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Education advocates, district management talk student success at University High School

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(left to right): Newark Chief Education Officer Toni Baskerville-Richardson, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, 2018 University High School Valedictorian Prince Abimah, incoming Superintendent Roger Leon, Newark Teachers Union President John M. Abeigon, University High School Principal Edwin Mendez.

NEWARK…American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten visited University High School in Newark Tuesday June 5 with Newark Teachers Union President John M. Abeigon, the city’s Chief Education Officer Toni Baskerville-Richardson, School Board Vice President Dawn Hayes and incoming Superintendent Roger Leon to meet with students and educators.

The selection of Leon as new Superintendent should mark a new era of communication and cooperating to support the district’s students, according to Weingarten. “With Roger Leon’s professional expertise and local experience, coupled with support for Newark students and community schools at the city and state levels, I am optimistic that we will reach the promise of public education for Newark’s students,” Weingarten said.

Efforts are already paying off, according to Abeigon, who pointed to recent collaboration to identify and implement professional development for teachers on relevant topics such as how to help students suffering from trauma and how to engage parents in developing an effective structure for their student’s success. “The programs were well received by teachers and it is really a result of working together to identify student and community needs,” Abeigon said. The teachers union president said he is looking forward to working with Leon and that the new superintendent would be held to the same high standards by the community as Newark’s teachers are.

Leon served as Principal at University for six years. In conversation with students, Leon recounted his experience in the district as a student, teacher, then in school administration in the district. “My job is to make sure you have the resources you need to succeed,” Leon said to students. “Your job is to take advantage of the opportunities here.”

Retired teacher Baskerville-Richardson served on the Newark school board and proved instrumental in bringing back local control to the system as the education leader within the Baraka-led city administration. “There is much hard work ahead, but we are looking forward to a new day of management listening to our educators and cooperating more closely with the city to strengthen partnerships that benefit schools in Newark’s underserved communities,” said Baskerville-Richardson.

The current environment is ripe for such cooperation throughout the state, according to AFT New Jersey President Donna M. Chiera, a retired teacher. “As our state begins a discussion about transitioning away from an overemphasis on high-stakes testing, Newark has the opportunity be a role model for other districts and we are encouraged by seeing the key participants working together to help students succeed,” said Chiera.

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