Several Newark schools will lose vice principals, get new leaders amid staffing shakeup

Many Newark schools are losing top leaders this summer as Superintendent Roger León follows through on a promise to slim down the corps of school administrators

And more change could be coming: The city’s school board on Tuesday voted to give León unilateral power to make personnel decisions over the summer.

The changes include at least six schools where principals are retiring, resigning, or losing their jobs, according to documents prepared for this week’s school board meeting. Board members signed off on the changes in the final minutes of their nearly five-hour meeting, without any public discussion about them. 

The schools with departing principals are American History High School, Lincoln, Peshine Avenue, Spencer Miller, Quitman Street, and Uplift Academy. Each will be getting new school leaders, but the district has not yet named the departing principals’ replacements.

Another 35 vice principals are exiting their roles; most will not be replaced. 

Eleven were not rehired based on their job performance, while 23 are losing their positions due to district restructuring and one is resigning, according to the documents. Some of the vice principals whose roles were eliminated will likely become “department chairs,” a lower-paid school administrator role that León is reinstating.

At a board meeting last month, León said he planned to cut 66 administrative positions, saving the district more than $7 million. He said schools had previously been allowed to create many unnecessary roles.

“We started to make up titles. We have vice principals of ‘culture and climate,’” he said at the May 18 meeting. “I think it’s important, but if all I’m doing is walking around checking out the culture and the climate — I actually need you to watch what’s occurring in the classroom.”

The school board voted to approve the changes at its Tuesday meeting, but there was no public discussion of them or the departure of Deputy Superintendent Gerald Fitzhugh II, who sat alongside León and the board members. Nicole T. Johnson, principal of Elliott Street School, will replace Fitzhugh.

A limited number of paper packets were available at the meeting that listed the names of departing employees, including Fitzhugh. But the packets did not provide details about any of the other personnel matters the board approved, including new hires and promotions, a resolution to eliminate certain positions, and a resolution giving León the power to unilaterally make personnel changes during the period between the board’s June and August meetings.

“You’re not making things transparent to the public as far as governance,” said Denise Cole, an education activist, during the public-comment session.

As of Thursday afternoon, the meeting agenda and documents had not been posted on the board’s public website.