The state-operated Camden school district hired the cousin of Gov. Chris Christie’s wife to a $95,000-a-year administrative job in June. Kathryn Meeley, 32, the daughter of Mary Pat Christie’s first cousin and a strong advocate for charter schools, was given the position of chief of staff to the school district’s school support division.
When a school district wants to fire a tenured teacher, its chief administrator files charges against the instructor with the state education department, an agency that supervises the procedure and, under the law, ensures due process in an adversarial proceeding between the district and the teacher. That’s the theory anyway. In reality, however, the state education department under Gov. Chris Christie has proven biased against teachers–especially when the district is Newark and the administrator bringing charges is Cami Anderson.
State-imposed school superintendent Cami Anderson was handed a stunning legal blow yesterday with the release of an arbitrator’s decision demanding the reinstatement of a widely respected teacher whose only apparent flaw was opposition to Anderson’s policies. Neil Thomas, the father of former student school board member Jordan Thomas, must now get his job and pay and benefits back. He had been suspended since September.
The state-run administration of the Newark public schools doesn’t know how to keep principals at Barringer High School. It doesn’t know how to provide the students with schedules, courses, teachers, desks, or even edible lunches. On a day, like yesterday, when temperatures fell below freezing, it didn’t even know how to supply heat. But it sure developed some creative ways to prevent students from joining a planned walkout to protest conditions in Newark’s oldest high school.
Hannah Graham and Brenda Keith were teenagers whose lives were cut short this fall in eerily similar circumstances. They disappeared within days of each other in September. Their bodies were found within days of each other in October, both left out in the open and so badly decomposed that immediate identification was impossible. But that is where the similarities stop.
The stark, black screen says it all. “Please stand by. Starting soon…The story of Newark.” Nothing is exactly what did happen–nothing ever did appear on the blank YouTube screen that was supposed to provide a live feed of a speech Thursday by Cami Anderson to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C.
It’s the call parents never want to get. Never should get. But, on October 22, Aquila Stevens received a call from the school nurse at John F. Kennedy School in Newark. Her son Akil had been in an accident. He was injured and would be taken to University Hospital. Akil is the younger brother of Marques-Aquil Lewis, a member of the elected Newark board of education.
Acting state Education Commissioner David Hespe has suppressed a report critical of how the Newark schools have been run by Cami Anderson. The controversial Anderson was appointed the state school superintendent for Newark by Hespe’s boss, Gov. Chris Christie, in 2011. Anderson, once a campaign worker for former Newark Mayor Cory Booker, presided over a chaotic school opening in September and recently admitted her tenure had failed to raise achievement levels in many of the city’s public elementary schools.
She could be trouble, but her teachers and other staff members at Newark’s West Side High School loved her and did what they could for her because, as one said, “She could be warm and loving.” She might run through the school’s halls spouting obscenities, but also was known to help out at a local church. Whoever Brenda Keith was, however anyone saw her, no matter how she acted, the 17-year-old should not have died.
What is so maddeningly frustrating about Cory Booker’s inevitable victory in tomorrow’s election for Senate is that it was engineered by a man most Democrats in New Jersey pretend to hate: Gov. Chris Christie. Without Christie, Booker would never have faced such an extraordinarily easy path to a full, six-year Senate term following a tenure as Newark’s mayor that left the city broke, bleeding, divided, and the model for how the rich and the white can reclaim a city through gentrification based on the destruction of neighborhood public schools.