The Newark Board of Education approved an extra $200,000 pay for a consulting firm operated by Attallah Shabazz, the oldest daughter of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, which is working with two city high schools, including one named after her late father.
The firm Legacy Inc., “Everybody Has One,” founded by Shabazz, will receive a total of $400,000 for consultancy work at the Newark School of Global Studies and Malcolm X Shabazz High School — double the original $200,000 approved in March. The initial contract was approved in October 2021 for a two-year period ending in October 2023 but was extended to August 2025 after being renewed in March.
The scope of work was also amended to include “study abroad and international research projects,” said Valerie Wilson, school board business administrator, during last week’s school board business meeting.
Shabazz’s work will support students with “study abroad and international research projects” and “getting our students the ability to have internships,” Wilson said during Tuesday’s meeting after board member Crystal Williams questioned the resolution to increase the pay.
The amended contract with Shabazz, who describes herself as a global ambassador and cites expertise in global issues, comes amid concerns about racial and cultural tensions among students at both high schools but the specifics of her work remain unclear.
This school year, racial tensions at Global Studies prompted some students to transfer out of the high school and several teachers to resign in the wake of reported incidents of racial harassment. A separate consulting firm conducted a review of the school’s cultural climate, but it has not been released publicly.
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In 2022, Shabazz High School grappled with violence, disorder, and low academic achievement. At that time, the district said reported incidents at the school were investigated and addressed and steps to improve learning and safety at the school were taken.
Shabazz did not say if she was aware of the issues at the high schools during a call with Chalkbeat Newark on Friday. She said she has plans to support students in their study abroad programs this year but did not go into detail about her work.
Shabazz did not provide details about her previous work with the high schools but said she looks forward to presenting her work “when we are in a position to present” and when “young people can speak about it.”
“I will inform you when it’s time to do that,” said Shabazz after being asked about her work with students this year. “I need to make sure all key people are part of it, and that includes the students.”
District spokeswoman Nancy Deering, in an email after this story was originally published, said that Shabazz “is a leading expert in every topic she discusses.” Deering added that Shabazz’s “efforts in service of the district, are in keeping with her own ‘parents’ legacy building.”
According to the amended contract, Shabazz and her company will provide “unspecifiable global education enhancement consultancy” with the goal of engaging in “strategic partnerships needed but are not limited to local, regional national, and international partners” that will “increase extended classroom experiences.”
The services will include a review and evaluation of courses, as well as helping students find “suitable study abroad programs that align with their academic interests and personal goals,” the contract read.
Shabazz will also provide students with guidance on understanding and adapting to different cultures, customs, and communication styles, support students in their research on global issues, facilitate collaboration with international experts, encourage students to embrace diversity, and conduct workshops, according to the contract.
The contract points to the district’s need to hire a consultant with “an extensive global network” to provide services and connections for the Global Studies and Shabazz High School students.
“The overall goal for the consultant is to assist principals and [the] district with developing strategic partnerships that will enhance the content major studies in Arabic language and International Relations, and Chinese language, STEAM fields, and International Business,” the original contract reads.
In February 2020, Newark Superintendent Roger León and Shabazz met to “strategize major new initiatives at Malcolm X Shabazz High School and the Newark School of Global Studies,” prior to Global Studies’ opening in September of that year, according to a press release on the district’s website. It is unclear what initiatives Shabazz worked on at both high schools.
According to Shabazz’s biography and cover letter, the former Prime Minister of Belize recognized her as a “key advisor on International Cultural Affairs and Project Development.” In 2002, he appointed her as “the Ambassador-at-Large representing the country of Belize internationally and in perpetuity.”
She is the oldest of six daughters born to Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X Shabazz.
Jessie Gomez is a reporter for Chalkbeat Newark, covering public education in the city. Contact Jessie at firstname.lastname@example.org.