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Schools Superintendent Says NUSD Needs Focus On Student Learning

Superintendent Dave Marken presented a State of the District Address on Tuesday in which he identified potential goals for the district to adopt.

At his first State of the District address, Superintendent of Schools Dave Marken defined the Newark Unified School District as an organization that needs more focus on student learning.

Marken’s perspectives on the strengths, weaknesses and needed improvements of Newark Unified were presented during the district's Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.

While Marken said the district has a core of qualified educators, he added the district is in a more grim state than he thought.

Four months after his hiring, Marken said he found the following within the district: a discouraged staff, a fear of making mistakes, anger, some uncertainty, a “silo” mentality in which people expressed a disregard for the district’s system, an emphasis on , a “think of the worst” perspective of Newark Unified, and an “arbitrary and capricious” nature of the federal Adequate Yearly Progress goals.

But Marken said he believes the district can pull together to establish more trust and success throughout the school district.

“It’s all about our students. It’s not about you and it’s not about me. It’s all about our students and their future,” Marken said. “Great schools make a great community, end of the story. It’s why people buy houses. It’s why businesses move in. They want to know what are the schools like.”

Marken outlined a number of goals he would like to see Newark Unified adopt as part of the steps to take in becoming an environment focused on student learning.

The top three goals, which have yet to be formally reviewed and adopted by the Newark Unified Board of Education, include:

  • Maximizing student learning, which includes raising graduation rates, using data to guide instruction and identify who is proficient and who is not, establishing professional learning communities, interventions, professional development, and establishing a six-year plan so that students at Newark Junior High School can begin a graduation plan in grade 7
  • Providing a safe and nurturing environment by expanding counseling services and the role of counselors, establishing character education, creating emergency plans/disaster relief, preparing for emergency drills and lock downs, focusing on green-tech energy and custodial and maintenance matters
  • Recruit, develop and maintain an exceptional learning community of professional employees. This pertains to contract and negotiations with the teacher and staff unions, re-establishing a full instructional school year, recruiting and hiring the best, qualified educators and creating a recognition program

Other goals that Marken mentioned included providing financial stability and building the district’s reserve to 5 percent; enhancing the district’s communication with its community and improving the district’s image; supporting the facilities department and focusing on maintenance and custodial efficiency; technology support and governance support.

Marken said he believes Newark Unified’s community – district officials, the school board, bargaining units, staff, parents, city leaders and community – can work together toward these goals and “for a positive change, a positive outlook and a positive attitude that will stop at nothing for our students.”

Marken’s objectives and ambitions were welcomed by the crowd and the Newark Unified Board of Education.

Board President Charlie Mensinger said the presentation met what the board had asked for.

“We asked you to be blunt … I have never been to a meeting where somebody called us out. …We all need to believe in our students and believe that we can meet our lofty goals,” Mensinger said.

Jacob M. November 21, 2011 at 05:26 PM
How about sitting down with the two unions and renegotiating contracts that save the district some money; allow the district to hire some more teachers; and maybe start thinking about the kids instead of the union members?
Mona Taplin November 21, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I like what I've heard about and from our new super Superintendent. We all have a tendency to complain about what somebody else is or is not doing. We need to understand that all of us together are responsible for our schools and all of us together can make the changes we need. The school district leaders have to understand that we aren't all a bunch of donderheads who couldn't possibly understand budgeting. We need to know exactly how our tax dollars are being spent, and how much more we need in order to meet all our goals. Honest answers only. Several people have asked where the last bond issue money went, and received no answers. Much better explanations can and should be made. Want to hire more teachers? Good! But understand that teachers don't donate their time. They earn paychecks. Want to stop the cutbacks in time students spend in school? Good! Demand it. Want a year round school system? Good. Then make teachers who want to renew their contracts and future personnel we hire understand that it is WE who are in charge. They work for us. We don't cater to them. They want to do a sick in or strike to protest our demands? Good. Tell them not to return. No work, no pay. Take a look at the trash that line every schools fence line. Put a STOP to kids contributing to this, and fine every adult caught littering.You never see this in many other countries. Germany for instance. Littering is against the law, and the laws are enforced there.
Rick Bensco November 21, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Munich was one of the cleanest cities I've ever been. I agree clean up the school grounds. I have referred to Tom Peters before in his book IN Search Of Excellence he points out the overall benefit of attention to details like keeping things clean. Whether it be an airplane or the wash rooms of a triple a ball park. Those details promote greatness. We should accept nothing less.
Mona Taplin November 21, 2011 at 08:52 PM
I understand that we have littering laws here, but apparently very little attention is paid to them. Just drive along the freeways and see the trash tossed everywhere. Yes, people who have committed crimes of some sort are sent along the road to bag it,- but it shouldn't be there in the first place. You go to other countries and you don't see this. You are right Rick. Attention to those details promotes greatness, and we should accept nothing less.
Julie February 28, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Yes, kids first, union members second! Mr. Marken has some great ideas but he will only make them happen when he figures out a way to retain teachers based on success in the classroom rather than seniority.

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