More than two weeks after I published the letter, the Newark schools administration has owned up to the existence of a message over Cami Anderson’s signature that warns crime would go up if Newark children stayed home from school. But Anderson is throwing her chief flak catcher under the bus for the furor the alleged “draft” letter caused. “This mishap rests solely on my shoulders and I apologize for any misconceptions this might have caused you or the people of Newark,” wrote Matthew Frankel, who bears what now strikes me as the ironic title of executive director of communications.
Frankel’s email to me—see the text below—is mischievously vague. It insists the letter “was not written or in any way approved by the superintendent.”
No, the letter was just sent to the Newark schools over her signature Nov. 12 with instructions that it be sent home with the children, along with a revised calendar. Within hours, it was retracted, rewritten and then sent out again with the same instructions. Except for a few schools—including Rafael Hernandez—where the original letter went home with the children.
In his email to me, Frankel doesn’t say any of that and, in exquisite vagueness, writes around what really happened:
“How this unapproved draft got in your hands and why you and others are insisting that it was delivered to some parents by Newark Public Schools is a mystery.”
It’s not a mystery. Teachers and parents sent me the letter. I held it until I was satisfied it was authentic. I asked Frankel about it and he refused to say anything about it in writing. He didn’t call it a draft then when he had the chance. He didn’t deny it was posted on the NPS website and then taken down. I also was able to confirm the draft went to other schools but was pulled back and the sanitized version went home with the children. That version, however, still has Anderson saying the city is “less safe” when the students are out of school—a claim unsupported by statistics that show must juvenile crime occurs on school days in the hours after children are released to go home.
Parents and teachers from other schools also said they saw the “draft” letter but they have not authorized me to identify them. They do live, after all, in, Christieland, the Republic of Fear, where McCarter Highway might be closed to traffic if the residents become too critical. Even counting only Rafael Hernandez, that’s maybe 1,000 children and their parents and teachers. And the draft did go to the schools where it was seen by administrators and support staff.
One person seeing it was enough.
So, anyway, it’s clear somebody who writes letters for Anderson believes Newark children cause crime when they are home from school. Just not Anderson, or so Frankel says. Maybe Frankel believes it, although I suspect he’s apologizing not for writing the letter, but for not taking me seriously. Frankel is saving his own backside and whatever NPS pays him—he won’t tell me—by taking the fall for Chris Christie’s $300,000 a year agent in Newark.
Here’s the text of his email with my response:
At the School Advisory Board meeting this week and in subsequent emails and blogs, members of the Newark community expressed outrage to Superintendent Anderson based on “facts” you reported on your blog last week. The problem is your report was incorrect.
Well, I’m glad somebody got enraged. Sure as hell–if that letter went home to one kid in Millburn, the superintendent there would be looking for another job. My facts were facts and don’t need quotation marks around them. The report was not incorrect.
Instead of creating a needed forum to debate the merits of whether the NTU should have persistently encouraged union members to attend a conference in Atlantic City that represents less than 10% of its membership, you chose to showcase falsehoods. Rather than examining the effects of the loss of learning time, the content of the conference, and the tactics used by the union to force school closure so a minority of teachers could attend, you focused on a draft of a letter.
Look, Mr. Flak Catcher— Unlike you, I don’t flak for anyone, including the NTU. I got the tee-shirt years ago to prove it. Please read my “Teachers and Power,” Simon and Schuster. I’m not in the business of creating “a needed forum to debate.” I can say this: All New Jersey public school teachers are allowed by law to attend the NJEA conference without penalty. School districts can’t stop them. And, please, stop with the “loss of learning time”—as the revised calendar shows, there will be no loss of learning time. I wasn’t at the conference so I can’t comment on its content—although Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf spoke there. (Yeah, well, maybe the content wasn’t so good, after all). And, you probably know a minority of all teachers in the state attend the convention, not just Newark.
To be clear, the draft you cited, and continue to cite on your blog, was not written or in any way approved by the Superintendent. In fact, she expressed concern over the very language you discuss, which is why the draft letter was edited and the second letter you posted was distributed. How this unapproved draft got in your hands and why you and others are insisting that it was delivered to some parents by Newark Public Schools is a mystery. This mishap rests solely on my shoulders and I apologize for any misconceptions this might have caused you or the people of Newark.
Thank you for admitting the letter did exist. That admission is a big step forward to what Stephen Colbert would call “truthiness.” But somebody wrote it, and a lot of somebodies read it, even before I did. I and others “are insisting” it was delivered to some parents because it was—and you don’t deny that. Anderson could have resolved the whole problem by immediately sending out a letter that apologized for the racist tone of the draft, no matter who wrote it and no matter who saw it. She also probably should have sacked the person who wrote it.
It is my hope that this needed clarity will be helpful to you and your readers.
Ah…no. Your letter didn’t achieve much clarity. Sorry. Here’s what happened. Anderson bungled the calendar by waiting until the last minute to cancel school for Nov. 7 and 8. She tried to blame the union for it by reaching out to families with a letter that tried to show her empathy for parents. Instead, she—or whoever wrote the letter for her– fell into the neo-colonial trap of believing the poor residents of occupied territory are far more prone to crime than their masters running the show.
I still think Anderson should resign. So should Frankel. Along with the whole crew of foundation-funded , Christie-loving, Cerf-riding occupiers down at Cedar Street.
The state has had 18 years to make the Newark schools work. Instead of making a good faith effort, it is cutting the city’s school aid and selling off schools to the highest private bidders.
Oh, and I don’t accept your apology, Mr. Frankel. It’s not sincere. And, in any event, unless you wrote the letter, it’s not your fault.