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Spotlight on Newark.

Your essay on Mayor Cory Booker's aspirations for change in the Newark Public Schools District ("Home Is Where the Heart Is," features, Fall 2006) was encouraging in one respect but discouraging in many others. It is extremely important to have a chief executive running our city who is clearly committed to helping all children achieve in school and reach for a higher standard of living. I, as superintendent of the district, and a veteran of 38 years, welcome Mayor Booker's voice, support, and leadership. On the other hand, it was disturbing to read a depiction of our schools as "still a mess."

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While we have much more to do, there are several areas in which the district is improving. Over the last four years, in language arts our 4th-grade students improved from a passing rate of 52 percent to 70 percent, and in math for the same period, from 31 to 71.5 percent. From 1999 to 2005, high-school graduation rates increased from 45.7 to 75.9 percent. During the same period, the number of high-school students enrolled in AP classes quadrupled.

In 2004 and 2005, the Newark district received commendations for good management from the Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) in Financial Reporting. We also received a Facilities Master Award for Excellence in the Facility Operations Program from ASBO for two consecutive years, making Newark the only district in the country to have achieved that distinction.

It is a disservice to our newly elected mayor to place the onus for "saving Newark schools" on one individual. It will require resources and a collaborative effort involving all students, teachers, parents, administrators, and other citizens to ensure that our children gain the necessary skills to thrive in their own community and to prepare them to compete globally.

Our district is not a mess. It would only seem so to one who has not taken the time to investigate.

MARION A. BOLDEN

Superintendent Newark Public Schools
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Title Annotation:correspondence
Author:Bolden, Marion A.
Publication:Education Next
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:329
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