NEWARK, N.J. — For the first time since 1995, Newark Public Schools will be governed from Newark.
The state intervened decades ago after it deemed the city's schools to be corrupt and failing. In the years since, Newark teachers, parents and students say they had no voice in how their schools should be governed, organized or run.
"In all of that time, every time we witnessed one reform after the next reform, after the next reform, after the next reform - we never had an opportunity to say what we wanted," said Mayor Ras Baraka, a former teacher and high school principal in Newark. "For 22 years we have been a shadow in our own community. Not today."
Newarkers cheered and danced inside city hall in celebration Wednesday afternoon. A high school marching band echoed throughout the building's main chamber. Some children sat on the floor working on their homework.
Earlier in the day, several dozen Newarkers boarded a bus for Trenton to witness the historic vote. Tanasia Brown, a former Newark public school student went with them.
"My whole life, Newark was told Newark could not control their own school district," she said. "That they did not have the means, the education or the ability."
Wilhelmina Holder also attended Wednesday morning's rally in Trenton outside of the State Board of Education building. Her grandchildren now attend Newark schools, so did her children and so did she.
“Instead of incorporating our voice, they excluded us," she recalled of the time under state control. "Parents are genuine partners in the education system. And that’s where now there is hope. That parents again can become real authentic partners in the transformation of going back to local control.”
The state will work with Newark to form a formal transition plan.
Sometime next year, Newarkers will head to the polls to decide whether they want to vote for their future school board or have a mayor-appointed one.