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U.S. Education Secretary Visits North Star Academy on his "Listening and Learning" Tour

Fri, 06/05/2009

Contact: Julie Shah
Associate Director of Development and Marketing
Phone: 347-287-7812

June 5, 2009



June 5, 2009. Newark, NJ. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited New Jersey on
Friday, June 5, 2009, as part of his "Listening and Learning: A Conversation about Education Reform" tour.
He visited North Star Academy’s Clinton Hill Campus Middle School, where he joined Governor Jon
Corzine, Commissioner of Education Lucille Davy, Newark Public Schools Superintendent Clifford Janey,
Congressmen Rush Holt and Donald Payne, and Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, to tour
classrooms, participate in a community circle to celebrate student academic achievement, and hold a
roundtable with students and their parents.
North Star Academy, a charter school in Newark, NJ, has created a culture of high expectations for all of its
students by developing a rigorous curriculum, offering a longer school day and extended school year, hiring a
committed and talented staff, and effectively implementing data-driven instruction. As a result, the school’s
students have made tremendous academic strides, and North Star ranks among the highest performing urban
middle schools in the State of New Jersey.
“We asked to see the best middle school in Newark, and we were told that this was it,” said Secretary
Duncan, as he was welcomed by North Star’s student body in a community circle gathering. “One thing is for
sure – this school is raising the bar.”
Following a classroom tour and community circle, Secretary Duncan and Governor Corzine met with
students and parents to “listen and learn” about what makes North Star a great school. In this roundtable
session, students and parents shared their take on the elements that have been most effective in building the
school where they are paving their way to a successful future – the unwavering dedication of their tireless
team of teachers, the school’s core values and strong sense of community, the opportunities to travel and visit
colleges, a strong and experienced leadership team, and the shared vision of students, parents, staff, and
“My math teacher, Mr. Chen, gave us the opportunity to study with him for our math final,” said Muata
Nkosi, an 8th grade student at North Star’s Clinton Hill Campus. “So, I worked with him after school until
5:00 to clear up the things that I didn’t fully understand in class, and I earned a 97% on the test. Without his
personal help, I wouldn’t have done as well.”
“Our teachers make sure that all of us are on the same path; they don’t leave a single student behind,” added
Tyniqua-Irving Flowers, also an 8th grade student.
Nayda Segarra, parent of 8th grader, David Segarra Jr., talked of the tremendous change she saw in her son
once he enrolled in North Star as a 5th grade student, upon which Secretary Duncan turned to David and
asked, “What changed for you? You had the same parents, same talent…what changed when you came
“[When I came to North Star], I had a plan for my future that I didn’t have before,” explained David. “There
is no question that I am going to college. Every detail of this school, everything that we do, is so that we can
build this path to a successful future.”
At the conclusion of the roundtable discussion, Governor Corzine remarked, “We’re so proud of you.
Everything we saw and heard today was incredible. You have set the standard for the model; this is what we
want for all children.”
During the visit, Secretary Duncan also announced that more than $891 million is now available for New
Jersey under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The funding is being made
available per the state's successful completion of Part 1 of the State Stabilization Application made available
April 1, and will support education reform initiatives throughout the state.
“The stabilization aid that the Secretary announced today comes with a sense of urgency about education
reform,” said Evan Rudall, Chief Executive Officer of Uncommon Schools. “This funding is critical for our
state, but we know, too, that the Secretary is encouraging all of us in New Jersey to work together to secure a
half-billion dollars in race-to-the-top funding that could help expand networks like Uncommon Schools and
North Star in Newark. We sincerely appreciate the Secretary’s deep commitment not simply to charter
schools, but to building more great schools.”
“North Star demonstrates how our education system can benefit from higher standards and committed
teachers,” said Secretary Duncan. “We need to take these islands of excellence and make them the norm, not
the exception. North Star's push for higher standards, along with longer school days, is exactly what needs to
happen in order for our children to get the education they need and deserve.”

North Star Academy Charter School of Newark, co-founded by James Verrilli and Norman Atkins in 1997,
has become a nationally recognized model for academic success, and has grown to include two middle
schools, a high school, and an elementary school. The North Star schools are members of the Uncommon
Schools network. Uncommon Schools is a nonprofit organization that starts and manages outstanding urban
charter public schools that close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from
Of North Star’s 760 students enrolled across four campuses, over 75% qualify for free and reduced price
lunch and 99% are students of color. The North Star schools consistently outperform their neighboring
district schools and rank among the top schools in Newark and New Jersey. North Star plans to build
additional schools in Newark, ultimately serving 1,400 students in grades K through 12. For more
information, please visit:

Uncommon Schools is a nonprofit organization that starts and manages outstanding urban charter public
schools that close the achievement gap and prepare low-income students to graduate from college.
Uncommon builds uncommonly great schools by developing and managing regional networks that are
philosophically aligned and highly accountable. Based in New York City, the organization has created a home
office from which it provides management services that allow school leaders to focus on instructional
leadership. Uncommon manages eleven schools in New York City, upstate New York, and Newark, New
Jersey and has two associate member schools in Boston, Massachusetts. The organization will grow to include
30 schools serving 8,000 students within four years and ultimately will encompass 33 schools, serving nearly
12,000 K to 12th grade students. For more information, please visit