Newark Technical High School principal Baruti Kafele was awarded a $25,000 Milken Family Foundation education award this week for his successful efforts in turning the school from a poor-performing "school in need of assistance" to one of the top high schools in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report.
The award shifted the spotlight from another school in Newark, the Robert Treat Academy Charter School. The charter school became the poster child for education reform during governor-elect Chris Christie's campaign, and Christie is promising more like it.
But Kafele's award is a timely reminder that even in struggling districts, there are some very good public schools. It also serves as a reminder that ultimately schools are not so much about buildings as they are about people.
The trick, of course, is figuring out how to replicate that success in every school and for every child. Both Newark Tech and the Robert Treat Academy are reaping the rewards of hard work and commitment. As the cash-strapped state moves forward, we'll need both of them to serve as models for public education.