NEWARK - New Jersey's largest city is facing criticism for its school enrollment program, and public officials are responding.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, a critic of the reform plan called "One Newark," discussed complaints about changes in the state-controlled district at a town hall meeting Friday.
Superintendent Cami Anderson says she's sorry for long lines and unresolved problems for 600 families at the enrollment center on West Kinney Street Thursday.
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"Our systems were overwhelmed and as a result, you saw way too much confusion and lack of clarity," she says. "We definitely acknowledge that and deeply apologize for any inconvenience."
One Newark, which Anderson implemented, has changed where thousands of children will go to school this fall. The program gives parents the chance to pick schools that they feel are better suited for their children. It has also resulted in closures and consolidation.
"It's just unfair to say that we have a choice, closing neighborhood schools does not give anyone a greater choice," says Wilhelmina Holder.
Some parents are upset that their children didn't make it into the school of their choice or that children from the same family were sent to different schools.
"If I get them all in the same place it's easier, more convenient," says Melissa McLean. "Then I can actually get to work on time."
Baraka called the issues unacceptable. "You cannot tell parents a week or so before school starts, that they do not have a school location for their child," he says.
Anderson says only one in four city schools were popular with parents, which she says shows how much improvement is needed.
The district is strongly encouraging families to wait until next week to visit the enrollment center. It will be open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m.
Mayor Baraka says he has set up meetings next week with the state education commissioner and Superintendent Anderson.