Leadership shake-up at Newark schools as officials are forced to resign or be fired

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The big story

Incoming Superintendent Roger León is starting to reshape the district even before he officially takes over on July 1.

On Friday, 31 top Newark Public Schools officials and other administrators were given the option to resign and accept a buyout package or be fired. Most of the targeted staffers have ties to León’s predecessors, superintendents Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf.

León was expected to bring in new leadership. But Friday’s shake-up still stunned many insiders, as it came sooner and cut deeper than was anticipated.

The overhaul also arrived with little warning. Top officials, including interim Superintendent Robert Gregory, had to scramble to inform the affected employees on Friday before they received emails with the news. León himself was not present for those conversations.

The move is already being celebrated by León’s supporters, who have called on him to force out officials from the past administrations and start fresh. But critics are calling the sudden firings unprofessional and political.

Read the full story for more details about the surprise shake-up.

What to watch

Important things happening around Newark schools.

The focus now: Who will León tap to carry out his agenda?

  • What to know: León’s central-office purge created a lot of commotion Friday. But earlier in the week, he quietly submitted a list of officials he wants on his leadership team.
  • León is expected to fill his cabinet with district insiders. Names that have been floated include East Side High School Principal Mario Santos and South Street School Principal Havier Nazario.
  • Meanwhile, people are waiting for a glimpse of León’s agenda and his plan to reorganize the district. (The planned reorganization was cited as the reason for Friday’s staff shake-up in district documents.)
  • The Newark school board will decide whether to approve León’s cabinet picks at their meeting on Tuesday. And he is expected to say more about his vision and agenda early next week.
  • One big question: How much of León’s playbook will feature new ideas — and how much will be recycled from the past?

How I got here

Stories about the lives of Newark students and educators.

At a time when many immigrants to the United State are filled with fear and uncertainty, the members of one Newark school community are speaking up about their immigration stories.

More than 70 students and a few teachers shared their reflections in a new, self-published book called, “The Hispanic American Dreamers of Hawkins Street School.” The school, which is based in the Ironbound section, enrolls many students who moved to the U.S. from Central and South America.

“My parents came to the United States alone as teenagers to seek a better life for their entire family,” the principal wrote in the book’s introduction. “I realize that my strength and grit was born in that struggle to survive.”

Read more about the students’ journeys, along with some excerpts from the book.

Newark news

A roundup of the past week’s local education reporting.


  • The group Playworks named Speedway Academies Principal Atiba Buckman its “Most Valuable Principal” for creating a healthy and engaging playing environment for students. Newark Public Schools
  • The city council recognized North Star Academy Clinton Hill Middle School Principal Jody-Anne Jones, who recently won a national education award. TAPinto Newark
  • Abington Avenue Elementary School was honored as “Newark’s Most Active School” after recording 15.4 million steps over three months. Newark Public Schools

News from Trenton

Reporting on statewide education issues that matter for Newark.

School funding…

  • The state legislature on Thursday passed landmark school funding reform that will redistribute hundreds of millions of dollars in public school aid — but Gov. Phil Murphy has said whether he signs the bill depends on the outcome of ongoing budget negotiations. NJ.com
  • “Until we have an agreement on sound and sane revenues, we cannot have an agreement on school funding,” Murphy said. NJ Spotlight
  • Op-ed: One of the challenges in budget negotiations is the ill will between Murphy and state senate president Stephen Sweeney. NJ.com

Charter building money…

  • Op-ed: The heads of KIPP New Jersey and Uncommon Schools call on Murphy and the legislature to help the state’s charter schools find or pay for school facilities. NJ.com

Union dues…

  • If the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the “agency fees” that public-sector unions charge, New Jersey’s powerful teachers unions could lose membership and money. NJ.com

Teacher pay…

  • New Jersey has the fifth highest teacher salaries in the nation, but some educators here say they still struggle financially. NJ.com

Extra credit

Want to showcase your school or an upcoming education event? Send me photos and details.

“We also came here to have more opportunities,” wrote fourth-grader Layla Gonzalez (pictured). “They do call this country the ‘Land Of Opportunities.'”

Layla is one of the students at Newark’s Hawkins Street School who reflected on her family’s immigration story for the school’s new self-published book about “Hispanic American dreamers.”

You can read her essay on her family’s journey here.