It is up to voters to decide the future of Newark schools by rraul

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  Article published Sep 24, 2006
  It is up to voters to decide the future of Newark schools
  By Keith Richards
  A serious choice is on the horizon for Newark voters.

  On Nov. 7, we will decide whether or not an issue critical to the future of our schools and community passes. Newark City
  Schools made a promise to voters we wouldn't ask for more money until it was really needed. That time is now. Issue 9 is a
  vote for our continued success and improvement. Should you choose to vote against Issue 9, we all will live in a drastically
  different school district next year.

  I see Newark students making dramatic achievements every day. Our teachers continue to impress me -- it's their dedication,
  combined with students' hard work, that has allowed Newark to post higher scores on state tests every year for the last 5
  years. This year, students improved in nearly all of the 25 indicator categories, and they boosted their overall score to a
  district-record 93.4.

  It is our job to be good stewards of the tax dollars. Thus, we already have implemented cost-saving measures to save nearly
  $4 million -- but that took eliminating 34 administrative, support and teaching positions. If we have to reduce again, additional
  cuts would slash much, much deeper -- so deep, in fact, a large portion of the programs we currently offer would be cut.
  Anything the state doesn't absolutely require is at risk of being cut. That list includes many things that have helped improve
  test scores and prepare children for college and good jobs.

  The district hasn't received a voted increase of operating money since 1997. As planned, we have been spending our cash
  reserves to balance the budget for four years. The reserves are nearly gone, and if Issue 9 fails, we will need to immediately
  plan an additional $4 million in cuts. Making that type of cut would require a major downsizing. Everything will be on the table --
  teachers, sports, music, busing, honors programs, all extracurricular activities, high school electives, etc.

  We do not believe in making threats, but we do think people need to understand how serious this is, and what's at stake.

  As I drive through Newark, I am thrilled to see five new schools springing up. These new facilities were made possible by you
  and help from the state (which will cover 51 percent of construction). The money you pledged in the bond issue to help create
  these new learning environments cannot be used to pay for teachers or classroom supplies. But, it's important to know the
  bond issue did help us delay asking for an operating levy. Having new buildings in the works let us realign some things and
  make millions of dollars worth of reductions.

  I know this community values its children and their education. Residents also have the right to expect financial responsibility
  from the district. I honestly can say we have done our very best to provide Newark kids the highest-quality education at the
  lowest cost to residents. Now, it's up to voters to decide if they want to see our current forward momentum continue -- or if they
  want us to go in a very different direction. The choice is yours!

  Keith Richards is superintendent of Newark City Schools.                          9/25/2006

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