Cami Anderson: A national embarrassment


The stark, black screen says it all. “Please stand by. Starting soon…The story of Newark.”  Nothing is exactly what did happen–nothing ever did appear on the blank YouTube screen that was supposed to provide a live feed of a speech Thursday by Cami Anderson to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C.

Anderson, already an embarrassment to herself and the state of New Jersey, never did speak, at least not publicly. She canceled her PUBLIC speech. Why? Because a busload of 40 students, parents, and other community residents showed up to hear what she had to say and, perhaps, to ask her a few questions.  They had to go to Washington because Cami Anderson won’t talk to them in Newark. Won’t attend public board meetings. Hasn’t since January. The Hermit Queen of Newark.

So those 40 people who yesterday followed her to Washington literally scared her speechless, poor dear.  Little Miss Muffet fled indecorously from her tuffet when people like Sharon Smith and Michael Dixon and Kristin Towkaniuk tried to sit alongside her. She recorded her comments “for media only,” according to AEI officials.

That shows how far media has sunk into corporate sycophancy. They are supposed to represent the people, not join in secret cabals with organizations like AEI and privatized school entrepreneurs.

Anderson, the highly-paid toadies she brought with her on the junket to the nation’s capital, and staff members from the AEI, a conservative think-tank, made asses out of themselves by panicking and declaring a small group of perfectly well-behaved and properly registered  people “a security breach” and first tried to evict them, turned the lights off in their own auditorium, and then called the police.

A security breach? Some crazy guy with a knife hopping the White House fence and entering the executive mansion–now that is a security breach. Kids and adult chaperones showing up for a buffet lunch in Washington DC is a field trip.

What a spectacle.  Like elephants stampeding in the presence of a mouse.

“They just showed a lot of disrespect,” said Roberto Cabanes, a spokesman for NJ Communities United, which helped arrange the trip to Washington, along with organizations including the Newark Student Union, PULSE, and the People’s Organization for Progress.

Cabanes said the Newark residents properly registered and paid their fees for the event and behaved well when they got to the room in the building on 17th Street NW where Cami was scheduled to speak. But one of Anderson’s $175,000-a-year assistants, Peter Turnamian, noticed some familiar faces among the people who came to hear Anderson talk about her “successes” and “triumphs” in Newark.  Not the  sort of faces normally seen at the events of an organization run by some of the biggest capitalists in the nation–including that patron saint of free enterprise and maniacal public policy, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

(Turnamian, before he became one of Anderson’s roadies, is probably best known for founding a charter school that billed itself as “The Best School in Newark,” a charter school subsequently ordered closed by the state because it was such a failure. Naturally, he would be working for Cami Anderson.)

We call them our neighbors--they call them a "security breach."
We call them our neighbors–they call them a “security breach.”

Turnamian warned the nervous biddies who run the AEI of the dangerous “security breach” and tried to have some of them evicted. Meanwhile, the 11:30 a.m. program was delayed. The AEI folks then said Anderson’s talk would be given elsewhere, perhaps in a lavatory or slop closet somewhere in the building–then finally gave up and canceled Anderson’s antic  road show. The Washington Post, however, reported Anderson may have given the speech “without an audience.” Turns out, that’s exactly what she did.

Making us wonder: If Cami gave a speech and no one was there to hear it, would it still be a pack of lies?

The answer is: Yes.

When the students and parents tried to explain the reason for their presence to what was left of the AEI audience after the cancellation was announced, the organization’s staffers decided to combat the security breach by turning off the lights.  How better to ensure the safety of people inside a building than to plunge them into darkness? That should have made everyone feel more secure. It understandably got the Newark residents angry.

Want to laugh? Here’s how the AEI describes itself: “The American Enterprise Instituteis a community of scholars and supporters committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise. AEI pursues these unchanging ideals through independent thinking, open debate, reasoned argument, facts and the highest standards of research and exposition.”

Independent thinking? Open debate? Reasoned argument?  Does all that include refusing to answer questions from constituents–and turning off the lights? And hiding behind closed doors?





  1. Way to go, NJ Communities United! Cami’s on the run.

  2. Security breach? What an outrage. Congratulations to the brave students and parents who refuse to let Anderson spread her lies without being challenged.
    AEI is comprised of individuals that Christie needs if he is going to make his run. I’m sure the Governor is not happy about this at all. At some point, as stubborn as he is, the governor will realize that Anderson is a political liability and he will cut her loose. Unfortunately, until she finally leaves Newark, Anderson will remain an educational liability hurting the children of Newark.

  3. DO NOT OK
    Leave in Awaiting Moderation
    The AEI Wikipedia entry has a section labeled Controversies.
    This event should be written up there.
    Do you know how to add to a Wkipedia article, or can you give copy to someone who does?

