Newark school board releases names of officials forced out by Superintendent León

The district has released the names of the 31 officials and staffers whom Superintendent Roger León tried to push out in a surprise shake-up in June before he officially took over as schools chief on July 1.

The employees, who include senior officials and lower-level administrators, were given the option of taking a buyout package and resigning or being fired. Most turned down the buyout offers, leaving it up to the school board to decide whether they should be let go. The board, which had not been notified in advance about the shake-up, rejected nine of the proposed dismissals but assented to the rest at its meeting last week.

At the June 26 meeting, the board spent five hours behind closed doors discussing the firings and other personnel changes while members of the public waited. When the board voted in public on the changes — which also included the appointment of León’s chosen cabinet members, including his chief of staff and deputy superintendent — it only referred to the staffers by their initials, even though public employees’ names, salaries, and reasons for being fired are all public information under the state’s Open Public Records Act.

After the meeting, board member Leah Owens said she was not sure why the employees’ names were not announced publicly. She also noted that the meeting’s agenda had not been posted online. (It was posted several days later.)

“It’s my understanding this is public information,” she told reporters. “These are public decisions. This is public money. We are public officials; we’re taking public action.”

Chalkbeat requested the employees’ names from the district’s general counsel’s office, which provided them this week.

Most of the fired officials were hired or promoted by the previous two state-appointed superintendents, Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf. It’s common for incoming superintendents to replace top-level officials, though some observers were surprised by how many people León ousted.

León has not given any public explanation of the dismissals. On board documents, the reason given is “reorganization.”

Cost-saving might have been one motivation for the firings. At a recent meeting with charter-school leaders, León said the move would save the district more than $4 million — suggesting that he plans to fill the openings with existing employees at their current salaries or to eliminate the positions entirely.

A district spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

Below is the employee information provided by the district, along with the board’s decision about each employee.