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Parents, Mayor Outraged Over 'Horrible' Newark School Enrollment Program

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Newark's mayor and many parents are upset over the city's state-controlled school enrollment program.

School starts in two weeks, but Melissa McLean said she has no idea where her sons are going to class.

"It's frustrating," she told CBS 2's Weijia Jiang. "It's aggravating. Instead of making it easier, it's more complicated."

And neither do hundreds of other parents in Newark who waited in line for hours to register their children for school.

Newark School Enrollment Program Drawing Criticism

"It's basically like, 'here you go, deal with it,'" said Newark Parents Union President Frank Adao. "We're tax payers, voters and we're being left out of the process."

This year, Newark schools launched an open enrollment plan called "One Newark" so families can hand-pick where their kids attend school.

But highly sought-after schools filled up quickly. In some cases, like for McLean, only one child got assigned to a school while two others are waiting to be placed.

"If they pick three different schools for them, I have to do three drop-offs and try to make it to work," she said. "It's hard for a working parent."

Other parents were angry because their kids got assigned to a school they don't approve of or one far from home.

"It's a mess. The system is horrible," said parent Noemi Gonzalez. "I think it's disrespectful for parents and kids. They just want to put your kids anywhere."

Parent Thomas Oaks said he has to enroll his kid in a school outside his neighborhood.

"How are you going to get there and work during the day? I've got to quit my job so he can go to school?" Oaks told 1010 WINS' Roger Stern.

Parents, Mayor Upset Over Newark School Enrollment Program

Gisele Lightner said it took more than seven hours to register her granddaughter.

"The whole process was unnecessary," she told WCBS 880's Jim Smith. "Not thought out well."

Mayor Ras Baraka said it is "outrageous that hundreds of Newark families are having difficulties registering their children for school."

"For 22 years in the Newark Public School District, I have never seen the registration process this crazy," he said. "If this is any indication of the first day of school, I think we're in bad shape.

"I've tried over and over again to play nice, but this is not a nice situation, and it's time for us to express our outrage over this," he added.

While he can't make changes to the state-approved plan, Baraka said he can't be complacent, either.

"I'm asking the governor, who is the decider, to intervene immediately," he said.

A call to the Newark schools superintendent from WCBS 880 seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The mayor was to hold a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Friday for parents who have questions about the registration process.

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