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Community Education Convention

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Next Steps for the City of Newark


November 21st & 22nd

There is nothing more important to the future of our city than the development and education of our youngest residents, the children of Newark. With this in mind the City of Newark in collaboration with numerous community organizations and educational institutions is holding the Newark Community Education Convention: Reclaiming the Village in order to open up a city-wide dialogue about education. The purpose of this conference is to embolden a new education conversation in our city that increases our collective knowledge of 1) the history and significance of the conditions and policies affecting our schools, 2) achievement in the context of poverty, and 3) working together as an empowered and engaged community.

Newark is a city where poverty and racism still matter. All the evidence tells us that even under these conditions students can still learn and excel. More than two-thirds (70%) of our children grow up in low income families struggling to meet basic needs. While poverty and racial isolation are highly correlated with low academic achievement, this correlation should not suggest that Newark students have low cognitive abilities or deficits. The city of Newark creates and shapes the climate in which children, families and schools succeed or fail. Our children are not the problem; the environment we create for them is largely responsible for their academic performance and other outcomes in life.

“Believe in Newark,” is based on the principle that the people of Newark, working collectively and in a coordinated way, have the ability to transform learning opportunities in our city to ensure that all of our children have the opportunity to succeed. The Newark Community Education Convention: Reclaiming the Village is designed to catapult students, teachers, parents, advocates, community organization, and civic leaders in our city into collaboration in order to create a climate outside of our schools that helps to transform learning within them. Working together to develop and implement creative new ways to address the inequities that exist in how our systems deliver services and programs to residents in Newark is paramount to addressing the environmental effects of poverty and racism on the learning outcomes of our children.

State control of Newark Public Schools for twenty years has completely circumvented community participation in the determining the direction of our schools. Reclaiming the Village symbolizes a shift in this dynamic and a restoration of our collective power to demand the schools our children and communities deserve. This conference is intended to help us galvanize our assets and to envision a sustainable plan to integrate communities, schools, and families that we can implement together. Together we will be holistic, comprehensive, and bold in our approach.

November 21

Location: Bethany Baptist Church

Panel Discussion I: How did we get here?

The panels provides a historical overview of public education in Newark, New Jersey from the 1970’s through the present, via the narratives of school board members, district administrators, organized labor, and community activists.

Keynote: Lawrence Hamm

November 22

Location: Paul Robeson Campus Center, Rutgers University

Welcome: Dr. Lauren Wells, Chief Education Officer, City of Newark

Keynote: Dr. Yvette Jackson, Chief Executive Officer, National Urban Alliance for Education for Effective Education

“Poverty is NOT Destiny: Strategies for School Communities to Unlock the Innate Potential of all our Children.”

The urban environment offers both assets and challenges that school communities must be strategically prepared to address in order to fulfill the shared responsibility of attaining high achievement and self-actualization for all students in the community. A transformational vision for urban schools requires a keen appreciation of the need for public engagement and the development of strong community support in order to transform schools into thriving oases where assets are elicited and cultivated, needs are addressed (academic, social, emotional and physical health) and aspirations are fulfilled. Strategies to inspire, influence, and cultivate trust for navigating support, involvement and action will be addressed.

Panel II: Breaking Through Barriers to Learning
The economic environment shapes learning and educational outcomes of children through complex pathways via family, neighborhood, and schools. Though many children living in poverty begin life at an economic disadvantage these challenges can be abated. In Newark there have been on-going and consistent efforts to implement, coordinate and integrate practices and programs that work inside and outside of schools to mediate these barriers to learning. This panel examines the role of poverty in the shaping the educational opportunities and outcomes for families and children in Newark. Specifically, we will explore and hear from practitioners about how their understanding of poverty shape their interactions with children and their families to influence youth’s educational outcomes.


Dr. Janice Johnson, Associate Professor of Sociology CUNY / John Jay College & President GrassROOTS Community Foundation


  • Sandra Rodriguez, Principal of Brandt Primary School & Director ECE. Hoboken Public Schools.
  • Dr. Hanaa Hamdi, Director, Department of Health & Community Wellness
  • Dr. Gwedonlyn Harris, Executive Director, Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs
  • Dominique Lee, Chief Executive Officer, Building Responsible Intelligent Creative Kids

Welcome from Rutgers University: Marcia Brown, Vice Chancellor of External and Governmental Relations, Rutgers University

Panel III: Newark’s Educational Landscape: A Community View

Students, advocates, and educators from charter and traditional public schools discuss the state of education in Newark. There is a specific focus on the development of the whole child, schools that are responsive to the learning needs of children and communities in Newark and opportunities for all schools working together to support children and families in neighborhoods.

Dr. Lauren Wells, Chief Education Officer, City of Newark
Dr. Roland Anglin, Director and Associate Research Professor, The Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies


  • Star Harrison, Abbott Leadership Institute Youth Media Symposium
  • Jose Leonardo, Newark Student Union
  • Mary Bennett, Coalition for Effective Newark Public Schools
  • Ryan Hill, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, KIPP, New Jersey.

Remarks from Honorable Mayor Ras J. Baraka

Planning Together to Transform our Schools Together

Fatimah Burnam, Executive Director, Teach for America, New Jersey
Shanell Dunns, Director of Community Outreach, Education Reform Now
This session elicits strategies for public engagement and the development of strong community support in order to transform schools into thriving oases where assets are elicited and cultivated. Conference attendees will identify the assets of the communities around our schools and will work together to define the role of public engagement in all of our schools and to establish strategies where the entire community plays a roles in shaping that where all students have the opportunity to thrive.

Call to Action


Reclaiming the Village is made by possible by support from the following partners:
United Way
Victoria Foundation
Newark Trust for Education
Teach for America

Newark Charter School Fund

Strong Healthy Communities Initiative
Foundation for Newarks Future
Education Reform Now
American Federation of Teachers

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