Bryan Epps on the NPS Advisory Board’s Vote on New School Options

Posted: April 12, 2011 by IVNamez in Education

Jeffries reacts to the states decision to supersede the school board’s vote. 
 
“I understand the district and state have decided to continue with the proposed new schools for the coming school year despite the board’s vote opposing them. 
 
I have been clear that I profoundly disagree with the board majority’s decision to oppose all of the new schools, as several of the new schools quite clearly would benefit our kids, and that standard — and that standard alone — should motivate all of the district’s decision-making.
 
It is also the case that I believe the vote of multiple board members was manipulated by external political brokers motivated by self-interest, rather than the best interests of our Newark children. However, self-determination is the essence of democracy, and state takeover — or at least the indefinite takeover Newark has experienced — is anti-democratic. I am a strong proponent of community-based education reform, which requires decision-making authority to rest with the parents and community of Newark. So, even though I deeply oppose the board majority’s decision to reject all of the schools, the remedy for bad decision-making by local officials is to convince them they are wrong or to elect replacements, not to have their decisions superseded by state actors.” Shavar Jeffries from his Press Release on April 9, 2011.

It’s the system… stupid 
 
Institutions that aspire to provide people with the right of education and equitable access to all the resources needed to obtain knowledge should consistently assess their impact.  With this said the Newark Public Schools (NPS) and its Advisory Board (AB) should use recent events as an opportunity for growth.  
 
NPS as a notional model for constructive community based involvement:
Newark can be described as a city of revolution. A place that enthusiastically participated in the nation’s struggle for independence, in the country’s economically based industrial revolution, in the world’s revolution to uplift the marginalized and reassign influence to the disempowered, etc. This is at least part of the city’s history and equally relevant its present landscape. It is my opinion that the school system and its leadership did not appropriate the needed level of regard to this fact during the process to develop premium choices for Newark parents and students. Newark should have one of the most developed systems for community input and democratically determined policy. However conflict regarding outreach and relationships persistently plague all sectors of the City.  The institution with the primary task to educate people can also be a center for which people educate and inform institutions. 
 
The AB has the opportunity to reassess its impact and engage underprivileged community members to ensure all parents and students have premium choices:
Shavar’s response above indicates the breakdown of a board and its chair (I know because I have experienced this first hand). A board chair should be the voice of unity for his/her board’s decisions not the voice of dissention. The recent vote of the AB is confusing and as a result it is not hard to understand why the State would overrule the vote of a board in frenzy. Shavar himself a lawyer by training, voted against two schools, one of them being a high school designed to encourage students to be civically engaged. Named after a murdered  lesbian identified Newark teenager the school is in keeping with the city’s history of revolution  and ensures safety for some young people who, though provided equal protection under the law due to their identity, still experience bullying and physical attack.  It is clear that the school board is out of touch with best practices and marginalized groups. The school board needs to evaluate its voice in the city.

bryan m-c epps

twitter: @policyepps

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