NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- After 22 years of state oversight, Newark public schools celebrated the first convocation under the city's control.
The New Jersey Board of Education voted in September 2017 to return control of the schools to Newark. The decision began a months-long transition process to hand over the reins of the district to the locally elected school board.
Thousands of teachers, principals and support staff packed into the Prudential Center Tuesday for the convocation. Politicians like Mayor Ras Baraka and New Jersey State Sen. Teresa Ruiz energized the crowd.
"Show me how we're going to move the test scores! Show me how we're going to save a kid," Ruiz said.
Newark's new Superintendent Roger León also unveiled his 10-year plan to turn Newark education into a success story.
"Our motto is: 'Where passion meets progress.' Part of my responsibility is to model that for our school leaders," he said.
While the former Newark student and teacher led the charge, he did not leave out the sobering truth. Overall test scores at far too many schools are abysmal, he said, and last school year, more than 10,000 students were absent 19 days or more.
"The math schools at our high schools are highly unacceptable," León said. "We have a lot of work to do, and we have the right staff to actually get it done."
Staff are not the only ones getting ready for back to school. Newark police hosted local barbers, giving free haircuts to kids. The department also distributed bookbags and supplies.
Throughout this week, Newark high school students will attend orientations prior to the start of school on September 4.
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Newark celebrates 1st convocation after regaining control of public schools from state