Newarkers continue to pay for the sins of past administrations.

No matter how successful in recent months the City of Newark has come together. No matter how much unity we may currently see in our elected officials or candidates right now, the literal poisoning of our children is further evidence that there is still a great deal of work to do in our community.

While we remain hopeful that those in current positions of responsibility will address this issue swiftly and continue to prioritize the safety of our school water, questions need to be answered.

And the most important questions rest with each of us –

What are we going to do about this issue? Are we going to accept this?

There is only one way we can ensure the safety of our kids – every parent must now get involved.

For the last few years, we have seen “change” before our eyes, but it has not included any of us.

The last Superintendent in office changed our school enrollment policy, fired much-needed truancy officers, negotiated teacher contracts – but never included Newark parents in these actions.

No one asked our opinions. No one provided updates. And overall engagement did not take place. The Superintendent at the time did not even attend her own school board meetings.

We have since learned that during that exact same period of time, the very basics – like clean water – were not even being provided to our kids. And once again, while this was going on, like the other issues we witnessed, parents were not empowered with needed information.

Newarkers are now paying the price for the sins of past administrations.

So now the Newark school pipes are dirty with poisonous lead, all the while our school-to-prison pipeline continues…something has to change.

To address our history, as we have discussed in previous posts, unity is important, but it is imperative we also act.

And action begins with us.

Newarkers must not let this issue become an old headline. We need to make sure that our concerns are addressed. Our children’s lives are literally at stake.

What has been most striking, in all the news coverage detailing the poisoning of our children, was the front-page story from the New York Times on March 11th.

The piece detailed, that back in August 2014, an urgent memo was sent from 2 Cedar to every school principal, custodian, and building manager, providing confirmation that our school’s water was unsafe and strict daily instructions on how to best reduce the risk of possible lead contamination.

Even though this communication was taking place inside the district, the parents of Newark were never aware of the hazard.

The story confirms that our former Superintendent was aware of this issue years ago, that our school leaders were aware, but there was no communication voiced to our community.

But what is also concerning to The Newark Report is the lack of sustained outrage from the community.

The facts hit us over ten days ago.

While there has been general concern and shock voiced by members of the community, and quick action by the current Superintendent, no significant grassroots action has occurred.

Can you imagine the outcry if such an admission in the New York Times had been made in Montclair, New Jersey?

We wonder now how many other silent issues we are unaware of? Well, it is time we find out.

As SAB candidate and environmental activist Kim Gaddy stated in her own op-ed last week, “Newark is facing déjà vu all over again. Let us not forget, Newark’s school water reported dangerous levels of lead 20 years ago.”

I spoke to Kim after I read her op-ed last week and she added, “This is not a time to simply yell at each other. This is truly a moment where we must all work together. Let’s leave the politics at the door and get clean water in our schools.”

Many issues, such as the plumbing system in our schools, as Kim has pointed out, have gone for years.

I also spoke with SAB candidate Tave Padilla, “It is very troubling to me that the student and families must endure such a painful situation.” He went on to say “At some point someone needs to be held accountable for this gross oversight and moving forward on this issue, we all need to take a good hard look at why this actually happened and communicate our findings to the community.”

So to address the sins of past administrations, Newark must unify, leave politics at the door, and fight for needed results on a wide variety of issues.

Yes, bottles of water are now being delivered to our schools, facts are now coming out, and even the state officials responsible for this mess are working diligently. But what happens when this issue is resolved?

How can we make sure other issues that we do not know about are getting addressed?

The answers rest with us.

We need to do more than just unify.

The people of Newark must demand answers.

Newark Parents must demand more transparency and ask more questions.

The City of Newark must get local control of our school system.

On April 19th, we need to elect School Board members who are not afraid to ask the tough questions and have the experience to know what to ask.

Our fear at The Newark Report is that a lack of safe water, which traditionally has been an issue only for third world countries, is just one example, that there are other issues that we just do not know about.

We can either continue accepting the sins of past administrations or demand change.