Gov. Christie, Mayor Ras Baraka pledge to return Newark's schools back to local control



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NEWARK, New Jersey — After 20 years of state control, schools in New Jersey's largest city will be returned to local control by the end of next school year, Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said in a joint statement Friday.

Christie and Baraka said they have created a Newark Educational Success Board to develop a plan with timelines and benchmarks to return control to the Newark community. The news comes after the Christie administration announced Monday that Superintendent Cami Anderson will leave next month after a stormy four years running the district.

"Our goal is simple and shared: understanding the challenges that lie ahead and engaging in a meaningful partnership with leaders at every level of the process to get the job done," the joint statement said. "The future of our children deserves no less."

Christie said at a statehouse news conference Friday after signing the state budget that Anderson did a "really extraordinary job, under very difficult circumstances." Former state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf will replace her, pending approval by the state Board of Education.

Anderson's tenure was marked by opposition from parents and city leaders including Baraka, who was a high school principal before being elected a year ago and who had previously called for Anderson's resignation.

The rancor reached a high pitch several months after Anderson's hiring when a plan to close some underperforming schools and merge others was revealed. At a public meeting, she cut a presentation short after being shouted down by parents.

Last fall, some parents and students organized a boycott on the first day of school to protest One Newark, a new system that was touted as increasing school choice but was criticized by some who said it created transportation headaches and didn't place children in better schools.

In February, Anderson's contract was renewed for another year. Her salary was about $250,000. The renewal came a week after a group of students camped out for four days in Newark's school district headquarters to protest her leadership.

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