A Message from the Board of Education – August 2023
As the new school year gets ready to start, there are many great things happening within Newark City Schools. There have been various camps available for our students, and fall extra-curriculars are already hard at work. Final plans are being put in place for several exciting things that are set to happen when as the school year begins.
One of the more exciting improvements coming down the pike is that Newark City Schools has hired a full time Workforce Development Coordinator to help our students prepare to enter the workforce. Many of our students enter the workforce upon graduation, and the Workforce Development Coordinator will help them prepare to fill the needs of local employers in a number of trades and professions. There is already a shortage of workers in a number of trades, and with the pending arrival of Intel, this situation will only get worse. Newark City Schools is attempting to help our students find areas that they would be interested in working in upon graduation, and to assist them in preparing for these positions. There are a number of grant programs out there to help defray the cost of such a program, and we are already working to tap into these in an attempt to keep the cost of this added service to our students as low as possible.
Newark City Schools, like most districts, is seeing a growing mental health crisis among many of our students. This has been happening for a number of years, and the pandemic certainly added to it. For many students problems in their lives outside of school make school their safe place. In the past, these problems were more prevalent among the junior high and high school students, but over the past few years our elementary students have been displaying an ever growing list of challenges. In response to this, Newark City Schools is entering into a contract with Behavioral Healthcare Partners to place six mental health professionals within our schools. The services these folks will provide will be in addition to, and coordinated with, those provided by our current social workers, linkage coordinators, guidance counselors, student advocates, and others working with our students. There is already one grant in place to help defray the cost of this, and once the state’s next biennial budget is finalized it is hoped that there will be even more funding available.
The Newark City Schools administration and the local police and fire departments continue to work very well together to keep our students safe. We are happy to be adding a second resource officer within the district this coming year. The district will be tapping into some state funding for this, making the cost for two resource officers only slightly more than we have been paying for one officer.
It would be remiss to not mention the issues with busing which Newark City Schools, along with most districts throughout the country, has been facing. We have been working with our current staff and
their representatives to try to find solutions. We have also held job fairs and a “drive a bus” day in an attempt to find new employees. As a result of these efforts, the district currently has a number of folks in training, and hopefully we will see some improvement when the new school year begins.
One of the biggest challenges Newark City Schools faces is how to best serve our growing special needs student population. A few years ago this group represented 12% of our student population. This past year it was at 24% of the total population. This growth has made it difficult to keep services aligned. During the past few months Superintendent Dave Lewis has been meeting with staff members in this area, and will continue to do so come August to determine how to best provide the services this growing group of students need and deserve.
The item that we probably get the most questions about is the former State Farm building. We are currently leasing approximately one-third of the building to OSUN/COTC while they refurbish Founders Hall. A number of rooms are being used as meeting/training rooms for district staff and others, and the former cafeteria is being utilized for events, including the Citizen of the Month lunches. Meanwhile, work continues on the remodeling to move our digital school, which has outgrown its current location, to this building, as does work on the new preschool facility. By moving our state mandated preschool to this central site it will allow for a more coordinated program and will free up space in the elementary buildings that currently house the preschool, some of which are facing overcrowding problems. It is hoped that both of these groups will be moved into this building by the end of this calendar year. There are more partnerships on the way, as well. We purchased this building at a discounted price in 2021 in hopes that it would prove to be a major asset to the district and community, and at this point it is starting to fulfill that hope.
Some may see all of these exciting projects and ask where the money is coming from. We are proud to say that we just concluded another academic year with a positive cash flow. And our staff is doing an amazing job of obtaining grant monies to help offset the cost of improving the services Newark City Schools provides to our students. As is sometimes said, it’s a great time to be a ‘Cat.
Newark City Schools Board of Education
Tim Carr, President
Tom Bline, Vice President