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Editor's Note: 4/17/2014

Hello Readers, DHIREN

On Sunday April 13, 2014 there was a fire on Berkeley Avenue in Orange, NJ. A mother and 8 years old child lost their lives. The fire is suspicious according to what some people told us, or maybe it is a heart breaking tragedy. Local Talk's staff and I will pray for their souls. We send our condolences to Mr. Soler and his family and pray they have strength in these rough times. However, there will be an investigation. Is the fire department doing their job thoroughly? That is a question in people's minds? The mayor, county and the state should investigate the procedures of inspection by the fire department for the safety of our citizens and the business community.

I have endorsed Councilman Ras Baraka for Mayor of Newark. After looking at many scenarios, I thought that this is a crucial time for Newarkers and the surrounding community to have a person with a heart for people, not for politicians.

East Orange's Council has passed $3.165 million through Resolution no. I 110 for the Emergency Temporary Appropriations Water Utility Liabilities in their April 14th meeting. I contacted the city clerk office, and it went to Mayor's office for him to sign it. Also, after a year-long battle with the administration, the Orange Council passed a bond issue for $8 million. Next week, I will try to get more information on both matters for our readers.

April 14th also marked Girl Scout Citizenship Day, when young girls act like councilpersons and get hands on experience at this early age. Nahla Conover, Katelyn Miles, Imani McQueen, Kyla Bird, Mylesha Mells, Natalya Cox, Jaidyn Toliver Saint, Anne Thompson, Taylor Brooks and Kyla Bates participated as council members. The young generation gets knowledge, and they will remember the experience for a lifetime.

Bank of America showed a loss for the first quarter of 2014. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The loss was the result of a residential mortgage-backed securities settlement with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced last month. The settlement included $6.3 billion in cash payments to Fannie Mae FNMA +3.23% and Freddie Mac FMCC +2.41%, which were taken under government conservatorship in 2008 and are regulated by the FHFA. Bank of America booked $6 billion in litigation expenses for the first quarter, lopping 40 cents off earnings per share." Banks and other companies are ripping off customers so much. Only a few times, they pay a penalty. It is very difficult for lawmakers to protect people, with so many loopholes.

According to ABC News, "Google's 'Project Ara,' an affordable smartphone with swappable and customizable hardware, could be the next big thing to shake up the mobile market. Details of the phone were unveiled at the first Ara developer's conference on Tuesday, when leader Paul Eremenko announced it would go on sale early next year and retail for about $50.

"It's about getting exactly what you want in a phone," Patrick Moorhead, principal technology analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy told ABCNews.com. "For a lot of people, their primary reason for buying a phone could be social media. For another person it could be taking pictures. For other people it may be gaming. It's all about customization." Google is a leader of technology and having impact on people's lives. With this new innovation technology, Google will rule for decades to come.

The elections in the local area have been crucial this year. Newark will have new leadership no matter who wins. The leadership in Irvington and West Orange has been challenged, while East Orange and Orange are currently under new leadership. We will see many changes in near future as far as the elected officials are concerned.

Have a wonderful week. I'll talk to you next week.

Editor's Note: 4/3/14

DHIRENHello Readers,

I was reading about the Federal Poverty Line on April 2, and I wanted to share this with our readers. Federally facilitated marketplaces will use the 2014 guidelines to determine eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP (this is effective February 10, 2014). Household size - Income: 1 - $11,670, 2 - 15,730, 3 - 19,790, 4 - 23,850, 5 - 27,910, 6 - 31,970. 7 - 36,030, 8 - 40,090. Now those fall under the poverty line especially working poor are many in our community.

The government is spending $45,000 to $50,000 for each person on welfare person, but they forget those who falls under the poverty line and have the pride to continue to work. I appeal to the lawmakers at the federal and state levels that those who fall under the poverty line should not be taxed at all. They should only be paying FICA and Disability. Also, at the end of the year, those under the poverty line have to fill out one simple form, just their name, address, social security number, total yearly income from all employment and attach W-2 Forms. This is my suggestion.

Newarkers have to decide who will be their next mayor. However, before deciding, they have to know the candidates and which candidate can benefit the city and especially the citizens. Everyone is talking about bringing the city to the next level. Do you know what the next level is? Do the buildings and fame of the city bring it to the next level? I think the next level is when the quality of life for the citizens goes up. Quality of life includes, income, crime, safety, cleanliness, community awareness, neighborhood atmosphere, schools, education, ease of dealing with the city, shopping, entertainment facilities, perception towards life, peace of mind and last but not least, taking pride where you live.

Did the quality of life improve under Cory Booker? Many people I talked to said no. Newarkers today call Cory Booker an outsider, but he still has control over organizations he started or supported in his reign. People think that under Booker, more money flowed to the city, but not many local citizens received an advantage from the growth. He was for money people and powerful people.

