Newark Native, Education Advocate and Veteran Investigative Journalist Takes Reigns of Leading Non-Profit Dedicated to Improving Public Schools

[Newark, New Jersey – September 21, 2023] The New Jersey Children’s Foundation (NJCF) announced today that it has named Newark native, education advocate and veteran investigative journalist Barbara Martinez as its new executive director. Martinez takes over for Kyle Rosenkrans who founded NJCF more than five years ago.

“As an unrelenting advocate for breaking down the walls of education inequity, Barbara is the perfect person to carry on the mission and work of NJCF,” said Rosenkrans. “NJCF has made great strides in ensuring a fact-based discussion of public education and investing in people, organizations and systems that helped arm our community with the information they need to advocate for the quality education our children deserve. I look forward to seeing NJCF evolve to meet the new and lingering challenges we face.”

The plan is for Rosenkrans to join NJCF’s board.

“All of Newark’s children deserve to go to schools where they feel safe and are prepared and encouraged to lead the life they design for themselves,” Martinez said. “NJCF has spent the past five years moving that vision forward, and I look forward to building onto that work in my new role.”

Martinez joins NJCF from Uncommon Schools, where for the past eleven years she was its media relations chief. Uncommon runs North Star Academy Charter School, the largest charter network in New Jersey, serving over 6,300 K-12 students across 14 Newark campuses. Prior to Uncommon, Martinez was an award-winning investigative reporter at the The Wall Street Journal, where her beats included public education. She is a co-founder and former president of the board of the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School, known as HoLa, a Spanish immersion charter school that her children attended and sits on the board of the New Jersey Public Charter School Association.

Under Rosenkrans’s leadership, NJCF supported a new wave of educational innovation in Newark’s local control era that included:

  1. The opening of 13 new public charter school campuses since 2018, designed to serve 5,000 students at full scale
  2. Funding and/or launching several new platforms to enhance the citywide education ecosystem, including:
  3.  My Schools Newark, a parent-facing school finder tool
  4. The Newark Common App system for equitable enrollment for nearly all charter schools in the city
  5. Several post-COVID tutoring programs and teacher pipeline programs
    1. Tutoring: NJCF was an early supporter of tutoring as a way to close achievement gaps exacerbated by the pandemic. In 2021, NJCF partnered with Great Oaks Legacy and Reverend Dr. David Jefferson, Sr., Esq’s Metropolitan Baptist Church to operate a weekend tutoring program. This program was open to students from across the city and targeted support to students. As high dosage tutoring during the school day emerged as a promising practice to close gaps, NJCF began supporting the New Jersey Tutoring Corps to provide high dosage tutoring at both district and charter schools.
    2. Teacher Pipeline: NJCF has recognized for some time the issues charter and district schools in urban areas have struggled with to recruit teachers. NJCF is committed to finding ways to recruit more diverse, highly qualified teacher candidates. This year NJCF was instrumental in securing a budget allocation to support Gateway U, in partnership with Trio New College Network and the Brick Education Network, to create a paraprofessional pilot which will ultimately lead to a teacher certification. This program is working closely with paraprofessionals that meets them where they are and develops a support system to put them on the path to certification.
  6. A variety of reports and analysis of citywide education issues
  7. Supporting dozens of youth-serving community-based non-profit organizations, while building stronger ties between Newark’s charter sector and the broader community, including:
    1. Glass Art Education – Sponsored Newark public school field trips to the Glassroots glass art education center and Glassroots’ studio assistant program for students with LEAD Charter School and Newark Opportunity Youth Network (NOYN)
    2. Feminine Hygiene – Funded workshops conducted by Girls Helping Girls, Period. at Newark schools that taught students about feminine hygiene products and provided students with free products. Students also wrote letters to state legislators in support of legislation requiring schools to provide free feminine hygiene products to students, which subsequently passed and is now state law.
    3. Community Refrigerators – Partnered with United Community Corporation (UCC), NOYN and Leaders for Life to cover the costs of three community refrigerators throughout Newark. Students from NOYN/LEAD built the structures that housed the refrigerators.
    4. Youth Sports – Provided funds to KIPP Life Academy to allow them to send their girls track team to California for a Junior Olympics Championship Track and Field meet. The team had unexpectedly qualified based on their impressive local performance. NJCF has also sponsored baseball programs that serve Newark students from district and charter schools like North Newark, North Ward Center and Ironbound Little Leagues and La Liga Roberto Clemente de Newark.
    5. Youth Mentorship – Funded Leaders of the 21st Century’s (LOT21C) high school weekend mentorship program at NJIT in which 30 Newark juniors and seniors participated. Students from district and charter schools are able to enhance their soft skills through workshops and training centered around becoming a better leader and career-readiness. They are exposed to a diverse group of professionals and a variety of potential career interests.
    6. “I am grateful that NJCF continues to respond to the needs of Newark’s children – from its contributions to public schools, its efforts to help Newark residents to get teacher licenses and its support of high-dosage tutoring – the commitment to improve the lives of children is evident,” said Assemblywoman Shanique Speight. “I look forward to seeing the fruits of its recent labor.”

Martinez has deep roots in Newark through her various personal community engagements as well as her years of professional experience working in education and journalism. She was born at St. Michael’s Hospital, grew up in the North Ward, and attended Elliott Street School, Ridge Street School, and Our Lady of Good Counsel High School.

“Barbara brings to NJCF a unique and informed perspective on Newark’s progress and challenges in educating its students,” said Anibal Ramos, North Ward City Councilman and Chair of the Council’s Education Committee. “I look forward to working with her and the NJCF team to ensure all our families have access to great schools.” In 2019, Martinez was honored among education leaders by the Anibal Ramos Jr. Civic Association.

“The South Ward Promise Neighborhood is deeply grateful for the partnership of NJCF and we look forward to many more years of continued collaboration on programs that serve the South Ward,” said Dominique D. Lee, CEO of the South Ward Promise Neighborhood and BRICK Education Network.

“NJCF’s contributions to the Newark Opportunity Youth Network programs have been a reliable source of support over the years and have demonstrated the organizations’ strong commitment to all of Newark’s children,” said Robert Clark, founder and CEO of the Newark Opportunity Youth Network. “We thank Kyle for all of his work and look forward to continuing to grow successful programs in collaboration with NJCF.”