Facebook Foundation Turns Corner with Contribution to Newark Contract

On eve of agreement, head of Foundation for Newark’s Future talks about organization’s work so far

By John Mooney

The Foundation for Newark’s Future, the organization created to distribute Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark schools, hasn’t exactly set the world ablaze.

Slow and methodical may be the best way to characterize its two-year ramp-up. And while it has committed $16 million to worthy projects — such as grants to new schools and teachers — none were exactly headline-grabbing.

All that just changed.

The centerpiece of the new five-year contract between the state-run district and the Newark Teachers Union is the provision that directly ties teacher raises to positive evaluations each year — with bonuses of up to $12,500 awarded to exemplary teachers working in the toughest schools and fields.

The foundation will be paying those bonuses, as well as other personnel costs. Although an exact amount has not yet been revealed, district officials say it could reach $50 million.
Nothing is set in stone at this point. The contract still needs to be approved by the union’s rank and file, who are slated to vote next week. Until then, FNF officials have said they do not want to speak publicly about the agreement or their contribution to it.

But in an interview earlier this month, while the deal was being hammered out, FNF chief executive Greg Taylor sat down with NJ Spotlight. He gave some hints about the foundation’s thinking and talked about the pace of its work so far, characterizing it as a systematic and “not a race.”