Shavar Jeffries has the same charismatic personality with a lot of support from the political stronghold. I don't know how he can break the barrier of helping the general public and not giving all of the benefits to the political stronghold. Conversely, Ras Baraka may bring less money, but he can help people in general rather than by connections. Would his image as a people's person continue after getting a powerful position in New Jersey, or would he be another politician sucked into the system?
These are the questions I am raising for the voters, I am not giving any suggestions, but you the voters have to decide. You must register to vote before April 22, 2014. There is little time left. Register to vote and cast your vote for the right candidate. Just registering to vote means nothing; you must exercise your rights and select the right candidate. Each vote has importance, as each vote makes thousands at the end.

Ras Baraka complained that Fran Adubato and Lee Fisher, both democrats and election board members, endorsed Shavar Jefferies. Morally, it is wrong in my opinion, but legally it is right in the court of law. Fran Adubato and Lee Fisher were both appointed by the governor by the recommendation of the Democratic Party chair. The election board makes the decision who to appoint at the election booths/stations. They watch over them to make sure they're neutral while working at the polling stations. However, when they are endorsing a candidate, it is morally wrong in my opinion.

Irvington's election is another important election in our community. Irvington voters have to decide whether Wayne Smith has made improvements for the city of Irvington and especially for the citizens. If he has improved the city, are voters satisfied with the improvements under his umbrella that have been achieved, or is it not enough. John Sowell has discharged his duties for the citizens as a council president, as well as a councilperson. Tony Vauss has worked for Bilal Beasley, and Beasley, not being a candidate, is also at the center stage and can pull votes for Tony Vauss. Paul Inman, Gene Etchison, David Lyons and one more candidate are trying hard to gain the confidence of voters. This will decide whether the incumbent, party supported, or independent candidate will gain the people's confidence. Let's wait and watch.

Have a wonderful week. I'll talk to you next week.

Editor's Note: 3/27/2014

Hello Readers, DHIREN

Finally, there is hope for finding the lost Malaysian plane, as debris was found on the bottom of the South Indian Ocean. According to the New York Times, "Satellite sightings of 122 objects floating southwest of Australia are "the most credible lead that we have" in the search for Flight 370, the Malaysian defense minister said Wednesday evening, adding that his country had asked Australia to try to recover the objects and see if they were debris from the missing jetliner...The defense minister (Malaysia), Hishammuddin Hussein, said the 122 objects were visible in satellite images forwarded by Airbus Defense and Space, the main European commercial satellite company. Malaysia passed the images to Australia, which is leading the search in the area. The Australian authorities did not report having located any of the objects by late Wednesday night."

According to USA TODAY, "The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday (March 26) that a federal law intended to keep guns away from domestic violence offenders can apply even if their crime was nothing more than 'offensive touching.' The decision was a victory for gun control advocates and groups that work to protect battered spouses and children, and a defeat for gun rights organizations that argued the federal law goes too far. For the justices, it came down to the proper definition of 'physical force' - one that a majority of them decided did not have to be violent or even directly applied to the victim by the abuser. Routine battery convictions, the court said, are sufficient to trigger the gun ban." This is needed for a non-violent society. The police cannot prevent domestic violence cases. So these kinds of laws will prevent some incidents, which is a victory for society.

The City of Newark is fighting for its fate. It will be decided on May 13, 2014, when the election for many new faces will take place. The council is divided and running for re-election with different parties, and some independently. The voters have to choose very carefully. The political big bosses are with Shavar Jeffries and grassroots organizations are with Ras Baraka. There is a political war between politics and people. Let's see who wins. I would not be surprised about anyone coming out as a winner. The race will be too close to call from now.

Right now, both candidates are too busy getting endorsements of politicians, unions and organizations. However, both have to make sure that the people of Newark benefit after they get elected. In the majority of elections, people are naive and listen to one candidate over the other and decide their vote. However, I appeal to all voters to find out the facts about the candidates and then take a side for voting. Many times a council candidate you like is from a different group than the mayoral candidate you like, so please vote for the best candidate in your opinion. You must vote for the better candidate, not because they might help you one way, but due to their policy hurt you in your taxes.

Those voters think that they are tenants. But eventually, you are paying for the taxes, as the rent goes up with tax increases. Lately, due to restrictions on tax increases, all of the townships are charging backdoor charges to increase their revenue. So before you select anyone, make sure the candidate is for the people, and that the candidate will not change after being elected, will keep his/her promises, has knowledge of the constitution, likely to solve people's problems, and improve the quality of service given to the people who have to deal with city hall. If it is a mayoral candidate, the person also has to have leadership qualities and will lead the city while administering the day-to-day work very smoothly in your opinion.

