Newark school board candidates are talking about the loss of education at the forum

Seven candidates vying for three seats on the Newark Board of Education in the upcoming April 19 election spoke at a candidate forum on Tuesday night about education losses, mental health and school budget priorities.

The two-hour forum, organized by the Newark Trust for Education, Project Ready and the School of Public Affairs and Rutgers Management, provided candidates with an opportunity to ask questions related to the impact of the pandemic on student learning, social and emotional learning policies, and budgeting. the school is valued at $ 1.2 billion.

Incumbent leaders Daniel Gonzalez and A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, along with Crystal Williams, backed by Mayor Ras Baraka and other local and state politicians, are fighting for re-election. Gonzalez, who was elected last year, is running for a one-year term and is a candidate for his first three-year term.

Other candidates are Maggie Freeman, Allison K. James-Frieson, Thomas Luna and Phillip Wilson.

Voter turnout in the annual Newark School Board election was historically low. Over the past few years, turnout in the elections has been around 3 to 4 percent of registered voters.

The three organizations and institutions have partnered to hold the forum in hopes of increasing voter turnout in this year’s election, said Shenell McCloud, non-profit executive director of the Ready Project, during a speech at a ceremony at the Newark Museum of Art. The forum was broadcast live online.

“School board members have the opportunity to do three very important things: They set vision and goals for the district, approve the New York Community Schools budget, and elect a principal and hold the principal accountable,” McCloud said.

Ronald Chaluisan, executive director of the Newark for Education Trust, said the organizers approached members of the community to ask questions.

One of the first questions asked was whether they believe they have an appropriate plan in the district to address the alarming loss of training, as is known from recent state assessment data.

The question focused specifically on the mid-term assessment, which showed that no more than 6% of students in grades 3-7 expect to reach the skill level in the state math exam, which begins later this month. Prior to the pandemic, 27% of students in grades 3-8 met state standards for standard annual math exams.

“I believe the district has a strong plan to address not only the loss of education, but also some of the shortcomings of the gains that have been made due to the historic investment from this district,” Murray-Thomas said, referring to the district’s poor funding. about $ 140 million based on the public funding formula.

Williams, Murray-Thomas’ wife, said she considered the latest data from the study loss to be “terrible,” “horrible” and “unacceptable.” His plan, he said, is to assess areas in the district that are doing well and “imitate” those plans that are “doing badly in the city’s pocket”.

Other candidates talked more about the different policies and plans they want to help implement, including more professional development and coaching.

“We can’t focus on the loss of learning until we provide teachers with the tools they need,” said James-Frieson, founder of Girls; Live, Laugh, Love, Inc., a counseling program for girls in the city. James-Frieson said he will work to improve the skills of more teachers.

Luna, a teacher at KIPP’s charter school in the city, said she believes the district’s current plans to combat education loss need to be updated and more attention paid to teacher training.

Candidates were also asked about social and emotional education policies for staff, teachers, students and families.

Wilson, who helps lead the District’s Startup Policy Council, said more community organizations need to help with social and emotional learning.

Freeman, a long-term volunteer who helps lead the Vecvaik Park Sports Department, said she believes schools need more social workers and counselors and are more focused on life skills. She said when schools close, many students don’t know what to do at home, such as washing clothes or processing food they get from food distribution sites.

“When you educate students this way, you see a change that is too much,” he said.

When asked about budget priorities, Gonzalez said he would work for an assessment and a plan to improve capital. “Most of our facilities are very old,” he said. “We have not taken a comprehensive approach to rehabilitation,” he said. Due to the lack of dollars, we only repaired enough for the lessons, but we closed the facilities. ”

Candidates were also asked how they would hold the chief accountable for implementing budget priorities. Wilson said he would ask teachers and administrators for their opinions.

Registered voters must apply by April 12 by mail for the April 19 election.

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