On their first day back at school today, the students of Newark, N.J., may be too focused on reconnecting with friends and meeting new teachers to notice, but a number of much bigger things have changed since they left for the summer earlier this year. The first is that evidence of the $100 million donation made by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to the city of Newark one year ago this month is beginning to take shape, and the second is that the city has a new superintendent in 39-year-old Teach for America veteran Cami Anderson.
Mayor Cory Booker, known for his magnanimous nature and Twitter-friendly style of leadership, sounds as delighted as anyone of the more than 40,000 kids who started their first day of school today. “I’m extraordinarily excited,” Mayor Booker said. “This the most fluid first day I can remember.”
And while the Zuckerberg money is clearly a primary focus and resource for Newark’s school system, Booker, who dismissed the recently filed ACLU lawsuit against Newark for refusing to release emails exchanged between the mayor and Zuckerberg as “a red herring, a distraction,” is quick to attribute much of the first day’s fluidity to Anderson, who has clearly hit the ground running and has led most of the principal training sessions and curriculum development herself. “Every principal I’ve talked to, I’ve never heard them speak so highly of a superintendent, and it’s because they feel they have a direct connection to her,” Booker said. “A lot of the bureaucracy that used to weigh them down and pull them out of classrooms has been eliminated by her. She’s a bureaucracy buster.”
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