I congratulate East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor for hiring two persons as his aides for resolving the problems of constituents. All of the candidates should do the same. They should have one person to simplify the process on all of the departments and how to deal with the city, without burning up in their mind, and having a stress-free environment at city hall.

Have a wonderful week. I'll talk to you next week.

Editor's Note: 3/20/2014

Hello Readers, DHIREN

The election season is getting hotter in Newark. Due to only two mayoral candidates involved, the negativity is harder between the two. Councilman Ras Baraka said that he would not support a negative campaign. However, if the candidates do not want any negative campaigning, they should denounce all the negativity, and then I will believe they really want a good campaign.

Newark's Teachers Union had a rally on Tuesday, March 17, 2014. The rally against the school administration may have been more political than about people. Jeffries has the support of many political powerbrokers, but Baraka is leading in the polls. We need the right leader, who has charisma, intelligence, the people's personality, humility, leading ability, vision, who's ready to work with Newarkers and take Newark to a better level. The leader that the voters pick should not take advantage of people's money, making different nonprofit or non-governmental organizations and placing their people on the board and having control of finances even outside the government body. I hope that one day leader will come and really work for people.

According to Fox News, "A defiant Russian President Vladimir Putin answered President Obama's announced sanctions against a handful of officials in Putin's inner circle - but not Putin, himself - by signing a treaty Tuesday making Crimea a part of Russia. The signing follows a referendum on Sunday in which residents of Ukraine's southern region overwhelmingly backed the move. The treaty still must be approved by Russia's Constitutional Court and ratified by both houses of parliament. Those steps are considered mere formalities." This is a winning situation for Putin, as he blamed the U.S. and its allies for demolishing the historical ties between Ukraine and Russia.

Phil Jackson has joined the New York Knicks as President of Basketball Operations with a five year contract of $12 million dollars per year. This is an unprecedented high salary contract for someone in that role, but the Knicks needed this to uplift the team. It is better to give money to Jackson than hiring one player worth $20 million a year and may or may not produce anything. However, Jackson does not have any front office experience, but his name and charisma will bring the Knicks back into the lime light, hopefully with winning seasons and maybe championships down the road.

According to CBS news, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370's computer was re-programmed to fly away from its destination. The authorities have already searched the house of the pilot. Someone in the cockpit knew how to reprogram the computer and change the flight direction without any radar detection. The whole world is looking into the whereabouts of the plane, but no one knows where it disappeared to. The mystery remains, and time will tell.

Even the superpowers with the world's best technology could not find any whereabouts of the flight. So this is a failure of the money spent by countries of the world on the technology and research. According to CBS, "The suspicion is of one or both of the pilots. First someone has disabled the communication system. Authorities have said someone on board the plane first disabled one of its communications systems - the Aircraft and Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS - about 40 minutes after takeoff. The ACARS equipment sends information about the jet's engines and other data to the airline.

Around 14 minutes later, the transponder that identifies the plane to commercial radar systems was also shut down. The fact that both systems went dark separately offered strong evidence that the plane's disappearance was deliberate." What a tragedy.

Have a wonderful week. I'll talk to you next week.

Myth vs. Math: What’s Happening to Newark’s Public Schools and Why

rossThere are approximately 12,000 fewer students attending traditional Newark Public Schools than there were just five years ago. Roughly 10,000 of those former Newark Public School students attend one of the 27 Newark Public Charter Schools operated by 18 different providers. Approximately 2,000 are simply off the rolls, either because families moved, or because the children are not attending school. If no new charter public schools are approved and opened in Newark, and only those currently operating grow to previously approved scale, a full 40% of Newark's school-aged children will be educated in a public charter school within two years.

The result? A 250 million dollar budget gap in two years, compounded by soaring infrastructure costs associated with maintaining or bringing up to code underutilized and dilapidated school buildings and holding on to excess staff, all while working to educate those young people who, for many reasons, have academic, social, and emotional needs that require exceptional skills, and additional resources for them to be successful.

Of the schools currently operated by the Newark Public School district, not one is rated as "excellent," and fewer than 20% are considered in the "good" range. That leaves over 80% of the district schools in the "poor" designation in terms of student achievement. These include K-8 schools with fewer than 25% reading on grade level, and high schools with fewer than 20% graduating with a traditional diploma.

Faced with poor performance, underutilized, crumbling schools, bloated administrative and support staff costs, a growing excess pool of teachers and principals, a widening budget deficit exacerbated by the exodus of children and families to charter public schools, communities decimated by violence, high chronic absenteeism, children and families living in fear, and the impact of concentrated poverty on children and their readiness to learn, Superintendent Cami Anderson and her team have developed and are prepared to implement a bold plan in 2014.

The plan, as currently configured is complicated and most certainly (and obviously) controversial. It also highlights the need for dispatch and systemic change that goes far beyond anything that has been tried to date. If nothing is done, and done quickly, it is likely that the Newark Public School District, as we know it, will cease to exist in less than five years.