  4. The AEI Facebook page says, “Cherish freedom? . . . Opportunity for all? It’s these core beliefs that drive the scholars and staff at the American Enterprise Institute.”

    Their motto if Wikipedia is correct, is “Competition of ideas is fundamental to a free society.” The audience for Nov 13 missed hearing representative ideas because C Anderson was unwilling to speak. Maybe they’ll read and learn more about the real NPS (not CA’s spin version) as a result of the AEI decision to cancel.

  5. Lyndsey Layton “In DC to talk education, Newark schools chief faces protest over reforms” Washington Post 11-13 quotes Cami Anderson about the 10,000-students waiting list for charter schools. Have any journalists gotten CA to substantiate the list? It sometimes seems like Joseph MCarthy’s list.

  6. BTW: Turnamian was principal of a Blue Ribbon elementary school in Montclair for a bit. The same Montclair that now has a Broad superintendent and CA’s former PR guy Matt Frankel. What a small world…

    Bob Braun: Yup.

  7. Thanks for covering this. It is an old tactic: demonize your opponents. If they show up, accuse them of being dangerous. If they say anything, have them arrested for being threatening. There are many, many more people working in public education who are good, decent, fair, talented, and honest than there are people like Ms. Anderson–but sadly, she and those like her are often able to access the many billions of $$ that public education necessarily has and then use it for their own political ends and gains. So sad.

  8. Apropos of AEI’s claim about who they are – the highest caliber research included primary sources. What an amazing opportunity they had to hear from the people of Newark impacted by Cami’s policies. How clearly their lies catch up with them.

  9. Didn’t expect anything else form Bob Braun, former Star Leger columnist who never met a union he didn’t support, nor opposition he wouldn’t lambast somehow
    .How can you possibly support the horrible Newark schools that are condemning these kids to a lifetime of low wage employment??
    Do you not read the test results?
    Just so you 2014, 40% of Newark students are projected to be served by Charters, and there’s a waiting list here in NJ of 20,000 kids, whose parents obviously haven’t swallowed the Democratic party line that only union controlled schools are worthy..
    ALL of them must be wrong, right?

    Bob Braun: Do you actually read my blog? What do you read? Ask people in the NTU and NJEA what they think of me–you will be surprised. I thought the official waitlist number was 10,000, but 20,000 is even more fanciful. Please come up with it and I will believe it. Otherwise, I must tell you it’s a lie. But, yes, because of a deliberate strategy to close neighborhood schools and force children into charters their parents did not wish them to attend, the enrollment of charter schools has, and will, increase. Test scores have actually dropped since Cami Anderson began her Christie-inspired conspiracy to privatize public schools. The Democrats are among the biggest boosters of charter schools and voucher schools–see George Norcross, Cory Booker and Arne Duncan, to say nothing of Barack Obama. Please get to know what you’re talking about before you commit word to, well, computer.

    1. No Bob, I do not read your blog; I don’t find your views enlightening, but find them rather biased, and when I read that you are passing around ‘educational conspiracy‘ theories I don’t take seriously, nor waste time reading your blog.
      I know your columns from the Star Ledger, and came across your blog while researching another topic.

      My figure of 20,000 comes from the testimony given last year at the hearing on charters in the NJ legislature, and more recently( 10/23/14), that figure was given in an article published by NJ.Com…
      BTW, you were also mentioned in that same article:”… irate Bob Braun, a NEW evangelist”. Newark Education Worker. I guess that makes you hardly unbiased..
      And more bad news for you.
      According to a recent Gallup poll, public support for teachers unions fell below 50 percent for the first time ever in 2012. According to a recent Harvard/EducationNext survey, the percentage of Americans who see teachers unions as a negative influence on schools and education policy soared to 43 percent, and only 32 percent of the public support tenure. Membership and revenue (almost all from dues) is down….

      Bob Braun: This is breathtakingly uninformed. And how in the world can you criticize me when you admit you don’t even read what I write? Referring to me as an “NEW evangelist” was the work of the brain-dead Laura Waters who also has no idea of my views on anything. Keep it coming, whoever you are, you’re the easiest target I’ve had in decades.

      1. Ha, ha, ha,
        Laura Waters ha, ha, ha.

        Imagine having her intellect on your side of anything! Ha ha ha,

        Thanks for the laughter.

      2. Oh my Dolores. Throwing stones from a glass house. Poor form. How easy for you to believe the rhetoric you choose and simply dismiss truths you find inconvenient. The entire notion of huge charter school wait lists has been critiqued well and the schools will not support their claims when asked. And even studies from charter leaning think tanks cannot find charters to consistently provide better results. A successful school system engages the stakeholders. Parents, educators and students. Cami Anderson has done the opposite. She defiantly continues to disenfranchise people who care the most. Her leadership is indefensible.

