- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - After spending four days camping out at Newark school district headquarters, a group of students said Friday that they will go home after meeting with the superintendent whose leadership they came to protest.

The protesters met for an hour on Friday with Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent in New Jersey’s largest school district, which has become a flashpoint in a bigger debate over how to improve low-performing urban schools.

While a district spokeswoman described the meeting as promising, one of the leaders of the protest said it “went nowhere,” but that they’re hopeful Anderson will show up at a community forum on Tuesday to hear from Newark residents upset with her leadership.

“If she shows up, the community will get a chance to speak with her and tell her about the issues that have been going on. It’s finally a chance for her to show herself in the community,” said Kevin Sedano, a 16-year-old high school junior in the district. “If she doesn’t show up, that shows something about her that she is not there for Newark.”

School district spokeswoman Brittany Chord Parmley described the meeting, which also involved two other high-ranking school district officials as “a promising step toward an ongoing constructive dialogue” that included talk about the students’ concerns.

The district has about 40,000 students and Parmley said that Anderson had not been in her office during the sit-in because she has been visiting the district’s schools.

Newark Student Union members began camping out at the school district administrative office building, on the floor where Anderson’s office is located, during a Public Schools Advisory Board meeting Tuesday night. The students broadcast parts of their protest on YouTube, and posted pictures of themselves on Twitter camped out in the offices, and receiving food from community groups.

The superintendent’s critics, including Mayor Ras Baraka, say that she has not been accessible and that the state is making decisions about the city’s schools without input from the people who live in Newark.

Some parents and teacher union-backed groups have also been speaking out about changes Anderson has brought to Newark’s schools in the name of reform.

At the start of the school year in September, they objected to a new student assignment system that changes which schools students are sent to. At the time, Anderson said that there would be objections until all of the city’s schools are high-performing.

Most of the schools are not high-performing, though Anderson says the number that are has been growing.

Many also object to the growth of charter schools in the city, saying they divert money and some of the best students away from the traditional school system.

The students also said that they remain committed to their demand that Anderson resign immediately.

New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe told NJ.com Thursday that the state is in the “final stages” of making a decision on whether to renew Anderson’s contract, but said the state is “very pleased” with her performance.


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