Thousands of Newark students march against state control of schools

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Grace Tyler and Nicauris Veras address Shabazz students.
Grace Tyler and Nicauris Veras address Shabazz students.

There was a moment during Friday’s student march through Newark–a rare moment when this sometimes desperate city seemed  laced with hope and optimism. About  200 students, mostly from Malcom X. Shabazz High School, had occupied the steps at City Hall and were chanting and singing and enjoying the warm spring day. Then, suddenly, there was an eruption of cheers and many of the Shabazz students rushed into Broad Street because, blocks away, about a thousand more students were marching toward them, most from Science Park. There was a unity not often seen among young people in Newark and, perhaps a sense these young people might actually heal the wounds inflicted on this community by rich, carpetbagging strangers with names like Chris Christie and Cami Anderson.
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Cami Anderson’s pal gets to keep ill-gotten $12,000–at least for now

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Tiffany Hardrick. Photo: Times-Herald
Tiffany Hardrick. Photo: Times-Herald

Tiffany Hardrick, a close friend and former assistant to Cami Anderson, Chris Christie’s appointee to run the Newark schools, will get to keep an extra $12,000 she earned by working two jobs in two different states, here and in Arkansas, at the same time. At least, she will get to keep it for a while.
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The financial crisis, as planned by the state, has become a political crisis in Newark

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Damage control for Christie and Anderson
They call it reform

The crisis is at hand. The decision by Cami Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie to run the Newark schools four years ago, to cut neighborhood school budgets by an additional five percent brings closer the day, predicted by a deputy state education commissioner, when the financial crisis becomes a “political crisis”–and the political crisis results in a decision to turn the entire district over to private hands.
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What’s wrong with New Jersey?

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Mayor Baraka joins the march
Mayor Baraka joins the march

The mayor of the state’s largest city joined hundreds of others–teachers, students, parents– in a march that closed down its largest thoroughfare. And the mayor promised the demonstrations would continue and be even more creative. In any other state in the nation, the event would have made, not just statewide news, but national news.  But not here in New Jersey. Here in New Jersey, Mayor Ras Baraka’s bold action and aggressive words were ignored by the media, including the state’s largest newspaper. Only a few digital journalists and photographers did cover it–along with a public television station looking to balance a ridiculously one-sided interview the day before with the target of Newark’s anger, state superintendent Cami Anderson.
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East Side student walkout energizes anti-Cami effort

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East Side students demonstrate at City Hall
Eastside students demonstrate at City Hall

Nearly 1,000 students–more than half of the school’s enrollment–burst through the doors of East Side High School noon Friday and began a three-hour march around the city, determined to stop the state administration from turning their school into a “turnaround” school with new faculty members and a radically altered program.  The passionate yet peaceful demonstration, which closed some of the city’s main thoroughfares, gave new energy to a flagging effort to block state-appointed superintendent  Cami Anderson from remaking the state’s largest school system.
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In Payne flap, Cami proves stupidity is no bar to working as Christie’s agent in Newark

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Payne, far right, hosts meeting of Newark leaders cpmplaining about Cami Anderson.
Payne, far right, hosts meeting of Newark leaders cpmplaining about Cami Anderson.

Newark’s public schools face a “crisis,” says the congressman representing New Jersey’s largest city, but its leadership “lacks the ability” to improve them and, instead, has imposed a “critically flawed” plan that, in fact, limits student performance. “I am deeply concerned about the state of education in Newark and its children, who are seeing their educational opportunities eroded under the guise of school reform,” wrote U.S. Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., in a letter to state-appointed Newark school superintendent Cami Anderson. Payne had once been Anderson’s ally.
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Teachers’ union, community groups, vow “job action” against state control of schools

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Dr. Lauren Wells--the mayor supports the NTU
Dr. Lauren Wells–the mayor supports the NTU

With promises of support from elected officials and the leaders of a variety of community groups, the chief organizer of the Newark Teachers Union (NTU) today said its members would set up picket lines around schools,  begin a rule-book slowdown, and refuse any volunteer work before or after school.  The immediate cause of the “job action” was a decision by the district’s state leaders to include eight more schools—including Weequahic and East Side high schools– in a controvesial reform program that would weaken employee rights in the affected schools.
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Is it too late to shut Cami down and save Newark public schools?

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Anderson--time to shut her down
Anderson–time to shut her down

The state-operated Newark public school system faces a deficit of from $50 million to $100 million this year. It will need to lay off scores, if not hundreds, of teachers. Its state-appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson,  is once again seeking state approval of a plan to ignore seniority in the dismissal of tenured teachers. Meanwhile, Anderson’s primary reform plan—“renew” or “turnaround” schools–has failed by its own terms, yet she is pushing for its expansion. Anderson’s tenure, by all rational and traditional measures, has been a failure.
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