"The Foundation for Newark's Future was designed to be a short-term philanthropic 'shot in the arm,' paving the way for long-term change in Newark's schools," said foundation president and CEO Kimberly Baxter McLain in a recent interview. We discussed the last three years of ideas and efforts, what needs to change, and how Newark's school system can ultimately come out on top.
Read the full interview below.
Kimberly Baxter McLain is President and CEO of the Foundation for Newark's Future. In the role, Kimberly is in charge of all facets of grant making, accounting, finance, human resources and operations. Kim joined FNF after serving as Vice President of Finance & Operations at the Newark Charter School Fund (NCSF), a grant-making education foundation that is committed to high-quality growth and sustainability in the charter sector of the city of Newark, NJ. Before her work at NCSF, Kimberly was a Managing Director on the national staff of Teach For America, the national education nonprofit that deploys teachers to under-served communities.
Since Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to create the Foundation for Newark's Future back in 2010, what are some of the projects or initiatives currently underway?
We are grateful for Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million grant and to all of the donors who contributed to the challenge, including Pershing Square Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives and Ford Foundation. Their collective commitment to the education of our children has allowed us to make a difference in Newark's education sector.
Over the last three years, Foundation for Newark's Future (FNF) has given more than $75M in grants directly impacting students, teachers, schools and community-based organizations across Newark. We supported the opening of seven new school models (including the first single-gender public school in the state of New Jersey and a college-prep high school where students earn college credit), awarded 39 teacher innovation grants across 31 schools, and provided 12,000 students with 10 free books each through the My Very Own Library program.
Our largest investment has been in a new teacher contract ratified by the Newark Public Schools and Newark Teacher's Union in 2012. It is one of only a few contracts in the country that provides highly effective teachers performance-based compensation through annual bonuses up to $12,500. At the end of the day, it's not just about the money; it's about making sure every student has an effective and caring teacher at the head of his or her classroom.
In the context of public-private partnerships, what are some ways in which the Foundation is partnering with government, as well as the private sector?
Since inception, FNF has worked in close partnership with numerous stakeholders in the city's educational landscape including Newark Public Schools, the city's charter sector, city and state government officials, local funders and community-based organizations. It will take all of us working together to truly change the educational reality for Newark kids.
Newark Public Schools educates 80 percent of Newark's students, so naturally they have become our biggest ally and partner. One area we've particularly focused on is creating programs that enable parents to make the best choices for their kids and families. To do this, we've funded the creation of a Universal Enrollment System to make it easy for parents to get information about the schools in their area and choose the best school for their child. Newark is only the third city in the country to implement central enrollment, which will ultimately make the system more equitable for all of the city's children.
We also partner closely with the leaders in the charter sector. Through our relationship with Newark Charter School Fund and NewSchools Venture Fund, FNF supports responsible growth of high-quality charter schools; we also foster collaboration between charter schools and the district.
$100 million seems like a lot of money to bring about change, but is it enough to make the kind of impact you're looking for?
We know that money alone cannot solve the education disparities in the city of Newark. We also know that our investments alone won't completely transform a billion dollar school district overnight. It's going to take the entire community of parents, teachers, local leaders, public officials, the philanthropic community and others working together to bring transformational change to Newark's schools.
Our collective efforts will seed the conditions necessary for the change we are all eager to see. We're very proud of the work that we're doing in partnership with so many incredible and talented leaders across Newark, and we look forward to the day when each child in Newark has access to a high-quality education.
What is the biggest bottleneck to realizing the vision of your work, and how do we overcome that particular challenge?
The biggest impediment to the realization of our vision is time. Knowing that for every child we help there are thousands more in need creates an incredible sense of urgency. Change cannot happen soon enough for everyone involved. We face this challenge by staying focused and working to reach as many students and families as possible.
Down the line, where will the foundation be five or 10 years from now, and what kind of impact would you like to have by then?
The Foundation for Newark's Future was designed to be a short-term philanthropic "shot in the arm," paving the way for long-term change in Newark's schools. We were established in 2010 with a five-year charge. By 2015, FNF and its partners will have spent $200 million, investing in programs that not only will be beneficial in the short term but will also have a lasting impact on the community of Newark, its schools and its families. Five to 10 years from now, my hope is that every kid in Newark has access to a quality school and educational experience, one that prepares them for college and career. We believe our work will play a part in that transformation, and we are excited for that day to come.
Originally published in Forbes