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Newark Is One Step Closer to Getting Back Control of Its Schools

The New Jersey education chief is recommending that Newark's schools return to local control.

Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington is recommending that the state Board of Education give the school district control over the last two of the five areas that the state uses to assess districts: instruction and program and governance.

In its last evaluation on the state's Quality Single Accountability Continuum, or QSAC, New Jersey's district monitoring system, Newark scored 92 percent in instruction and program and 100 percent in governance.

The district already has control in the three other areas: operations, fiscal management, and personnel.

Harrington wrote in an Aug. 1 letter to Newark superintendent Christopher Cerf that the district had shown that it's able to sustain the progress that it had made and had demonstrated "evidence of adequate programs, policies, and personnel."

The state took over the school district in 1995 after years of poor academic performance, fiscal mismanagement, and cronyism.

The return to local control has been in the making for some time. In 2015, Gov. Chris Christie appointed Christopher Cerf, a former state education commissioner, to lead the district. Cerf, whose contract goes through 2018, is widely expected to be Newark's last state-appointed superintendent. 

With local control, the elected Newark school board will be able to hire and fire its superintendent.

In congratulating the district, Harrington also stressed the responsibility local officials had to the city's children.

"As the transition to local control begins, it is important that those of us entrusted by the public remember that with power comes responsibility," she wrote. "The people of Newark are entitled to an orderly and collaborative transition that is solely focused on the interests of its 50,000 children. It is my hope that the leaders of Newark will fully embrace this commitment." 

The state board of education will have to approve a resolution giving the city's school board control over instruction and programs and governance and another measure to clear the way for the state and district work on a transition plan, according to the state department of education.

The board could take up the Newark resolutions at its Sept. 13 meeting, according to the department.

Last month, the state board of education approved a set of resolutions to proceed with a similar process in the Jersey City school district, which the state took over in 1989. 

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