      3. Let me get this straight.

        Dolores is saying, “I don’t waste my time reading your blog, Peter, but I’m 100% sure everything you say on it is false and full of bogus ‘conspiracy theories.’

        “I have never seen the alleged 20,000-strong charter school waitlist (or the 10,000-strong one)—indeed, despite incessant demand to produce it, no one ever has been privileged to have seen it—but I’m 100% sure that it and all 20,000 (or 10,000) names on it are genuine.”

        Seriously, Dolores, if you’re reading this… your farts make more sense than this tripe you’re writing here.

      4. Dolores – Cami, is that you? You are an embarrassment to New Jersey. Go back to the rock you crawled out from under. We don’t want you here.

    2. BOTH parties are doing in Public schools to justify the charter takeover. Both would love to profit off our kids. There really isnt too much different between the 2 parties. What is needed is revolution. Look at the schools in Cuba. Higher literacy rate and education than America. 2% of Latin America’s population but 11% of their scientists. America is an Idiocracy like the movie and I have no faith in our future

      Bob Braun: I was so moved by the sight of scores of Cuban doctors who arrived in Haiti within hours of the earthquake in January, 2010. They marched out of an office building on a small side street and then entered the Champs Mars to the cheers of tens of thousands of Haitians. Among their number, incidentally, were Americans who somehow got themselves trained in Cuba’s medical schools.

  10. The Washington Post — surprise! — missed the point. Christie, Booker, Anderson & Company, with help from the American Enterprise Institute, are helping to create a new generation of young leftists. In which case, they would have done some good, but not much good compared with the damage they are doing to our schools, our children, and the working people who actually create and sustain functioning communities such as Newark.

    1. Rev. – you may be on to something with that observation about a generation of new leftists.

      This far, the people of Newark’s organizing and pushback against the right wing Corporate Foundation & Think Tank driven ideological project to attack all things public is very effective.

      Not since Occupy Wall Street, the works of NJ Dreamers, and Ferguson and Detroit rebellions have I seen such effective authentic grass roots mobilization!

      I would say the Newark fight is a national model – the kids, especially, should be proud.

  11. To paraphrase Paul Krugman, the AEI takes the think out of think tanks. The AEI isn’t some kind of impartial objective scholarly “institute,” it’s a propaganda mill for corporate America. It’s a sham and a scam for the top 1% and the huge multinational corporations. The AEI claims that It is: “…committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise.” Translation: the AEI is committed to expanding liberty for the rich and the giant corporations at the expense of everyone else. It is committed to destroying unions, eliminating regulations, killing off Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA and any other social programs that help ordinary working Americans. It is against the minimum wage, paid sick leave, paid family leave and unemployment insurance. It is being paid big bucks to promote charter schools and school privatization. AEI is a far right wing libertarian band of very rich ideologues who think that Ayn Rand had some great ideas such as greed is good.

    1. The other Joe is right. Back in the 1980’s, the AEI was a serious think tank–a slightly right-of-center counterpoise to the slightly left-of-center Brookings. I used their stuff without embarrassment. But over the decades, it has become an intellectual whorehouse, with poor Norm Ornstein playing the piano.
      I’m a bit surprised by Anderson’s obtuseness. One of the great political strengths of the charter movement is that there are plenty of Democrats around to legitimize it. Cuddling up to wingnuts in public is a tactically stupid move, as it tends to repel the Democrats. That’s ultimately what took Michelle Rhee down. But as she showed in September, Anderson’s strength is not in tactics–or at least logistics.

  12. Just wondering:
    1. What did the other attendees at AEI–who didn’t get to hear talk & Q&A–think about AEI canceling? That wasn’t covered in WaPo article.
    2. If 40 students & parents from Sidwell Friends School or Delbarton attended a talk at AEI, would they be considered a security breach?
    3. Was CA offered an honorarium or other compensation by AEI? Does she need to get speaker fees cause she may not get a bonus this year? Has NJ DoEd made public the criteria for her bonus?
    4. Is it time for CA’s highly successful significant other to fund a nonprofit for her?

  13. See the American Federation of School Administrators 11-13 blog entry re AEI canceled Csmi Anderson talk. AFSA President Diann Woodard: “Today, Newark community members faced a grave injustice. . . . We stand by concerned Newark community members, and will work to ensure their collective concerns and voices are heard.”

    Have C Anderson and M Rhee Johnson hindered other Harvard Grad School MPPs’ chances of being hired in school districts?

  14. The fantastic 40 was there to tell the real story on how the One Newark Plan has divided, destroyed, dismantled, desrespected, our community. It’s sad that Cami Anderson showed the same attitude in Washington DC as she shows every day in Newark, New Jersey.

