Monday night’s meet-and-greet with Dr. Clifford B. Janey, the newly appointed superintendent of Newark Public Schools was a great way to kick off the week. Those who attended got to hear a part of of Dr. Janey’s vision and his responses during the question-and-answer session were very illuminating. The session was chocked full of information, but it’s hard to go on and on about everything here.
At first blush, it seems that Dr. Janey is an accomplished administrator who was on track to making some substantial changes and improvements to the educational system in D.C., and that their loss is our gain. He increased the percentage of students taking AP courses and CP placement tests, and established what one D.C. educator called ‘parent centers’, to pull the parents in and pretty much get them on his team as he tried to remake the schools there.
Among his other philosophies for quality public education, Janey believes that:
- Special education entails delivering quality services to students who need that mode of instruction, not just sorting them out and placing them in a separate area of a school.
- Social promotion is extremely harmful to youngsters, and if we ignore the fact that some children might be poorly prepared to advance to a higher grade level, yet allow them to move up until they graduate high school, then we will have given them phony diplomas.
- When children receive instruction in standard written and spoken English at school, reinforcing it with sound practices at home is critical. Parents must read to their children and engage them in interesting conversations that are built on well structured, robust and complete sentences. All too often, high school teachers and administrators have the public burden of compensating for what not done with those children eight years before they reached high school.
- To confront chronic lateness and absenteeism, there should be a wide network including social services, parents, the faith community, etc., who can stay in tuned with students before a crisis ensues.
Dr. Janey wants to be here, very much. He said he has noticed that there is seems to be an undoing of the tendency to poke fun at Newark all of the time, and he would like to be part of that undoing. Newarkers have a fiestiness, a non-flinching attitude that is appealing. And besides — 88.3 is the best jazz station from Miami to Boston!
Gov. Jon Corzine wants him to be here.
“Every single one of our children is born with God’s genius in them,” Corzine said. He believes Dr. Janey’s approach to public education will bring that genius out of them. Gov. Corzine got a lot of kudos from Dr. Clement Price and others for staying closely involved with and keeping a steady hand on the selection process.
Mayor Booker made it clear that we welcomes Dr. Janey to the district. He admonished the audience (and by extension, the community) to basically ‘stop it’ with any negativity, cynicism, apathy or purely political attacks on Dr. Janey as he goes about managing the schools.
I’m loosely quoting here, but Mayor Booker warned: “if anyone says one negative word about my superintendent” then his response will be: “what are you doing” to help?
If you didn’t get a chance to attend Monday night’s program and reception, then you missed a chance to shake Dr. Janey’s hand in the reception hall and chat up the state and region’s political and academic luminaries. But you didn’t miss a chance to have future dialogue with the district’s leaders. Dr. Janey is committed to scheduling regular community forums like this and launching that effort quickly, to hear what we all have to say.