The New Jersey State Board of Education voted on July 1 to return full local control to the Newark School District, nearly 25 years to the day after the state took control of district operations.

“This is truly a historic day in Newark and we are grateful to all who have contributed to this momentous occasion,” said Newark Public Schools Superintendent Roger León in a statement released by the governor’s office. “We have learned from the past, are preparing for a promising future, and are committed to working tirelessly to provide a first-class education for all of the children of the City of Newark.”

New Jersey School Boards Association Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod praised Newark for being recognized by the State Board as a high-performing district.

“Congratulations to the board of education and Superintendent Leon for working so hard to transform the quality of education that children are receiving in the city,” Feinsod said.

Newark is the state’s largest public school district, with roughly 50,000 students. Charter schools, which arrived in Newark soon after the state’s takeover in 1995, now educate about a third of the city’s students.

On July 5, 1995, the State Board of Education placed the school district under direct state supervision. Newark had struggled for years with academic and management issues, according to a press release from the governor’s office. A 2005 law created the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability System (NJQSAC), a system to monitor all school districts in five key areas: Instruction & Program; Governance; Fiscal; Operations; and Personnel. The NJQSAC monitoring system is used by the Department of Education to determine whether to return state-operated districts to the control of the local board of education.

Three years ago, the State Board determined that Newark Public Schools had made sustained progress in all five functional areas, and in 2018 the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) collaborated with the district to implement a two-year transition plan to local control.

On July 1, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to return the Newark School District to full local control. The board also certified Newark  as a high-performing school district.

“Today’s vote marks a new and exciting chapter for the Newark Public Schools,” said Kathy Goldenberg, president of the State Board of Education. “I am confident that the students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, superintendent, and board members of the Newark Public Schools will continue to demonstrate the success that stems from community-driven and student-focused efforts.”

In one of his final acts before leaving his post, New Jersey Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet recommended the district be returned fully to local control, and the State Board adopted a resolution approving the withdrawal of Newark Public Schools from state intervention.

“We know that schools operate most effectively when they have the support and buy-in of stakeholders in the community,” Repollet said in a statement.This milestone came about through the sheer determination and dedication of so many people at the local level, including parents, educators, school administrators and civic leaders.”