Erica Fortenberry, a seventeen-year veteran traditional Newark school educator, teaches in a school that "works on behalf of its students" but, she notes, "that is not the case in many schools." Newark teachers care, she says, "but we are part of a system that is broken," Ms. Fortenberry, who believes that "part of making a difference is speaking the truth," doesn't mince words:
As a district teacher, I have seen firsthand unbelievable bureaucratic waste. For years, the lack of consistent educational guidelines from the district offices, have caused conflicts in teaching and learning. Each change brings costly rounds of education materials, trainings, and curriculum development.
(For context, see Richard Whitmire's interview with Dale Russakoff, author of The Prize. Russakoff notes that one of Newark's traditional district schools receives $22,000 per student yet less that $8,000 gets to the classroom; the rest is consumed by central bureaucracy.)
Fortenberg sees improvement, but not enough:
Our current superintendent [Chris Cerf] is the first person I can remember who has made real progress fixing this issue, but Newark still receives over a billion dollars a year from the state. And yet, as a teacher I do not see the funding reaching our students.
And this is why Fortenberry has enrolled her son in Link Community Charter School. In fact, she counts herself as "one of the thousands of Newark's parents who have chosen to send my child to a Newark public charter school."
Ms. Fortenberry has much to say and deserves your full attention as Newark politicians, as well as the newly-constituted School Advisory Board, cast about for ways to preserve the fiscal integrity of the the traditional district bureaucracy while respecting the increasingly loud call of parents for school choice. As this experienced teacher tells us,
It is time for Newark to embrace, celebrate and replicate experiences like my son's public education at Link – so every child in Newark is provided a high quality education.
Whether we call them district, magnet, charter or community schools – it does not matter to me, or most in the city.
The key to success is making sure parents are provided options.