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4-1-13 Education Issues in the News
Politickernj - Breaking: Advisory Board votes down school budget in Newark

The Record Editorial: Arming schools

NJ Spotlight - Streaming Live: The NJ Spotlight Roundtable -- Camden Schools and the Future of Urban Education in New Jersey…Even if you can't make it to today's roundtable, you can still have one of the best seats in the house

Politickernj - Breaking: Advisory Board votes down school budget in Newark

By Max Pizarro | March 28th, 2013 - 9:54pm


In an unprecedented move, the Newark Schools Advisory Board tonight voted against approval of a budget submitted by state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson.

The board voiced its dissatisfaction with the way the budget was submitted, bereft of details, according to at least one member.

"We were all in agreement that there was a lack of transparency," said Board Member Eliana Pintor Marin. "I asked the question tonight 'where are the programs being cut,' and I got no answers."

Up against an April 8th state-imposed deadline, the budget as submitted to the board totals just under $1 billion.

"There is no number of full-time jobs losses itemized in the budget," Pintor Marin said.

The vote, which puts the school district in jeopardy of losing critical funding, was a slap at the Gov. Chris Christie-appointed Anderson.

Last year, the commisisoner took credit for getting the local teachers to embrace a new contract that includes a Christie-endorsed merit pay system based on student performance.

Board member Shavar Jeffries, a likely 2014 candidate for mayor, said he sympathized with Anderson's position.

"She has a very difficult job and she's working to do the best she can," he said. "But before I can vote on a billion dollar budget I need more information. I cast the vote reluctantly."

Jeffries said he was troubled by the lack of specifics regarding the schools-based budget cuts.

"I have a lot of questions about those cuts," he said. "Some high schools increase their budgets by 9% but others cut as much as 25%, including West Side High School. Science and Technology schools are cut and it's not clear why."

Board Chair Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson acknowledged that by voting down the budget, the board had entered uncharted territory and likely faces legal entanglements.

The Record Editorial: Arming schools

Sunday, March 31, 2013

WE RECOGNIZE the importance of improving security measures after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but Lodi's decision to hire retired police officers to patrol its elementary schools as armed guards is an overreaction.

The fact that many area high schools and middle schools already have armed police in their buildings as school resource officers makes sense since some larger schools do have a history of violence. Their daily presence serves a purpose effectively to maintain a safe school climate.

But before Lodi resorts to paying approximately $200,000 for retired officers to patrol its five elementary schools, the police could work with the district to assess existing safety measures and implement improvements to make the buildings more secure against possible threats like a shooter or a sexual predator.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office has provided assistance to school officials as they review their safety policies and resources. Utilizing new technology to control access to school buildings or improve communication between schools and local police should be explored and implemented.

Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and dramatically altering the school environment with armed guards feels wrong. If we put armed officers in the elementary schools, where does it stop?

Will armed guards be at after-school programs? Should they patrol youth soccer games on the weekends? Sunday School classes at churches? Museums when students take field trips? Libraries for storytelling sessions?

We're not making light of the need to keep children safe at school. But having armed retired officers on patrol seems like an extreme reaction to the significant security challenges schools face today. However, there are other ways to proceed that will be more effective without going to the extreme.

Lodi also plans to upgrade its safety technology with a card-swipe system for employees to access the building and additional security cameras, which police could monitor. Those measures, including improvements to communication services and door locks, will make a major difference in controlling who gets inside the buildings.

We hope our communities never experience the horrors that the parents in Newtown, Conn., lived through, but placing armed personnel in every elementary school is not the solution to keeping kids safe.

NJ Spotlight - Streaming Live: The NJ Spotlight Roundtable -- Camden Schools and the Future of Urban Education in New Jersey…Even if you can't make it to today's roundtable, you can still have one of the best seats in the house

By Staff of NJ Spotlight, April 1, 2013 in Education

NJ Spotlight will today host a public forum on the fate of Camden’s public schools, featuring some of the key players in the debate and a discussion about what’s next for the beleaguered district and its schoolchildren.

Part of an ongoing series of public discussions on critical issues around the state, the NJ Spotlight Roundtable will be held at Rutgers-Camden’s Student Center, starting at 5 p.m., and will also be streamed live.

The forum comes a week after Gov. Chris Christie announced his administration’s plans to take control of the Camden school district, starting with the appointment of its superintendent and top staff.

But the district was already embroiled in a number of significant developments, including the quick growth of charter schools and the start of a new model of privately run Renaissance Schools inside the city.

The Christie administration declined an invitation to participate on the panel, but key figures from virtually every other key group will be on hand.

Included will be George Norcross III, the chair of Cooper Health System and prominent South Jersey political leader who has made Camden education reform a personal priority. Also on hand will be Kathryn Ribay, the Camden school board member who quit last week in protest of the state’s takeover plans.

The full list of panelists follows. NJ Spotlight’s John Mooney will serve as moderator.

·         Gloria Bonilla-Santiago, LEAP Academy University Charter School

·         Karen Douglass-Collins, math leader, Pyne Poynt Middle School, Camden

·         Pamela Garwood, Priority Schools Initiative, New Jersey Education Association

·         Ryan Hill, founder and executive director, TEAM Charter Schools

·         Patricia Kenny, assistant superintendent, Camden Public Schools

·         George Norcross III, chair, Cooper Health System

·         MoNeke Ragsdale, Camden community and parent advocate

·         Kathryn Ribay, former member, Camden school board


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