Shame on you, Cami Anderson!

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State Sen. Ronald Rice and NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer confer at last night's school board meeting
State Sen. Ronald Rice and NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer confer at last night’s school board meeting

Cami Anderson,  Gov. Chris Christie’s appointee to run the Newark schools, is either afraid of, or contemptuous of, the people of Newark. She is imposing a hotly contested school closing plan on the city, selling off public school property to private entrepreneurs, and trying to fire a third of the school’s teachers. But she won’t appear in public to explain the reasons for actions that could change, even harm, the lives of thousands of people.  The state-appointed superintendent of Newark schools said she would no longer attend public school board meetings, although the law–to say nothing of common decency–requires her to do that. What breathtakingly shameful behavior.

She made the announcement less than two hours before the scheduled start of last night’s regularly scheduled board meeting at which she was expected to explain both the latest revisions to her controversial “One Newark” plan and her decision to seek approval from the state to lay off teachers without regard to tenure or seniority.

In an open letter signed the “Newark Public Schools,”  Anderson said she would no longer attend the monthly meetings because:

“The dysfunction displayed within this forum sets a bad example for our children. and it’s no longer a place where meaningful interaction and dialogue occurs between NPS and the public.”

She said she and her top aides “will no longer attend these meeting until the SAB”–school advisory board–” can commit to ensuring a space conducive to open dialogue with the community.”

The law allowing the state to take over districts requires the superintendent  to “report to the board on all actions taken and on pending actions in a timely fashion, and provide for a full discussion by the board and  by the public of those actions.” But the law also grants tenure to teachers and Anderson believes she can get around that.

The reaction of an overflow audience of some 500 last night was, at times.  oddly jubilant, as if the participants had just forced some petty Third World dictator to flee the country in the face of a popular uprising. If there had been a statue of her somewhere in Newark, they might have rushed out to knock it down and cheered.

If Anderson expected anger from her act of disrespect, there was little evident.

“This is a good sign,” said Donna Jackson, a community activist who has been critical of Anderson’s support for privatized schools. “We got to her. We’ve got to keep up the pressure. We knocked her down and we’re going to knock her down again.”

The crowd happily applauded performances by children hosting the school, the Rafael Hernandez School in Newark’s North Ward. Singers and dancers. They showed affection for children from the Ivy Hill School who pleaded for the return of their principal, Lisa Brown, one of five principals suspended by Anderson for opposition to “One Newark” plan. While three of the principals were returned to their schools, two–Brown and Deneen Washington of Maple Avenue–were reassigned to central office.

“I miss hearing Ms. Brown’s voice and seeing her smile,” one little girl said, provoking a sympathetic reaction from the audience.

One teacher, Michael Iovino, broke down in tears as he said he believed the community’s ability to keep Anderson away “was the first sign of hope I have seen in Newark in years.”

Doing the pink hula hoop at last  night's meeting
Doing the pink hula hoop at last night’s meeting

There was even a little street theater. Miniature “pink slips” showered down on the audience as Joseph Del Grosso, the president of the Newark Teachers Union (NTU)addressed an absent Anderson and told her to “slither and slide away.” One woman in the audience spun a pink hula hoop, a reference to a for-profit corporation created by one group of charter schools–TEAM Academy–to buy Newark public school property.

But underlying some of the celebratory and mocking references were serious issues. In the audience, I spoke with teachers who were genuinely afraid because they thought they would be laid off and their families’ income would be cut. I spoke to parents who were afraid they would have to put their children on buses to send them across town if Anderson’s “One Newark” plan were imposed.

Anderson is attempting to impose these radical changes on students, parents, and teachers and what struck many of the people in the audience last night was how extraordinaryl it was for someone with such power and such plans to run away from trying to explain why she thought such harsh steps were necessary.

NTU President Joe Del Grosso
NTU President Joe Del Grosso

“You spit in the face of the Newark people,” Del Grosso said. “You are a coward.”

Mayoral candidate Ras Baraka drew some of the loudest cheers when he questioned how someone could be a leader and hide from the people she’s trying to lead.

