Members of the Newark school board Tuesday night demanded that Gov. Chris Christie and state Education Commissioner David Hespe force state-appointed school superintendent Cami Anderson to show up and publicly explain why she paid Tiffany Hardrick, a former top aide, as much as $25,000 after Hardrick left the city and began working in another state.
The demands that the reclusive Anderson, Christie’s choice to run the state’s largest school system since 2011, show up in public underscored the anger generated by the handling of a state audit report that showed Hardrick, a $175,000-a-year assistant superintendent, was paid by Newark last June despite leaving the district to become superintendent of the Forrest City, Arkansas, schools. Hardrick and Anderson are close associates whose work together dates back to 2000 when both were involved with the corporate-backed New Leaders for New Schools.
Anderson hired Hardrick for a top Newark job despite serious irregularities in Hardrick’s past.
The board members’ anger was inflamed by revelations about how Hespe handled the incident that could potentially be damaging both to Anderson and to Hespe’s boss, the governor.
Despite a legal requirement that it be made public, the audit–dated Feb 26–still has not been released publicly. That was the day the education commissioner announced he was giving the controversial Anderson another year as boss of New Jersey’s largest school district and a raise despite widespread demands in the city for her resignation–including from Mayor Ras Baraka.
A Hespe subordinate subsequently granted Anderson permission to delay for another month the legal requirement that she discuss the audit at a public meeting of the school board and post its findings on the school district’s website. Now, at the earliest, the issue won’t come up–and the report formally made public–until the end of April.
“This should be creating a sense of urgency,” said board member Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson. “This is not some small matter. The superintendent should not be allowed to delay presenting this audit to the public.”
State regulations require the school board to certify it made the report public within 30 days of its receipt. Hespe’s aide granted a delay without action from the board.
Anderson has refused to appear at public board meetings since January, 2014, and did not show up tonight. She did show, however, that she has at least one ally on the board–Verizon executive Rashon Hasan, the board president, who came close to keeping any word of the audit from becoming public by manipulating the board’s agenda to keep the item off it–and by unexpectedly presenting a long and often incomprehensible report on how the board was assessing Anderson’s performance.
Charlotte Hitchcock, Anderson’s attorney, stood in for the AWOL superintendent–as Hitchcock usually does–and repeatedly said, “We are not prepared” to demands that she or Anderson explain why Hardrick apparently received special treatment with sick pay and vacation pay.
“The district as of today is not prepared to discuss the report,” Hitchcock said. “We’re not prepared to present it.”
“This-is ridiculous,” said board membr Marques-Aquil Lewis. “What makes this superintendent so special?”
What makes her so special, of course, is that she is the poster-woman for Christie’s alleged educational “reform” plans that required punitive measures against employees of failing neighborhood schools and special favors for privately-operated charter schools.
Hardrick operated a charter school in New Orleans but was sharply criticized for awarding a $500,000 transportation to her brother. Her school received a grade of F from local authorities and was rocked by a cheating scandal. Despite all that, Anderson hired her and brought her to Newark.
Baskerville-Richardson said she wanted the school board to write to Christie and Hespe to demand she show up and answer questions about the payments of public funds to an associate who already had stopped working for the district.
“This could not have happened without her direct involvement,” she said.