"Local Control": Interview and Conversation with A'Dorian Murray-Thomas

Newark Public Schools, known sometimes as “NPS”, is the local authority for public schools in the City of Newark. NPS is administered by the Newark Board of Education, which itself is comprised of nine elected members, each serving staggered two year terms. The Board sets policy for the school district, selects the superintendent who oversees the schools, and performs general oversight functions. This was not always the case.

In 1995, the Commissioner of Education for the State of New Jersey, under a state law that authorized state intervention of several school districts, removed control of the district from the Board of Education and put it under the control of the state. The Board of Education still existed but its role was purely advisory, with no ability to select the superintendent or effectively veto decisions made by the state. This period of “state control” lasted for 23 years, until 2018. After meeting a set of benchmarks in five areas—Instruction & Program, Fiscal, Governance, Operations, and Personnel—power was completely devolved back to the district, and the residents of Newark elected a new Board of Education with actual power.

This spring, we had our first election where incumbent members of the newly reempowered Board of Education ran against a new slate of candidates. One of these new candidates was A’Dorian Murray-Thomas. A’Dorian ran on a ticket with two other candidates, a ticket that was supported by the Mayor of the City. She won that election, with the highest vote total of any candidate that ran in the district. In this episode, A’Dorian shares her role of a member of the Board of Education and her policy goals for her term, as well thoughts about the state of public education in Newark and her background in this city.

Clarifications:

Manny Antunes (host) was a student in Newark Public Schools system for nine years, from kindergarten to eighth grade, and then a high school teacher in it for two years, all of which occurred during this period of state control.

Manny (host) has known A’Dorian for several years. Both participated in a Newark-based program called the Wight Foundation. The Foundation assists in connecting students from the Greater Newark Area attend boarding schools in the Northeast.

Guest:

A’Dorian Murray-Thomas—A’Dorian is a member of the Newark Public Schools Board of Education, serving the 2019–2022 term. A lifelong resident of Newark, she recently graduated from Swarthmore College and is the CEO/founder of SHE Wins, Inc., a leadership and social action organization for middle and high school girls in Newark.

Articles & Background:

  • A’Dorian’s Board of Education page: here

  • The main page of the Board of Education: here

  • TapInto Article on 2019 Election Results: here

  • ChalkBeat’s Guide to the 2019 Candidates: here

  • Newark Public Schools’ Official Press Release on Local Control: here

  • NJ.com Article on Return of Local Control: here

End Quote:

“In the winter of 1919, when Ida Mae was trailing her father out to the field, George and Pershing were learning to crawl, and the first wave of migrants were stirring to life, an astronomer made a startling discovery. The astronomer, named Edwin Hubble, working out of the University of Chicago, looked through one of the most powerful telescopes of his times.—What he saw would eventually become the most significant astronomical find of the century and would come to parallel the awakening of an isolated people in his own country. It would confirm what for generations had been whispered of but dismissed as impossible. It occurred near the start of a long pilgrimage of Americans seeking to escape their own harsh, known world.—Hubble identified a star that was far, far away and was not the same sun that fed life on Earth.—It was another sun.—And it would prove for the first time in human history that there were galaxies other than our own, that the universe was much bigger than humans had ever imagined, that there were, in fact, other suns.” Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration