Contact: Nat T. Bender, nbender [at] aftnj.org, 908-377-0393
EDISON, N.J.—Statement from American Federation of Teachers New Jersey President Donna Chiera on the parent-led boycott of Newark public schools.
“We stand in unity with the Newark education community in calling for open, democratic decision-making when considering important issues affecting Newark students and families. Media reports about the One Newark enrollment process have been discouraging and disturbing, with stories of children separated from siblings, making transportation more difficult or impossible. We learned of children being forced to take multiple buses or walk through dangerous neighborhoods to get to school. Shouldn’t the safety of Newark’s children be everyone’s concern?
“Teachers, families and the community have no confidence in the state-imposed leadership of Superintendent Cami Anderson and have called for her immediate removal and a return to a democratically elected local school board. The Newark Teachers Union has worked in good faith with Superintendent Anderson. But with a school district in total chaos, how can school staff be evaluated fairly—especially when the person doing the evaluating got a weak evaluation herself? Anderson’s disregard for the community and Newark’s children demonstrates her profound lack of leadership.
“We support the community-involvement precepts of the Newark Promise plan for education, created in collaboration with all the important stakeholders who only want the best for Newark’s public school students and families. We join with parents and the community in calling for a sustained commitment to keeping neighborhood schools open to all students and providing vital wraparound services to students and families in need.
“We know that concerned parents are not making the extraordinarily difficult decision to boycott school without having explored and exhausted all other plausible options. We have witnessed the community—parents, teachers, school staff and students—as they actively sought to discuss problems with school management and to propose viable solutions.
“The community has been to Trenton to petition Gov. Chris Christie, only to be told, ‘I am the decider’; they were disregarded and left voiceless. Students have walked out of school to protest the conditions that impede their learning. They have occupied board business meetings to call for high-quality education. These calls have gone unheeded, so the pending boycott is a natural progression for a community that has effectively had its voice silenced.
“We stand in solidarity with the Newark community in calling for the state of New Jersey and the city of Newark to listen to Newark’s parents, students and community and to act immediately in the best interests of Newark’s future.”