There was a time–just a year ago–when the way a parent activist like Sharon Smith was treated at Tuesday night’s Newark school board would have caused a storm of protest. But that was before the city’s mayor, Ras Baraka, cut a deal with the governor to allow a national advocate of privately-operated charter schools to become the city’s state-appointed school superintendent. Now Smith–and many others–have been silenced through the charms and lies of one man, Christopher Cerf. Silenced and marginalized.
Christopher Cerf, Gov. Chris Christie’s man in Newark, apparently thinks the city residents are stupid and do not deserve to know how or why or by whom his chief aide, De’Shawn Wright, is paid. That really is all anyone needs to know about why Cerf should not be the schools chief in New Jersey’s largest city–but, apparently, Cerf’s contempt for the city residents is just fine for most school board members and his ally, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
What’s crazier? Maintaining a patently inefficient system of public education that has more school districts per capita than probably any other state? Or, believing that the white citizens of New Jersey will get over their fear of black and brown children long enough to end racial segregation that is so bad it has been depicted by experts as a form of “apartheid”—the formal separation of races that was the law in South Africa before the era of Nelson Mandela’s leadership.
Christopher Cerf, the state bureaucrat, private business entrepreneur, and charter school advocate who was supposed to bring local autonomy to the Newark public schools, isn’t acting like someone about to give up state control of New Jersey’s largest school district. In fact, he is about to announce a sweeping reorganization of the system that only entrenches his–and the state’s– power.
The head of a grass-roots organization that forced the federal government to intervene in the Newark schools has charged that supporters of the city’s public schools have been “stabbed in the back” by the very political leaders who promised widespread change once the former state-appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson, was removed from office.