Baraka “not satisfied” after meetings with Hespe, Anderson–and Christie disses him again

Ras Baraka--when he used to be angry
Ras Baraka–when he used to be angry

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka says he and state Education Commissioner David Hespe agreed to give the “One Newark” plan  ten days from the opening of school to  resolve its obvious flaws. Meanwhile, the mayor has demanded that state-imposed schools superintendent Cami Anderson provide him with extensive information about the inner workings of the plan that will close neighborhood public schools while opening up new charter schools.

“No, I’m not satisified,” Baraka said in a brief interview with this site after his meetings with Hespe and Anderson. Last week, after hundreds of parents were mistreated during a pre-open school enrollment session, an angry new mayor said he demanded meetings with the pair of Gov. Chris Christie-appointees.

Chris Christie and Cami Anderson--conning Baraka?
Chris Christie and Cami Anderson–conning Baraka?

He made the  comments just hours after Christie again slapped Baraka down on the issue of public schools. “The mayor should run the city and not run the schools,” said Christie, who cited the city’s budget deficit. “The mayor has plenty on his plate to worry about.”  Just a few weeks ago, Christie said Baraka had no say in the running of the city’s public schools that were seized b y the state nearly 20 years ago.

No one asked Christie about how the state school operation in Newark ran a deficit of nearly $100 million and failed to raise test scores. Christie, Anderson, and former Mayor Cory Booker–now a US senator–worked together to make Newark a showcase for privately-operated charter schools, many run by former business associates of Anderson and former state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, another Christie appointee.

While Baraka says he hoped Anderson would provide the information he demanded–ranging from the problems of special education children to the legal status of buildings Anderson wants to give to private charter operations–he admitted his meetings really didn’t change anything.

“Obviously, she is going to go ahead with ‘One Newark,'” he says.

Although many Newark activists hoped he would be more forceful, Baraka said he would not encourage parents to boycott the opening of schools Sept.4. He says he supports the concept of a boycott–if that’s what parents want to do–but he obviously doesn’t embrace it as his own primary strategy for ending “One Newark,” returning local control over the schools, and firing Anderson–three goals he repeatedly has embraced publicly.

“I don’t have to encourage them,” Baraka told me. “The boycott has leaders. I’m not going to be their rah-rah cheerleader. They’re capable of organizing a boycott.”

He has tried to position himself as both a backer of one side–the anti-Anderson side– in the tense, emotional struggle against Anderson, Christie and the charter entrepreneurs and also as the city’s neutral chief magistrate. Baraka told me he would “protect the right of parents to boycott the schools and also protect the rights of parents who want to send their children to school.”

Baraka’s views beg the obvious question of  the reliance many voters placed in him to fight the “One Newark” plan. Baraka was elected primarily on the basis of his opposition to Anderson and the plan and there was an expectation he would lead the fight  to end “One Newark.”

Baraka has limited legal control over the schools, but he has enormous popularity in the city and could be the de facto leader of a boycott movement if he chose. But he has chosen not to.

The boycott movement got off to a late start primarily because of a scam pulled off by Hespe and other state officials who created the impression in June that Christie wanted her out. The political theatrics led Baraka and teacher union leader Joe Del Grosso to believe she would be gone by July 1. Meanwhile, Anderson herself spent much of May and June spending taxpayers’ money traveling to conferences throughout the country, keeping out of the headlines.

Hespe then double-crossed Anderson’s opponents by awarding her another three-year contract. By that time summer intervened and it was too late to mount a concerted effort to bring her down through a citywide boycott.

The strongest action Baraka described was to announce he would send city inspectors into buildings used by charter schools and other privatized school operations. He said he would not allow the buildings to be used  until they have the proper certificates of occupancy.

Baraka was ambiguous about whether he would provide the police manpower Anderson has asked for  to protect children while they take buses to schools throughout the city. The feckless transportation plan conjured up by  Anderson puts Baraka in a tough spot–she is putting children in danger and he has no choice but  to protect the children.

“Of course, we will protect the children,” said Baraka.

He also said he demanded Anderson resolve the problems of families with children sent to different schools and families with special education children who still have no proper placement.

Baraka admitted he did not believe Anderson would resolve all the problems by the opening of school–but he already has committed himself to letting it wait 10 days before acting.



  1. In order to gain one must be willing to lose, none of these people that want change are willing to lose because that would mean there is no fear. The so-called leaders are “afraid”.

  2. Bob,
    I understand the frustration, I feel the pain…..but I still have faith that Mayor Baraka will do the right thing…

  3. We all feel the frustration. But we should all must note that the Superintendent and her small gang of staff would prefer that we feel frustration for this August registration process, because it masks the more important, deeper questions that need to be asked –

    Question – How did she determine what schools should be shut down and what school each of our kids actually go to?

    Answer – There is an algorithm that was created by a bunch of high priced consultants to make this determination. WHAT IS THE ACTUAL ALGORITHM? WE DO NOT KNOW. She has not allowed the Mayor or any parent in the city to see it!

    Question – Who created this algorithm? How much did it cost? What firm was hired? Did Cami hire her friends to do this? Were any personal favors provided to Cami to hire them?

    Answer – We do not know.

    Question: What did Cami know and when did she know it?

    Answer: The end of One Newark Enrollment registration was in May. Since then she must have known that hundreds of students were not enrolled in school. Instead of dealing with this issue in May, or June or July, why did she wait until late August to hold this enrollment center?

    Question – What kind of engagement actually took place regarding the One Newark plan?

