier this year, student protesters camped out in a district building asking both for Anderson to meet with them and for her to leave her post.

In the joint statement, Christie and Baraka announced the creation of the Newark Educational Success Board, which will put into place a "roadmap" for returning the schools to the community. The committee will be made up of Cerf and various community stakeholders: a student, pastor, parent, representatives from the education and business communities, among others.

"Our goal is simple and shared: understanding the challenges that lie ahead and engaging in a meaningful partnership with leaders at every level of the process to get the job done," Christie and Baraka said in the statement. "The future of our children deserves no less."

The goal is to return the city's schools to local control as soon as possible, but no later than the end of the 2015-16 school year, according to the statement. The Newark Educational Success Board is expected to start working immediately. The two men said they were committed to "executing that plan with the urgency that our families deserve."

Anderson's contract was renewed in February, but last week the Department of Education said she was leaving. Anderson had always maintained that she was committed to improving the city's schools. She acknowledged some of the criticisms, but had also noted that some of the criticism was rooted in politics.  

In an interview with The New York Times after her departure was announced, Anderson said the debate around Newark schools had become too "personalized."

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