“It is not leadership to refuse to come to a board meeting simply because people don’t agree with you,” said Baraka. His rival, former board member Shavar Jeffries, originally backed Anderson and her plans but then became critical of them after Baraka’s popularity soared by becoming a champion of the anti-Anderson forces. The genuineness of Jeffries’ supposed anger at Anderson was belied by the widely distributed photograph taken of Jeffries, his campaign manager Carl Sharif and Anderson dining

A public venue is "dysfunctional," Anderson told the school board. But IHOP is ok.
A public venue is “dysfunctional,” Anderson told the school board. But IHOP is ok.

privately together.

Anderson’s decision to boycott public meetings is likely both to solidify the opposition to her and broaden it. State Sen. Ronald Rice (D-Essex) noted that she is trying to get around a new teacher tenure law by seeking the administrative ability to fire tenured teachers. Rice promised an investigation into her operation of the district–particularly her ties to organizations like Teach for America (TFA) and charter school owners and operators.

Wendell Steinhauer, the president of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), reasserted his support for the NTU–although they are rival unions–and ratcheted up his attack on privatized schools, calling for a “moratorium on the approval of new charters.”

Steinhauer, whose organization had been criticized for acceding to the growth of charters and helping pass the new tenure law, charged Anderson was making “teachetrs the scapegoats for her failures, and the state’s failure over the last 20 years.”

“Anyone who cares about the integrity of public schools in New Jersey must united in opposition to this unlawful abuse of power.”

Still, it’s anyone’s guess whether Anderson’s decision to run away from the opposition she provoked will hinder her efforts to strip tenured teachers of power and close down and sell public schools to private interests. She clearly has the backing of the governor who has publicly declared he doesn’t believe the residents of Newark have anything to say about their schools.

But her decision to hide in the face of opposition certainly doesn’t enhance her reputation as a school leader. Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, the president of the board, blamed Anderson for creating the anger the $290,000-a-year superintendent is now running from.

“Shame on you, Cami Anderson,” she said, and repeated, “Shame on you!.”

 

 

 

 

 

33 comments

  1. NJGS

    Dialogue according to the Oxford American Dictionary is “a conversation or a discussion.”

    I find it interesting that Superintendent Anderson would state: “The dysfunction displayed within this forum sets a bad example for our children. and it’s no longer a place where meaningful interaction and dialogue occurs between NPS and the public.”

    The public has never had a “dialogue” with Superintendent Anderson at the Board of Education meetings. To have a dialogue one would have to have a conversation and/or discussion. Exchanging view points. Giving and taking turns in the discussion. Having “meaningful interaction.”

    At the Board of Education meetings the public speaks, people listen, but there is no dialogue. Superintendent Anderson does not make any attempt to have a dialogue with the speaker. In fact at all of the Board of Education meetings that I have attended more often than not during the public section of the meeting, when people are addressing the Board of Education and Superintendent Anderson, the Superintendent is usually looking at her phone and/or texting others. She does not try and hide this fact and it has become so obvious that people have directly asked her to stop what she is doing and give them her attention.

    As there is no “meaningful interaction and/or dialogue” the Board of Education meetings have turned into “venting” meetings where the public address their concerns and the Superintendent ignores the public totally.

    I found it interesting that the letter was not signed by Superintendent Anderson, but rather as “Newark Public Schools.” Will Superintendent Anderson deny writing this letter and distributing it as she denied sending out the letter in November calling the students of Newark “criminals?”

  2. Lev D. Zilbermints

    Cami Anderson has sold herself to Christie. She is his political, conniving, uncaring, pompous dictator, even worse! I bet a street whore cares more about kids than does Cami Anderson!

    If the law says she should be at the meeting, then Anderson is breaking the law. The police is there to enforce the law. Send a sheriff and a lawyer to bring her to the meeting. Fine the arrogant dictator.! Parents should refuse to enroll their kids in her Onewark scheme!

    Next, I was shocked to learn that Shavar Jeffries and his manager, Carl Sharif, lunched with Cami Anderson! Whose side is Jeffries on? Not Newark’s, that is for sure!

