It’s been almost two years since Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged $100 million to the improvement of Newark public schools. What has been done with the grant money thus far? NJ Today’s Managing Editor Mike Schneider spoke with Greg Taylor, president and CEO of the Foundation for Newark’s Future to get a status report. Foundation for Newark’s Future was created to administer Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark public schools. The foundation is also charged with raising money in matching funds.
Taylor says that larger donors such as the Pershing Square Foundation and Goldman Sachs Gives, along with individuals and local foundations, have contributed a little over $50 million. Taylor says he is very excited about the progress that’s been made, especially given the current economy. The foundation has also invested $16 million to-date. The foundation, he says, has identified five areas for investing the funds: early childhood education, drop out prevention, community engagement, teacher-principal leadership and providing school options.
“Those strategies are the ways in which we will invest the resources moving forward,” said Taylor. He elaborated that the next step is to “try to find programs that are already in Newark with a proven track record in those areas and try to invest in a way that grows their capacity and increases their impact.”
Taylor was clear in his support of Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson whose decisions, among them to close several Newark public schools, have been controversial.“We are emphatically supportive of the superintendent’s direction and her leadership. We have a real partnership with the Newark public schools.”
Despite its autonomy, Taylor says the Foundation would not invest in a school without going through superintendent’s office.
Going forward, Taylor says the organization has a five-year plan to get students ready for college and careers. The Foundation thinks of itself as helping systems change.