Susan Palmucci is a Newark teacher. First grade at the Cleveland School. In the city’s schools for 24 years. But forget her job for a moment. Think of her in a way many people don’t think of teachers–as a woman, as a person who saw an immediate, emergency need and did what she could to help another person–another woman who happened to be the mother of nine, including one of Palmucci’s students.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Christopher Cerf, the state-appointed superintendent of the city schools, are soon expected to launch a “community schools initiative” that would, if successful, create a network of up to 10 schools that offer health and other services as well as enhanced educational programs. The initiative, aimed primarily at the city’s impoverished South Ward, could be announced as early as next week.
Two weeks ago, Elizabeth city workers accidentally chopped down a tree in front of my house. The city quickly tried to compensate but the event made me look at trees a little more closely–in Elizabeth and throughout the state. What I saw was massive destruction, maiming, and disfigurement, mostly by power and cable companies with the active cooperation of municipal governments. They are making our cities ugly beyond tolerance–and unhealthy. A reader also saw what I saw and wrote the prose poem that follows–“Ode to a Tree. By PSE&G.” He wants to be known only as TK-2015. He and I and his wife took the pictures.
The Newark Teachers Union and its president, John Abeigon, have filed a legal action asking the state’s education commissioner to fire the so-called “chief talent officer” of the state-operated Newark district, Vanessa Rodriguez, contending she lacks the proper qualifications and licensing for the position.
Christopher Cerf–the state-appointed Newark schools superintendent, former state education commissioner, national charter champion and failed business entrepreneur–has scheduled a forum Thursday night from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Park Elementary School to offer his version of where the money went.
State Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) scored a major–if local–political victory this week by wiping out the last remains of the machine once run by his nemesis, the late Thomas G. Dunn, a long-time mayor of the city. The Dunn machine had held on to the school board until Tuesday when Lesniak’s three candidates won all three open slots and gave his slate a clear majority. If Lesniak had lost, so would have his gubernatorial ambitions.
The slate backed by the city’s Democratic mayor, Chris Bollwage, and State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, roundly defeated the slate backed by the union. Really dumb move, EEA, one that will redound to the disadvantage of the membership. What teacher in his/her right mind could support folks who backed Chris Christie?
In October of 1962, when the world seemed as if it were coming to an end, I turned to a man named Jack Dalton to help me make sense of it all. Unlike some of the priests who also were my teachers at St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, Dalton–Mr. Dalton–wasn’t warning me to go to confession and make sure I was prepared to die. He was my history teacher and he talked to me about history.