    Newarkers, we must unite and defeat Cami Anderson! If the people of Ukraine deposed their corrupt president, we should follow their example! Demand that the Legislature pass laws restoring local control of schools! Force Anderson to take responsibility for her actions!

  3. Source1

    As a person who lives in central Jersey, I am outraged that my tax dollars are being spent on Superintendent Anderson and her outside private consultants. Where is Governor Christie? Why doesn’t he fire her? All of this is hard to believe.

  4. Michael Fiorillo

    Excellent reporting, as usual, but unfortunately it’s impossible to shame the shameless: they must first be shunned and isolated, and then removed before they can do any more damage.

  5. Joe

    When will Christie read the tea leaves and throw Andersen under the school bus? Or will he ride the Titanic to the bottom of the ocean?

  6. Jeff B7

    The political lines have been clearly drawn and the gauntlet has been thrown. It is obvious that the state has abrogated its responsibility to the people of Newark, based on the law, and that those same citizens of our largest city have lost any and all input into the operation of their schools. And let’s be clear that the schools belong to the students, parents, and residents of the district. The disingenuous approach to “school reform” in Newark has left the citizenry powerless while unproven private groups rake in the tax dollars. In a democracy this is not how things should be done.
    Under state control, the people of Newark have seen their control and input into the direction of their school system whittled down to nothing, and it should be returned to them The failure to even attempt to engage the residents of Newark in a dialogue regarding the operation and philosophy of the school district reflects badly on the leadership and seems very paternalistic, harkening back to a darker era in American history when certain groups were expected to “know their place.”
    The upcoming mayoral election will determine where the people stand on this issue and may very well have a great impact on the outcome across the State.

  7. Sultant

    As an outsider of Newark I’m fascinated by the current controversies surrounding Ms. Anderson. It does seem she is interested in replacing public schools with chartered schools. But let me play devil’s advocate for a second: The fact is NPS as a whole has failed in terms of kids performing way below state averages. She wants to fire ineffective teachers even if they have seniority, what is wrong with that? Many people would argue that this should have happened long ago.

    • Joe

      What about firing an ineffective superintendent who has lost the confidence and support of the residents of Newark? It is just a lie and garbage that Newark schools are crawling with ineffective teachers. The state has been in control of Newark schools for a long time and has all the means in its managerial arsenal to get rid of allegedly ineffective teachers. The termination process has been streamlined and the administrators are able to fire ineffective teachers as long as they can prove it and document it. Or do you not believe in innocent until proven guilty? Or are you for kangaroo courts in which teachers can be thrown out for any reason, no reason or just because they are older (50+)? Or are you against due process?

    • Becca Field

      There is a process – a new streamlined process – to dismiss teachers who are not performing. That is in the New Jersey TEACH NJ Act passed two years ago. Besides the circumventing of that tenure process, the evaluation system upon which she proposes to dismiss teachers is a brand new one that relies on a whole bunch of questionable measures including SGos/SGPs and standardized test scores (and it is will demonstrated that students living in poverty do not perform as well on standardized tests as more affluent counterparts). And this system was rolled out statewide before the pilot programs of it had been presented or evaluated – so all the problems that we now know existed in the pilots exist system wide. So the system upon which she proposes to dismiss teachers is an illegitimate one at best. And Anderson’s capricious behavior up until now demonstrates that she cannot be trusted to make decisions even on a fair system.

