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J. Sharpe James, J.D.
12-16-2004, 10:55 AM
Here, Newark takes first place
District's after-school programs are praised as a model by national organization
Thursday, December 16, 2004
BY STANLEY E. TERRELL
Star-Ledger Staff
The Newark public school system has undergone a number of difficulties over the years, but continues to work toward its goal of achieving excellence for the district's 42,000 students.

In one area, for certain, it has attained the level of "exemplary," being cited by a national organization as a role model for after-school programs across the country.

The district's Extended School Day Program recently received that rating from the National Community Education Association, which rated it among the best in the country in programming, management and administration, staffing and training, financing, policy and advocacy.

To celebrate the national honor, an old-fashioned march and rally was held along Broad Street, complete with precision drill teams and chanting students, who strutted and demonstrated their pride in having the district's after-school programs singled out for high praise. It culminated with a rally inside Symphony Hall, that included singing and entertainment, as well as words of encouragement from local elected and school officials.

The after-school program, headed by Elnardo J. Webster Jr., includes academic, cultural, recreation and personal development components. Webster said being named the best program in the country is the "result of the total community coming together.

"That kind of evaluation signals ... that everybody is working toward the same mission -- the students, parents, supportive services, administration, staff -- all those entities. When everybody's on the same page, you can accomplish almost anything," he said.

NCEA, which has promoted improvements in after-school programs for 15 years, was approached by the Newark district and asked to take a look at its offerings.

NCEA's "continuous improvement" is designed to encourage after-school program leaders to assess their programs rigorously and to document their assessments to assist future planning and development, according to Duane Rupert, a consultant for the independent agency that issues accreditations and rankings.

The process that resulted in Newark's No. 1 status was solidified in May, when six NCEA representatives -- who have local, state and national leadership experience -- visited the district to validate its findings. They observed programs, attended group meetings, interviewed a host of individuals -- including representatives of municipal, corporate and community partners -- and studied documentation collected by the district.

"The consensus was that this was an exemplary program," Rupert said. "We have found no program in the country that has a higher rating than the Newark program," he said, adding that the visit to the city in May gave the group "the opportunity to know Newark a little better. It really is a White House program in the after-school world."

Rupert said the six-member team spent two full days in Newark observing programs and interviewing staff, parents and program partners "to get a better feel for what the stakeholders felt about the programs, its pluses and what the challenges might be. We went to several school sites."

Much of the evidence the evaluation team witnessed, Rupert said, "led us to believe, in most cases, that they were operating at an exemplary level, and you really can't get much better than that. Essentially, with all the evidence provided to us by the Newark staff, as well as what we observed and learned on site, we judged the program to be an overall exemplary program."

He said the team also was impressed with how much the program is doing for parents and the community.

"The Newark program is not obligated to provide specific services for the whole community, but by serving the children so well, they are actually serving families. We talked to parents, to agencies that provide services, and realized just how vital the program is," Rupert said.

In regards to programming, Rupert noted the after-school programs serve children from elementary through high school, and for the most part are very supportive of the academic goals of the district. "They do a lot to reinforce basic skills taught during the day, and also offer a good amount of enrichment" to the 10,000 children daily served by the programs.

"It's very impressive," he continued, adding that Newark children "have an opportunity in the program they might not otherwise have. It's a very strong program, the staff has wonderful training and there's a very strong management structure. It's an excellent program -- very strong, very consistent."

While Webster -- who last year won the title of After School Alliance Ambassador -- said he is pleased the district received such a laudable evaluation, he added the program is not the best it can be.

"We're still trying every day to improve what we do. But we're very happy that someone thinks very highly of what we do," he said. "Certainly, when you have a superintendent (Marion Bolden) that believes in what you do, and allows you to make mistakes and still continue to grow, you're very fortunate. The same philosophy that the superintendent has toward the staff is the same philosophy we have toward our students."

jmax
12-16-2004, 11:33 AM
All these efforts should still be under one roof... though I'm glad that things are going well.

A greater emphasis should be made on tutoring for standardized tests-- as right or wrong they've become a barometer for the health of a school system along with graduation/drop-out rates.

black4rob2
12-16-2004, 04:55 PM
As sucessful as it is, I would love to see this everywhere in the city

jazzyken
12-17-2004, 10:45 AM
One good answer is parent participation!!! Need more voluteers to help run the programs.

black4rob2
12-17-2004, 03:05 PM
Where are all the parents who are doing all this complaining, and crying, and rallying....Where are they when we need them...

It is one thing to speak out against a situation or problem...It is something completely different when you begin to do something about it....

That's the challenge I have for every parent in this city.....
INSTEAD OF POINTING THE FINGER AND COMPLAINING....DO SOMETHING!!!

JUST DO SOMETHING.....anything.

jazzyken
12-17-2004, 03:36 PM
As a parent, I heard nothing of a rally. My question was, who called the rally and where were the posters, citizen calls, newspaper ads? There are signs on EVERY street corner for alcohol and crappy phone services but I heard nothing of this rally and I was downtown around 4ish yesterday. I heard and saw nothing.

JoefromPGH
12-17-2004, 09:50 PM
Seems to be Newark's best kept secret! But it sounds wonderful and hopefully it can be expanded. Actually 10,000 kids served is not insignificant.Thanks for the info John!