Cami Anderson was right

Anderson predicted her successor would be more in favor of charters than she was.
Anderson predicted her successor would be more in favor of charters than she was.

Cami Anderson, Newark’s now disgraced superintendent, was many things. Arrogant. Mendacious. Insensitive. Too willing to use Newark schools as a hiring hall for inept cronies from New York and New Orleans. But she was right about one thing–and that one thing may turn out to be the most important thing facing Newark’s neighborhood public schools. Her successor, she said, would be worse for Newark’s public schools than she was–and that’s before she even knew who her successor would be. Of course, it turned out to be her old boss and enabler, Christopher Cerf.

She wrote that in an email to the late Joseph Del Grosso, then the president of Newark Teachers Union (NTU).  Del Grosso told me Anderson warned him about trying to drive her out of office back in the spring 2014.

“She said she wasn’t the problem–that whoever came after her would be much more eager to expand charter schools and close public schools,” I remember Del Grosso telling me.

Cerf is a nationally known champion of charter schools. In New York, as an aide to Joel Klein, the chancellor, he opened 100 new charters. When he was named the new Newark superintendent in the deal that supposedly will bring local control to Newark some day, Mayor Ras Baraka–who had been the leader of the anti-state control forces–inexplicably announced it really didn’t matter who the superintendent was because the city’s residents would have local control.

He couldn’t believe Cami Anderson was right. But she was.

Cerf, despite his denials and his ability to shade facts, has been brought to Newark to expand charter schools. Just look at the plans for both Uncommon Schools and KIPP schools, the two largest charter school chains operating in Newark. On top of that that, the odd hybrid known as Brick Academy with its two schools–Peshine and Avon–are expected to attempt a conversion to charters.

By the end of the spring, plans will be in place for a charter expansion that is likely to see most elementary students–certainly most students who don’t need special services–enrolled in privately operated charter schools.

Cami Anderson was right. And local control will mean nothing.

I don’t believe Baraka deliberately sold out Newark’s traditional public schools. I do believe, however, that he committed the worst rookie mistake a New Jersey politician could ever commit–he trusted Gov. Chris Christie.

The deal with Christie ended Newark’s spring and its growing anti-state energy. The students are off the streets. The loudest critics have fallen silent. The school board meets with Cerf behind closed doors with some members actually believing his oily assurances that he is “authentically” in support of local control.

The Newark Educational Success Board accomplished two major aims–two aims of the governor. It silenced and neutralized some of the loudest and most articulate critics of the state regime–while putting in positions of power outsiders like Donald Katz and Al Koeppe and Ross Danis who have a history of supporting charter schools.

The board has paralyzed itself by agreeing to a consensus method of operation–everyone has to agree. Sorry–but Donald Katz, the CEO of Audible, Inc., a Montclair resident, and a national director of Uncommon Schools, is not interested in saving neighborhood public schools. He has nothing in common with Jose Leonardo, also on the committee, who is president of the Newark Students Union.

Why should Leonardo compromise one inch to accommodate Katz and achieve consensus? Because Katz is a millionaire who contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Cory Booker?

If I–or anyone else–were to suggest to Mayor Baraka year ago that he would allow five non-Newark residents (and the board is dominated by five non-residents)–to determine the future course of the city’s schools, he would have laughed me out of town. I would have deserved the epithet he has given me–“crackpot.”

But that is precisely what happened. None of the five-member majority of the boards—not Cerf, not Katz, not Koeppe, not Danis, not Rochelle Hendricks–lives in Newark. Only one–Hendricks–is a person of color. Not one has remotely lived the life of the typical Newark resident.

Yet they will determine the “roadmap” to local control.

And they already have said it will take longer than expected.

Who’s the “crackpot” now?

Meanwhile, “One Newark” remains and children are dispersed throughout the city while parents struggle to send four kids to four different schools. The budget shortfall remains. The charters see a “charter spring” coming thanks to Cerf and Baraka.

Who would have believed it a year ago?

But Cami Anderson was right.

 

 

6 comments

  1. Adrian DeVore

    Cami Anderson admitted her being right represents complete failure to perform her duites as Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. If she was overly concerned that her One Newark plan was emerging as a colossal disaster. Instead of sending out whining emails to union officials, she could have scrapped this plan and start reverting towards neighborhood schools.

  2. Michael Fiorillo

    Awful and heartbreaking that Mayor Baraka should so easily be duped, misguided or bought off.

    His father must be angrily revolving in his grave.

  3. Public Education Supporter

    Amen. Nobody speaks truth to power like Bob Braun. Alas it is a sad truth that Bob is speaking at the moment and someone or some group has to light a fire under the people of Newark to fight against what is being done.
    P.S. Bob, how about an interview of Jose Leonardo to hear what he has to say about the NSEB?

  4. Bill Wolfe

    Another slam dunk on the Christie – Baraka deal – although I don’t fully agree with how you present the “Cami was right” argument.

    When Cami wrote that email, it was much more likely that she was fighting for her own job than in giving an honest friendly warning to a union official about threats to public schools and unions.

    An essential element of being characterized as “right” on an issue is good faith – correct on an issue for the wrong reason is not being “right” on that issue. This is not nuance or semantics.

  5. Orangeian

    So Cami Anderson knew this and still refused to speak with parents whose children would be most affected? If she really cared, she should have educated the concerned parents about the truth of the machinations going on in Trenton and Newark. It looks like she was only concerned about herself in emailing Mr. Del Grosso. Why did he and she keep this secret? Systems require allegiance to “the system” in order for them to prosper, and those two, who had high positions of not only authority but public obligation, did what powerful cowards do — they played the system game and kept themselves safe. If Cami had met openly and honestly with the parents and students and citizens of Newark, they would have fought for her, too, as an agent of positive change instead of the impotent shill she claimed to be in whining to Mr. Del Grosso. If Mr. Del Grosso had the interests of his teachers and the parents and children in the disadvantaged public schools as priorities in his endeavors, he might have helped them coalesce into an group the planners and prospectors in Trenton could not ignore. Cami was right, yes, but she didn’t care enough to warn the public — she is still liable for what comes next.

  6. Iqway

    Bob

    Any update or news on any of the parents or organizations filing any type of lawsuits to support public education and the rights of children?

    Thanks

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