Newark school board president resigns two weeks into school year

A woman wearing a black blazer holds a microphone as she speaks to a crowd.
Newark Board President Asia Norton announced her resignation from the school board on Sept. 18, 2023.

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Newark school board president Asia Norton has resigned from her role on the board, she confirmed to Chalkbeat Newark on Tuesday.

The news comes two weeks after the start of the school year and in the midst of the school board working to hire its own attorney. Her resignation is “effective immediately,” according to her Facebook post. 

Norton did not cite a reason for her unexpected resignation but on Tuesday, she told Chalkbeat Newark she “stepped down because I work for the superior court of New Jersey, Essex Vicinage.” She didn’t explain further.

In her Facebook post, Norton wrote: “I am departing from the Board but I am still here tearing down barriers to help our students reach their full potential.”

It is unclear who will fill Norton’s role or take on the duties as board president, which include running school board meetings and addressing questions or uncertainties prior to meetings. Under New Jersey law, the board has 65 days to select Norton’s replacement and post the position publicly. The board must also allow for public comment before an appointment is made. 

Currently, board members Dawn Haynes and Vereliz Santana serve as vice presidents.

Norton has been a board member since 2018 and her abrupt departure comes as members continue to deliberate the next steps in their search to hire a board attorney and concerns grow over a “drawn out” hiring process.

During August’s school board business meeting, Norton was at odds with other board members after she suggested bringing in an outside attorney to help them in the search, further delaying the hiring process.

Board members said they would hear from an outside attorney during last week’s special board meeting. But at the meeting, the board went into a two-hour closed session and board members did not disclose what was discussed.

The news also comes after board members raised concerns over the need to secure an attorney before the start of the school year, and the ongoing battle to release a long-awaited review of the cultural climate at Newark School of Global Studies following reported incidents of racial harassment at the school. 

“Our children define who they are and control their narratives,” wrote Norton on Facebook. “I have pulled from their strength in tough times because they are the definition of perseverance.”

A third-generation Newark resident and South Ward native, Norton was first elected to the board in 2018 and hails from a family of educators. Before being elected to the board, Norton was a teacher for seven years at North Star Academy, KIPP Life Academy charter school, and Marion P. Thomas charter school. She then transitioned to a role as literacy coach at Elizabeth Public Schools with the Children’s Literacy Initiative, according to her biography on the district’s website.  

During her time as a board member, Norton worked on partnerships with the New York Federal Reserve, BridgeYear, and other organizations to expand educational experiences for Newark students. She also advocated for an equity officer position within the district to build programs and support policies that create “an equitable education system for all students,” according to her biography. 

She also worked with board and community members to improve the representation of Black and Brown people in the district’s curriculum, her biography read.

Norton received her bachelor’s degree from Simmons College in Boston and a master’s degree in sociology and education from Columbia University Teachers College. She received her law degree from Rutgers Law School in May 2023. 

Jessie Gómez is a reporter for Chalkbeat Newark, covering public education in the city. Contact Jessie at jgomez@chalkbeat.org.

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