    • Tamob

      According to Ms. Anderson, only 2% of the district’s teachers were rated ineffective. That means 98% of the teachers currently employed have been rated effective or highly effective. Tell me in which industry 98% of the workforce rates as high as the teachers in Newark. Anyone who has not worked in a low socio-economic school district has no idea of the challenges teachers and others who work in the schools face on a daily basis. Our students come from very difficult environments where just walking to school threatens their lives. They bring that disfunctionality and anger at their conditions into the classrooms and hallways and despite that, we teach. The almighty test scores have risen overall, but if you want to find blame on the failure of the schools to do more, look to the State which has had control for almost 20 years. They have contributed and perpetuated Newark’s current conditions. Charter schools do not educate the range of students the public schools educate. They can’t and they won’t. You also have to question the validity of their test scores since they are not monitored, as are public schools, by the State during standardized testing. I’d like to see, no I have seen, TFA teachers run screaming from their classrooms in tears when students don’t sit quietly while instruction is taking place. You rarely see more seasoned and mature teachers act in the same manner. If you turn all public schools into Charters, you will see worse results than you have now. We need strong, compassionate, and honest leadership. We don’t need a tyrant with her own agenda following the directives of those who wish to profit off the lives of children and at the expense of public education.

    • Bo

      The problem with that is finding and judging “ineffective” teachers. If you set out to find and fire all the ineffective teachers, where would you start? Poverty, parental involvement, parental level of education, Special Ed, English Language Learners….there are so many factors that go into student achievement that are outside of the teacher’s control. Experts say poverty is the biggest factor.

      Teaching should be collaborative, and schools should be supportive communities. If teachers must constantly worry about being fired or being ranked against their peers, there is a disincentive to work together.

      If teachers with years of experience are not getting the results that the community wants, shouldn’t the response be to get more resources into the schools: enrichment programs, smaller class sizes, health and nutrition programs, tutoring, and so on?

      Why would anyone think a commonsense solution would be to fire experienced teachers and replace them with cheaper new TFA teachers who have 5 weeks of training?

    • J

      Anderson is not targeting ineffective teachers. She firing all top wage earners who happen to have the most seniority. In that pool of educators are many dedicated, hard working, effective teachers. When she gave school principals full autonomy, she gave them license to hire their own people at much lower salaries. This placed those high earners in the EWP (employees without placement) pool. This actually increased spending because the EWPs cannot be laid off due to tenure. Many of those teachers have given their lives to change the lives of students. This is not a corporation, it is an educational entity.

  8. Sal Roselli

    It is time for a general teacher strike in this state, the “Bullies” are trying to hyjack education from the people and the professionals. Christie and his mafioso gang don’t care about the people who send their children or who work with those children to schools. Look at his budget speech yesterday how many times did he mention the “entitlements of public worker pensions” meaning the teacher’s pension. He is trying to get every taxpayer in this state against the teachers since we are the reason the budget is so tight. Taking the spotlite off of the Bridge, Hoboken and Sandy. Nice try “Big Boy” it won’t work this time, You are going down and your cronies like Anderson with you!!! The only way to deal with a bully is to punch him or her in the mouth. Pull all 200,000 teachers out of the classroom and into the streets and punch the bully in the mouth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you are afraid go buy a dog!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Becca Field

    March 27th join the rally in Trenton to save New Jersey public schools and March 18th the march in Newark at 4:00 to protest Cami Anderson and One Newark.

  10. educationsetsusfree

    Cami just reinforces all the negativity and mistrust that surrounds our reigning dictator, Christie. These people are st home disregarding laws and the rights of people. All that seems to matter is Christie and Cami getting theirs.
    However i strongly feel that last night’s cowardly move made Cami her biggest faux pas. This is the beginning of the end for Ms.Anderson.

  11. Ann Marie Finnen

    Thank you Bob for your typical “spot on” and comprehensive reporting of last night’s meeting. As an NJEA member, I have often taken issue with NTU positions, but there is no doubt that every teacher (and parent)in NJ should be outraged by this criminal behavior. I do think further, strong, state-wide action is necessary. One need only look to Wisconsin to see what the future of unions and public education could be in NJ. Thank you for continuing to fight. It was nice to meet you last night.

