The final word is finally being written on the long and controversial career of the late Beverly L. Hall.
When New Jersey took over Newark’s failing school system in 1995, it tapped Hall – then a top administrator in the New York City schools – as the first state-appointed superintendent. She clashed with local elected officials, who were unhappy over having to cede control of the schools, but Hall touted her accomplishments in Newark when she applied for another job: superintendent of the Atlanta Public Schools.
Hall’s purported success in Newark, it turns out, was a mirage.
The Newark schools remained under state control for more than two decades – until this week, when the New Jersey board of education finally voted to let Newark manage its own schools, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Test scores barely improved during Hall’s tenure, the Times noted, recalling that she also had “clashed with parents and educators, and left the district in 1999 with a staggering deficit amid questions of financial mismanagement.”
When Hall left for Atlanta, Newark’s mayor at the time, Sharpe James, essentially suggested she not let the door hit her on the way out.
“That lady,” James said, “is getting out of here before you realize she hasn’t done anything.”
In Atlanta, Hall developed a national reputation for transforming poor-performing urban schools – a reputation that disintegrated after revelations of widespread cheating on standardized tests. A grand jury indicted Hall two years after her retirement. She died at age 68 in 2015 before standing trial.
Meanwhile, Newark’s schools eventually did turn around, the Times said:
Newark’s schools have improved — the high school graduation rate is now 77 percent versus 54 percent in 1995; on state tests, the district now ranks in the top quarter of comparable urban districts; low-performing schools were closed while charter schools expanded. The district is retaining more of its best teachers, and fewer of its least effective ones.
None of the credit, though, goes to Hall.