  15. 26 years a distinguished or effective teacher in schools where you know the families and they know you (1989 _2014 four schools) those neighborhood schools were the best. New year as a EWP. 46 days and I dont know one family. Kids are great but the local neighborhood feel is gone. Can’t help but feeling the writing is on the wall for us old timers cami wants us out of the picture. Yes I am a EWP and not ready to leave . Please help us

    P.S. this comment could be attached to numerous.braun posts just needed to post after reading camis.cowardness. imagine if I were afraid to report to any of the five schools I have been in.

    Bob Braun: I am sorry for what happened to you. I am trying to help. Tell me how I can do a better job.

    1. Lightatend, Get everyone you know in NJ to call their state senator, assembly rep; Dept of Ed has a Chief Intervention Officer for Newark to ask about, say: lawsuit re One Newark discrimination/student schedules at BHS/SpEd circumstances in NPS/any relevant question. We all fund NPS, so anyone in state can show concern. I’ve called many, including USDA school lunch program re Barringer; have gotten people outside Essex Co to call. Here’s White House # to call, ask how President Obama will respond to Mayor Baraka’s request for intervention: 202-456-1111. Ask NPS retirees to call or write letters. Imagine 1,000 calls re the problems in Newark to these offices.

      Thanks for your commitment to your students; hope there’s an opening w. a good principal for you soon.

  16. Delores has absolutely no idea what is happening in Newark under Scami Anderson, but I, being a resident of Newark with a child in the schools can vouch for those 40 who came from Newark as being factual in their stories. I see the chaos her one Newark causes every day. If it was such a good idea it wouldn’t have failed miserably weeks before school started in the summer with the fiasco that was registration day at west Kinney. These people only want to destroy public schools and they don’t care who they hurt along the way. Only problem is, they aren’t doing this in rich white school districts as well and I wonder why that is?

  17. I am inspired by Sharon Smith, Pulse, the Students Union, Peoples Organization for Progress, NJ Communities United and all the good people and organizations who went to DC, trying to hear this speech. The lengths gone to to marginalize them and preclude them from even hearing public discussion about what is happening to their own schools and children proves the level of disregard their Superintendent has for their well being. Those of us in the suburbs being shut out of discussion while so-called reforms are imposed on our schools see our connections. It is increasingly clear that less powerful, less wealthy communities are the laboratories for reform experiments coming soon to a school near you. More privileged communities need to take on these reforms from their positions of relative power. Thanks for keeping us informed, Bob.

  18. Bob thanks for all you do in getting the information out there. Unfortunately many folks are afraid to speak out . Keep doing what you are doing.

  19. We all seem to forget that Cami Anderson is a political strategist who ran campaigns; she is a spin master! I am a Newark resident and parent I can personally tell Dolores that NPS leadership will destroy and remove funds from great public schools to support Charters or her (Cami) pet projects; while our kids suffer! She single handly destroyed Newark Early College HS to support the girls and boys academies at Spencer! Never once did she ever speak to parents, she came and spoke to our minor children without consent to encourage kids to go to charter schools! Shameless! And now she has gone after the magnet school funding; why is she trying to destroy Science Park HS and their IB program (An International HS Degree) ? Science Park a top rated school in the state of NJ! Does it have to do with the Newark Student Union? Does it have to do that she has not been recieved well at any Arts High, Science Park, or University HS event (by the children and parents) ? Bob is right check the facts, ask for this so called dream list, and lastly talk to the most affected: the Children and Families in Newark! Its all a SHAM the elite pushing their agendas on the so called non-elites in Newark! Take the blinders off!

  20. The State has controlled Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Camden for decades all to no avail. Now “The Governor” (as he likes to call himself) and his buds are attempting to “reform education” statewide ! With such a dismissal, ongoing record how could any sane person expect positive results from these “reforms”?? wsautter[dot]com

  21. Great work! Keep up the heat, it’s working!

    Connect Cami, Christie & privatization and you win.

    Christie doesn’t want to defend his record, his policy, or his ideas.

  22. I don’t know why I was surprised that Ms. Anderson changed her mind and refused to speak in public at an event where she was scheduled to speak just because a number of people that live in Newark showed up to hear her speech? This clearly means, to me, that she is afraid. Now I asked myself what is she afraid of? She couldn’t have been afraid for her personal safety. After all, I’m sure there was security on hand. What else could she have been afraid of? Oh, maybe it was that what she was going to say was factually incorrect.

    I hope the people from Newark were able to get a refund, since the speaker didn’t speak and apparently there was an electrical failure.

  23. […] “One Newark” makeover of their schools to a November bus trip to Washington D.C., which disrupted Newark superintendent Cami Anderson’s scheduled appearance at the conversative American […]

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