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NEWARK, N.J. — After more than 20 years of State intervention, Newark Public Schools will be returned to local control.

The School Board voted to appoint Deputy Superintendent Robert Gregory to serve as interim Superintendent while a national search is conducted to replace Superintendent Christopher Cerf following his resignation. The Newark Board of Education will assume full authority of Newark schools Thursday.

According to Superintendent Christopher Cerf, the city is prepared and with central control, the city can focus on improving the lives of their students.

“I believe that the City of Newark is prepared for local control,” he said. “In the last few years, the conversation in this city has become more and more focused on our central goal – to improve life outcomes for Newark Students,” Cerf continued. “It is that collective focus by thousands of individuals – educators, community members, city leaders and others – that has created momentum in our schools and the undeniable progress being made by Newark students. I have great confidence that as this transition moves forward, school district and elected leaders will continue to work together to build on the foundation that has been put in place to make Newark Schools a model for the country.”

Last month, the Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education approved the transition plan allowing the Advisory Board to become the official Newark Board of Education on Feb. 1.

With returning the district to central control, substantial progress has been made in recent years including an increase of the graduation rate from the high 50s to about 78 percent and outperforming comparable districts in reading and Math.

In Newark, the state takeover had plodded on for years before a recent whirlwind of activity spurred by a $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2010 and a bipartisan political alliance between former Gov. Chris Christie and then-Mayor Cory Booker.

The aggressive changes thrust Newark into the national spotlight while inflaming local parents and activists, who opposed the closure of some neighborhood schools, the expansion of charter schools, and the hiring of expensive outside consultants.