Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, saying the state administration of the city’s schools is operating “outside the rule of law,” has called on the people of his city to follow the example of thousands of protesting students and “use all possible avenues” to rid the school system of its state masters.
Cami Anderson, the hermit superintendent of the Newark schools, exonerated herself of any wrongdoing in the illegal giveaway of thousands of dollars to an old friend and former assistant who managed to draw checks from school districts in two different states. Anderson, Gov. Chris Christie’s agent in the district, did it apparently by blaming the scam on lower-level employees no longer employed by the district.
UPDATE: NEWARK’S CAMI ANDERSON–Acting like a beseiged colonial-era dictator, is trying to block employee access to a petition opposing her policies, already signed by more than 500 men and women, and has threatened to arrest an organizer of last week’s massive walkout of high school students. The hermit-like agent of Chris Christie–she has refused to attend public meetings for 17 months–blocked access of all Newark Public Schools computers to MoveOn.Org. The site published a letter and petition from Central High School principal Sharnee Brown detailing how Anderson violated the law protecting special education students. At the same time, Anderson’s “Executive Director of Safety,” Eric Ingold, delivered a letter to Roberto Cabanas of NJ Communities United–an ally of the Newark Students Union–banning Cabanas from setting foot on school property, including the site of tonight’s school board meeting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What Sen. Ronald Rice of Newark wanted: A full, public meeting of the state Board of Education at which he and others could present evidence of state mismanagement of Newark schools.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka told hundreds of supporters of Weequahic High School that all city neighborhoods must unite to block plans by state-appointed superintendent Cami Anderson to strip more public schools of their faculty and programs.
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.