Union Says Newark Principals Suspended Because They Opposed District Changes

By Desirée Taylor
Senior Correspondent

Parents gathered outside of the Hawthorne Avenue School to express their outrage over the sudden and immediate suspension of four Newark principals last week.

“We want our principal back, this is not right what they are doing,” said parent Grace Sergio.

The suspensions followed a community meeting where speakers denounced proposed changes to the state-run school district. Among critics at the microphone were Principals H. Grady James of Hawthorne Avenue School, Tony Motley of Bragaw Avenue School, Dorothy Handfield of Belmont Runyan School and Deneen Washington of Maple Avenue School. Two days later, the district suspended all four. The National Organization of African-American Administrators expressed outrage.

“I think it’s because they spoke out against the cuts, the treatment, the unfair treatment of most of the Newark public schools principals, as compared to the transformation principals that are in the district,” said President Debbie Terrel.

“I’m not understanding why they are being suspended. Suspension is a very strong disciplinary kind of action and we don’t know what kind of policy, if any, they could have possibly violated,” said Union President Tina Taylor.

But Newark Public Schools Spokesperson Matthew Frankel denies this saying, “The characterization that the superintendent suspended four school principals for voicing their opinion is unequivocally false. It is NPS’ obligation to ensure families and students have a safe environment as well as ensure equitable access to an education.”

But it’s not just the disciplinary action taken against the principals that has angered parents. They oppose the superintendent’s plan to overhaul the district. Among the proposed changes is to close down the Hawthorne Avenue School. And make way for a charter school.

“We are very disappointed, very, very disappointed. Everybody in this school is like a family. We are all together and we are going to fight until the end because we are staying open,” said Sergio.

Making matters worse, critics say Cami Anderson hasn’t done enough outreach in the community. Anderson has denied this and says her only goal is to create schools of excellence throughout the district. The suspended principals could learn their fate as early as tomorrow when the results of the investigation could come.