  12. annie

    Love this statement from Christie’s budget address;
    Christie promised to make the full $2.25 billion pension payment in his spending plan. But he conceded that the pension changes he trumpeted three years ago aren’t doing enough, saying too much of state spending is eaten up by “entitlements.
    Weren’t these pension plans offered as part of an employment package, not an entitlement? How many state workers actually paid into these plans only to be threatened by their future possible non-existence?
    Revelation today:
    “I’m not going to worry about politics anymore everybody,” he said. “This is it. I’m on the back nine. When you’re on the back nine and you don’t have to worry about playing another nine, your only obligation is to tell people the truth.”
    At last he admits he’s been playing politics all along. Go figure.
    Teachers and their pensions first. Let all state workers beware.
    At least he’s now telling the truth but I don’t know who he’s telling it to.

  13. Bill Wolfe

    Anderson just called the community’s efforts to take ownership of their community’s public schools and show interest in the education of their children “dysfunctional”.

    Isn’t community and parental involvement in schools their children’s education the goal of all educational reforms?

    Anderson must apologize before she is fired or removed.

  14. ray

    when are the people of Newark also going to investigate the hiring of Vanessa Rodriquez, cami also made her the CEO of District 79 in New York, despite the fact that she only has a BA in sociology. She destroyed District 79 in New York, and the common comment when she went to Newark was “Newark’s loss is New York’s gain”

    Bob Braun: Thanks. Would love to see some background on this if you can point me in the right direction.

    • Tsarina

      Ray,
      Quite a few of us here in NYC have been wondering about the very same thing. What is the nature of the relationship between Ms. A and Ms. R? I have a feeling that the answer to that question is hidden deep within a closet somewhere. Does anyone in Newark have the key to open that closet?

  15. Educator

    Bob

    All this is wonderful theater, but have you looked into the academic effects of Ms. Anderson’s policies? Can you compare NJASK and HSPA test scores in NPS from before Ms. Anderson arrived (spring 2011 tests) to the most recent tests.
    In other words, are her ideas working for children? I think you might be shocked to see that test scores have dropped under Ms. Anderson’s watch.

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  17. P. Grunther

    I don’t live or teach in Newark but I swear I am at the point that I would risk my job and go on strike if it looks like she’s going to get away with this. EVERY teacher should be prepared to walk out in protest – it is our CIVIC duty to fight Anderson’s plan (I like that someone in one of these comments called Christie, Anderson, et al “the forces of evil”…that’s not an exaggeration!) in defense of children’s right to quality public education. These people will not stop at Newark. It’s the first step towards privatizing our school systems and turning them into corporate-controlled profit-making businesses…if you follow what is going on in nearby Montclair, the seeds are being planted in a wealthy, mostly white community to go down this same path…as goes Newark, so go other districts…
    I say we should empty the schools and flood the streets of Newark and Trenton and thus draw the line in the sand in Newark, N.J. I bet they’d bus in teachers from other states and maybe we can finally expose these so-called education reformers for what they really are…before it’s too late.
    Sorry I may be getting a bit carried away here – but THIS HAS GOT TO BE STOPPED!

  18. DA

    I am amazed to read all the information and data on the unethical actions in this school district; inclusive of the muddy trail of Cami Anderson from hiring staff like Vanessa Rodriguez and Tiffany Hardrick; in addition to allowing these individuals to hire family members in the district by practicing Nepotism too. They are rogue and feel they are above the law, community, and families. I agree with many in this post it is time to participate in massive walk outs and protest! We can’t let such disgraceful behavior to continue we must stand up for those who do not have a voice in this OUR CHILDREN!

    Bob thank you for keeping the Nation informed on the truth in Newark!

    • NJGS

      STAND OUR GROUND FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION!

      TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2014 at 4:00 p.m.
      MASS RALLY at BROAD and MARKET STREETS, Newark New Jersey
      Will begin on Broad and Market Streets and walk to the Board of Education at 2 Cedar Street to RALLY outside.

      Thursday, March 27, 2014 12 PM – 2 PM
      Rally at the Statehouse in Trenton, NJ
      To get on the bus, you must register at: 973-624-6400 ~ Deborah Gregory ~ NAACP – newarknaacp@gmail.com
      973-643-8430 ~ Michael F. Dixon ~ NTU – mdixon@ntuaft.com
      862-227-3406 ~ Kaleena Berryman ~ C4ENPS – c4enps@gmail.com

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