The Newark students who charged into a superintendent’s office on Tuesday night and stayed there for the next three days are leaving on Friday at 5:30 PM. One of their demands have been met, says 15-year-old Gabrielle Vera, who first spoke to ANIMAL about the protest on Wednesday.
It took a lot of resolve to remain stationed in Newark Public School Superintendent Cami Anderson’s office. “Her administration tried constantly to get us out,” said Vera, citing three different tactics: First, “they were withholding food from us. The food was put on a school bus.” The only way to get the food was to leave the building and board the bus. Next, the administration attempted to compromise, to no avail. Then, at their most desperate, they sent a doctor upstairs to check on the health of the eight teens. The doctor said that one of the student needed a medication that she had run out of (Vera says the student was no longer being prescribed it), and wrote a statement to City Hall.
During the course of the three days, the mayor showed up twice, and the police delivered letters to the students’s parents:
Their parents “were a bit frightened,” Vera said, “but we decided that it wasn’t going to move us.”
The students are protesting Anderson’s One Newark plan, which asks students to reapply to the area’s 100 schools, and then go to one that is selected by an algorithm. “Public schools are being underfunded, charter schools are getting more funds,” said Vera. “Students will have to travel long distances. Everything is a mess. The whole roll-out was done in secrecy.”
The immovable students refused to budge until Friday, when they were finally granted a meeting with Anderson, Assistant Superintendent Brad Haggerty (whose signature appears in the letter above) and Chief Talent Officer Vanessa Rodriguez. Though neither of the two demands the students laid on Wednesday — for Anderson’s immediate ouster, and for Anderson to meet with students of the Shabazz High School community on February 24th — were explicitly met, Vera said the group considered its aims successful by getting an audience with Anderson. They voiced their concerns, explained why they raided her office, and why they had refused to leave.”She was a bit understanding and a bit not,” said Vera.
Will Anderson attend Tuesday night’s school advisory meeting? “She did not give us a confirmation on that,” said Vera. But if she doesn’t attend, “We do have a plan, I can’t release that yet.”
(Photo: Gabrielle Vera)