In 2010, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced a $100 million donation over five years to help the Newark Public Schools in New Jersey (assuming that another $100 million in matching funds could be found). From that contribution, the Foundation for Newark’s Future was born. Its mission is to make grants to initiatives to improve the district's schools. Last month, staff members for the Early Education Initiative sat down with Greg Taylor, the foundation’s CEO and a former program officer at the Kellogg Foundation, to learn about his priorities for improving early education in the city and throughout the school system. The following is an edited and abridged version of that conversation.
Q: I understand that early childhood is one of the priorities laid out for the Foundation’s vision. Tell us more.
When I came on board in June of 2011, early childhood education actually wasn’t one of the top strategies. What happened initially was many folks invested in the foundation were really focused on teachers, principals and school options, both district and charter. And one of the things we tried to do was to broaden the initiative. There are now six areas: early childhood education, out-of-school youth, teacher quality and principal leadership, helping the district to effectively implement the Common Core standards and tie them to early childhood education, school options (We want to grow the number of high-quality school options for Newark families. We’re agnostic on the question of charter-district dynamic; more than 50 percent of our investment goes to the Newark Public School System), and community engagement.