By Tanaisa Brown, Secretary, Newark Students Union.
We went to Cami Anderson’s office on Feb. 17 as an escalation from last Spring’s 17 hour occupation of the conference room where the Business Board Meeting was. This time, after the public participation portion of the meeting, we went to the elevator and went down two floors to the Superintendent’s office.
In the beginning, we posted up our banners and waited patiently. We were demanding that she have a meeting with us students who were occupying her office. We simply wanted her to come into work the next day, make this simple and address us. At that meeting, we intended to introduce to her what the whole community wanted and that was for her to come to the next School Advisory Board Meeting (which is today), since she has not been coming for over 9 months.
The community was amazing through the whole occupation; they provided moral support through social media and were present outside in the cold while we were inside occupying. The community gave us food and when it was not allowed up the second day, the clergy demanded that they be allowed upstairs. The clergy said that if they wanted to stop them, they would have to physically be restrained by security guards. It was amazing to hear of the clergy having our backs and risking arrests to see us and provide our bodies with nourishment.
In the beginning, Cami’s administration was completely ignoring us. But in the 65th hour, she decided to meet our demand and have a meeting with us. We talked to her about the One Newark Plan’s roll-out, the misallocation of funds in public schools and the accommodations that will be made by the district for the PARCC exam coming up in less than 2 weeks.
She responded with much rhetoric and used many literary skills to try and skew the conversation from truth and facts. She said that she wants to restore trust with the community. Therefore, we asked her to attend the next board meeting. She stated that she was not here to fulfill any demands and she has to think about coming to the meeting.
The media coverage has been great. Locally, we have been updating many news channels (4,12,7, etc.) while we were still sitting in, we got calls from Spanish-language channels, we were able to do an interview with Hot 97 (a famous radio show) and we were constantly playing over the course of the four days. There was even coverage in France, as I attempted to read an article written about us in French in one of their newspapers.
People outside of Newark have been showing support by tweeting and showing solidarity through the virtual love send. From many states in America, we have received support simply by people getting the word out. There were teachers from other states supporting our Go Fund Me project. And also, a teacher from Florida sent us a 28 inch pizza, it was astonishing!
People outside of Newark can support more by doing what they can do to fight back this education struggle where they are. Shining light on the things happening in Newark is always great to push for change, but they should do things on their local levels also! The opposition against Education Reformers is growing!
To people who say we should be in school, I just want them to know that by exercising my 1st amendment right, I am able to learn and be civilly engaged in real world issues. What better way to learn history than to make it and be a part of it? I think it is important to understand that what Cami Anderson and other education reformers want is for all of us to be silent, to continue on with our daily lives and not know what is going on. So to go to school is to help them continue to oppress and defund in front of our very eyes. Last but not least, we would have probably been preparing for the standardized test that is coming up in the Spring time and I was going to refuse the PARCC anyway!
The Newark Students Union has posted a statement calling opting out of the PARCC tests here.
Their Facebook page is here.
Their GoFundMe page is here.
A Youtube video of the Livestream of the occupation can be viewed here.
And Tanaisa Brown will be speaking at the Network for Public Education’s second annual conference in Chicago, April 25-26.