By Michael Hill
Descriptions like inefficient, disastrous and mismanaged came to the minds and out the mouths of parents trying to enroll their children for Newark Public Schools or ones who learned their children would have to catch a bus or two and go to a school across town instead of in their own neighborhood.
“It’s insane. It’s only what I can say. this is not America,” said Newark parent Maria Lourenco.
“My son being placed on a waiting list and school starts next week. But if my son stays out of school for certain days, they’re going to lock me up,” said Havella Bennett.
About six hundred parents jammed an enrollment center Thursday, stood outside or left to come back another day.
Lucretia Curtis missed a day of work Thursday. All three of her children were assigned to different schools.
“Crazy,” said Curtis.
The administration added staff today, decreasing wait times for returning families.
“We were here for half hour today, we’re in and out,” said Gabriel Rehack.
But harsh criticism comes from the president of the Newark chapter of the NAACP.
“People don’t want to talk about the racist aspect of it. But this is our ‘Ferguson’ crisis. This is it. This is the rape and death of children’s education,” said Deborah Gregory.
The Parents Coalition for Effective Newark public schools is urging parents to boycott by sending their children to churches where they plan to have retired teachers do the teaching Sept. 4 and Sept. 5.
Schools superintendent Cami Anderson said the large turnout overwhelmed the system and she apologized for any inconvenience.
Anderson declined several on-camera interview requests but issued this statement, “The number of families requesting new school placements is indicative of what we already know to be true – that family demand for quality school options far exceeds the number of quality seats we have available today. The launch of the One Newark plan and universal enrollment system did not create this problem; rather, it is designed to aggressively fix it by offering families a simple and transparent way to select among various public school options and to accelerate the growth of highly sought after schools.”
Anderson writes. “I want all families to know that we are dedicated to improving our systems and overall customer service in the days ahead. I have every confidence that we are prepared to make the experience of families visiting the enrollment center in the future, one that results in a high level of satisfaction.”
Anderson’s statement left some ridculing “One Newark” – meaning all schools under one system.
“I think that’s what they were trying to grasp, but when you don’t talk to the community it can’t be One Newark, it’s their Newark not One Newark,” said Ivy Hill Elementary PTO President Daryn Martin.
“I’ve tried over and over again to play nice but this is not a nice situation,” said Mayor Ras Baraka.
Baraka witnessed the chaos Thursday and plans to meet with Anderson and the state superintendent next week.
“You do not take over the process to make it more cumbersome. You take over the process to make it easier,” said Baraka.
After all the frustration over universal enrollment, school advisory board members — grandparents, parents and even some students say universally, if this is what One Newark is all about, then the administration can keep it.