Parents Mull Boycott of Newark Schools Over Enrollment Gaffes

Parents at Newark Vocational were not overly supportive of the One Newark open enrollment process.

More than 600 parents were busy finalizing their child's school assignments in New Jersey before the start of the school year. They sat in a school gym without air conditioning for hours waiting to be called to see the school registration specialist.

Only 100 parents had finished with the process by noon. According to the district, they would only be able to help an additional 350, the rest would need to return another day.

Still others had arrived to the gym only to be turned away and told to report back the following day, leading many to complain about having to spend time and money to get there only to have to do it all again.

"It's basically like, ‘here you go, deal with it,'" said Newark Parents Union President Frank Adao. "We're tax payers and voters, and we're being left out of the process."

The district hopes to make the process more organized.

"Our goal was to work through challenges now before the first day of school, so students and families are ready Day One," enrollment center director Nancy Deering said in a statement. "We will increase the number of staff, work through any missteps from today, and improve tomorrow in pursuit of that goal."

Many parents were also unhappy with their child's school assignments. While some children had been assigned to a school that their parents consider to be unsafe or under-performing, others did not want siblings to go to separate schools, and still others did not receive a school assignment at all despite previous attempts to register at open enrollment opportunities.

"Newark parents have legitimate, serious complaints about the registration process," an announcement issued Friday morning said. "Students are being assigned to schools far away from their homes and siblings are being split up. These problems place serious burdens on children and their families."

The problems have caused a number of area parents to plan a boycott of the city school district when classes begin on September 4, continuing for at least the first week of classes. According to Johnnie Lattner, who organized the boycott, retired teachers are being asked to run "Freedom Schools" during the week.

Mayor Ras Baraka is asking for Governor Chris Christie to come to Newark and help to overhaul the One Newark program, which was put in place in an effort to aid parents with the school selection process.

"We've created a process that not only made the process more cumbersome, more tedious, but less equitable," Baraka said. "I'm asking that the governor, who is the decider, come in to the city of Newark and intervene immediately."

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