    Answer – Cami likes to say there were 100s of meeting with local officials about her One Newark plan. We need to know the specifics of these meetings and verify, because she is the only person making that claim.

    Question – Why was this done so quickly? Who is to benefit?

    Answer – Universal Enrollment is something that has taken place in some other cites in the country. In some cases it took up and over a year to implement. In Newark she squeezed it in less than three months. In the other cities that there a track record of real outreach plans, marketing dollars and community partnerships to engage the community, why was there nothing in Newark? Was it sheer ineptitude or was there another reason?

    Question – How did she possibly oversee the transportation issue?

    Answer – Again, we do not know. This seems like a very obvious issue to deal with. Was this ineptitude or was there another reason?

    Questions – Who are the people actually running this plan? Do they have any real professional experience? Have they even done this before?

    Answer – Considering all the last minute changes, the date changes, the complete ineptitude, it seems the people running this thing really have no idea what they are doing. Who are the people in charge and what are there backgrounds? We do not know.

    Question – This initiative ultimately brings public schools and charters together. What do the Principals of the public schools and charters think about how this has been organized?

    Answer – We do not know. We have heard from the Principals whose schools have closed. But what do the open public schools and the charters think of what they are witnessing? do they think they are ready? Has NPS given them the support they were promised? We do not know.

    Question – What kind of effect does this plan have on our kids, on our families?

    Answers – We need to tell our stories. Will it help relocating our kids to a school across district? Likely not. Will it help for them to wake up each day so early to attend schools? Likely not. Can Cami guarantee their safety? Likely not. For the many of us parents that work long hours to make ends meet, will One Newark effect our lives? Yes. We need to share our stories the day this whole things starts.
    Bob – I hope we can all send you our experiences that we are witnessing to you.

    There are much more important issues we must answer that go far beyond a hot, inept, crowded registration meetings last week. I hope our Mayor can get the answers he is looking for.

    1. Under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), a number of organizations have requested to get the answers you raise regarding the Algorithm. The Newark Public Schools has denied these requests. Currently these denials are under appeal with the General Records Council. We will see…

      Also, under Attorney Bob Pickett’s legal action, it is likely NPS will be forced to reveal the Algorithm under the rules of Discovery. We will see…

  4. The first child who gets lost in transit, or G-d forbid hurt on the way to or from school, under this dangerous plan will be one too many. It could be prevented if the Mayor chooses to exercise his authority to protect the citizens of Newark. Cami’s plan is dangerous. The mayor may not support the boycott but for the safety of the children he could instruct families to send their children to their closest neighborhood school September 4th. If there is not one close, go to a house of worship that has opened it’s doors. 10 days of chaos is not acceptable. And after 10 days, what then?

  5. I wonder how many of these shuttered neighborhood school buildings will house charters and how many will be sold off in sweet deal estate deals to cronies.

  6. Our “WONDERFUL” senators should go to the FEDS about this entire situation. The entire plan must be shut down!!!

  7. The mayor could call the Fire Department in Chicago. One of the Chicago mayor’s ideas was to have that cities fire dept. protect children during their walk to school. That was such a silly idea, it might have gone away on it’s own- but maybe they have some suggestions.

    Also, the mayor in Chicago ended up hiring temporary workers to assist children to get to school. It’s the Newark supt.’s/governor’s idea-let them hire and pay workers to assist the children to get to school. Of course, if the police are available, they could put in overtime, on the school budget’s dime, to assist.

    If you’re not allowed to play, why do you have to pay? Of course, children’s safety is #1, but the police already have a full-time job.

    But maybe, the people of Newark were checkmated this time. Maybe there is no way at this late time to get out of this safely. Look around, take notes, and be prepared, because they’ll probably try it again.

  8. Good evening everyone, I am Begging to Mr. Baraka to be more agressive about this school nightmare. We have to go for the Boycott, if our kids do not go to school ,let’s see who those High Level educators Like Christie and Cami tech to in Nerwak classroms. Those 10 days that Mr. Baraka wants to give them, I tell you mothers of Newark, “Let’s Teach Our Children at Home”. and wait to see what they do.

    1. I know we can come together on this issue, our parents and grandparents did. We have retired teachers out there with nothing to do, and they need the attention of children to teach to get by. Im willing to share my home for a few hours a day if it would help. I want to see our children grow and develop into productive ppl. Why cant we teach our own children altogether? We have the facilities and the educated retired ppl to do so., Im sure they would turn out a lot more respectful about our struggle in life if we did,. Lets demand recognition for our children.

  9. Newark Parents, Lets stay home with our kids. Christie, Hespe and Hurricane Cami do not care about our kids. They are after our taxes to make themselves and their families richer. After ten days what happens.? We must sacrifice our time to end this mess.
    Cami! Where is NPS NJASK results? why are you changing the passwoods for principals?
    Chris wants to run for Presidency,let him come out, he is busy closing schools and hospitals and having his friends bid for them, What a greedy fool he is.

  10. The boycott is not going to work! The people in power don’t care. We should have boycotted the application process but we didn’t. This plan is going as scheduled and is part of the future vision for newark. We are just not part of that vision. Baraka can’t help us and is being portrayed as a poor politician by the man that pulls all the strings. Schools will be closed, teachers and others will lose jobs, more unemployment, even further foreclosures and then yep Christie’s buddies buy up land and offer charter schools it is all part of the gentrification plan for newark. Time to find a new place to live!!!!

  11. the more I read and learn what is going on, the more amazed I become that this manufactured and destructive chaos is allowed to persist.

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