With an understanding that data is available to support everything that is being presented, here is a brief summary of what is being proposed and/or already taking place in Newark and why:

1. Accelerate but simultaneously cap charter school growth; blur the lines between charter public and district public schools by focusing on providing approximately 100 excellent school options to accommodate all Newark children.

2. Enforce data sharing agreements and manage a universal enrollment process for both charter public and district public schools that prioritize neighborhoods in the choice process. In other words, stop allowing charters to empty neighborhoods, but rather, bring high performing charters to neighborhoods to operate a subset of low performing district schools (avoiding the closure of those very schools by the district).

3. Move promising district models that have emerged over the last several years, such as Eagle Academy for Young Men and the All Girls Academy of Newark, as well as Newark Early Collage, and Newark Leadership Academy (all district schools) into under enrolled and low performing comprehensive high schools. This essentially saves these under enrolled and low performing high schools from closure, expands promising models, and turns every high school into some form of a magnet school.

4. Close or "resite" a small number of under enrolled district schools located in buildings requiring substantial investments just to bring them up to code, much less have them serve as 21st century learning facilities.

5. Use 100 million dollars recently appropriated (with more expected) by the School Development Authority to begin construction of two new schools in neighborhoods where the demand for district schools is high and where buildings are the most in need of improvements.

6. Operationalize a one-time waiver on union requirements in order to "right size" the district based upon quality and effectiveness and not simply seniority. This, (if granted) will result in a substantial number of teachers, principals, and support staff being terminated. Of this group, it is the support staff, predominantly Newark residents working in highly prized jobs in maintenance, security, food service, and clerical work, that is the most troubling as they support the very children the district is working to serve. At this time, the district is seeking between 7 and 11 million dollars of private funding to assist in providing a "soft landing" for these individuals. This will include funding for certification programs, workforce development, and transition support—both financial and through coaching and job placement services.

7. Already empty buildings owned by the district, as well as a couple that will be empty as a result of students attending other district public or public charter schools will be utilized by a smaller, more effective and efficient central office staff, currently being housed in leased space at 2 Cedar Street at a cost of 4 million dollars per year.

The anticipated outcomes?
• More resources driven to classrooms to support teaching and learning.
• Fewer, but better equipped, more technologically advanced, safer and healthier school buildings.
• Reduced erosion of neighborhood schools as a result of prioritizing neighborhood schools in the universal selection process—for district public and charter public schools.
• More funds redirected to expanded learning time opportunities and increased staffing for social-emotional learning and family intervention specialists.
• A collaborative district/charter sector with transparency, accountability, as well as increased numbers of special education students being served by charter schools that have opted into the universal enrollment process (currently 70% have opted in).

These changes will be layered on top of:
• A more robust teacher evaluation and professional development protocol.
• A negotiated agreement with the Newark Teachers Union that provides a vehicle for teachers to vote on extending the school day in exchange for additional compensation.
• A more rigorous principal and vice principal recruitment and retention program.
• Greater equity for all children to be educated in learning environments that have a higher probability of young people being on track for college.

Will it work?
As with most bold initiatives, the devil is in the details. Change is hard enough when the trust level in a community is high. It is almost impossible to facilitate sustainable reform when trust is extremely low. When trust is high—when people feel like they have been heard, when they see positive results of previous decisions, when they feel like their children are not part of someone's experiment, and when they recognize that those who are designing and implementing change have their best interests and the best interests of their children in their hearts, they forgive the inevitable implementation challenges and missteps.

When trust is low—as it is presently in Newark, there are not enough data decks, community presentations, evidence, research, or PowerPoint presentations, to keep good people from reading bad things into evolving plans developed by outsiders, who are perceived as less interested in helping children than in building their resumes for personal gain. In a bifurcated, oppositional, often contentious city, where people have been lied to and ripped off for generations, by people and organizations who claimed to be here to help, who can blame them for being upset by people who seem to represent those very same interests, now looking to close their schools, ruin their neighborhoods, and take their children and their jobs?

Add to this a Mayoral election scheduled to take place in May of 2014, that is flaming the embers of discontent to serve the political interests of candidates, and you have a situation where even strong, positive community leaders, including members of the clergy, have either gone silent in their support, or have recanted their support altogether.

Here at the Newark Trust for Education, we try our best to live in the world of facts. We also recognize that which facts one chooses to focus upon and how one interprets the facts determines how they respond. Anyone who manages a household knows that not having enough money at the end of the month to pay your bills could be a fact- but whether you choose to believe you are managing your money poorly or that you are not making enough money leads to an entirely different response to the facts. All we are hoping for is a rigorous conversation about our children's future that is both optimistic and simultaneously aware of the severity of our circumstances. This is hard and important work that will determine whether we choose to prepare our young people for their future, or our past.

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