Cerf was too high a price to pay for getting rid of Cami Anderson

Just say no to Christopher Cerf
Just say no to Christopher Cerf

The resignation of Cami Anderson as state-appointed Newark superintendent followed weeks of negotiations among and between top officials of the Christie Administration, the office of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and members of the state school board. The almost unbelievable designation of Christopher Cerf–a friend and neighbor and former business partner of the man who runs TEAM Academy charter schools in Newark– as Anderson’s successor is the price Baraka and other city officials may have paid for what they consider a far more important prize, the return of home rule to Newark after 20 years of state control. The people of Newark may find it too high a price.

Don’t underestimate just how high that price will be. Cerf, the former state education commissioner, is a far sleazier political character than Anderson–as difficult as that might be to believe. Groups linked to him and former Mayor–now US Sen.– Cory Booker got millions from the money given by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

He is far more dedicated to the unbridled expansion of charter schools than Anderson was–and he is far closer, financially and politically, to the hedge fund managers promoting privatization than Anderson was. While he worked in New York, he closed 90 neighborhood schools and opened 100 charters.

Indeed, he flew down this weekend to New Orleans to participate in the Natinal Alliance of Charter Schools convention.

Cerf is a dangerous man to those who want to protect public schools.

As a private consultant with Global Education Advisors, he brought what later became known as the “One Newark” enrollment plan–with its own expansion of charters–to Newark before Anderson got to Newark. When he left as state education commissioner, he went to Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify, a company that had contracts, not just with Newark, but with other New Jersey districts. The company was run by former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, the godfather of charter schools in that city.

Cerf claimed, of course, he had nothing to do with Amplify getting those contracts–and he claimed his getting a job with Amplify had nothing to do with those contracts, including one for $2.3 million in Newark.

Sure. And we all believe Chris Christie had nothing to do with Bridgegate, too, right?

Cerf also claimed he recused himself from signing off on Anderson’s sale of the 18th Avenue School, publicly-owned property–to the infamous “Pink Hula Hoop” collection of charter-related corporations. Cerf and the people behind TEAM Academy were close associates in New York–Cerf and Tim Carden were business partners.

This is what I wrote about Cerf’s connection to “Pink Hula Hoop” and Carden and the rest:

“The members of Pink Hula Hoop—the partners—are listed in one document as Timothy Carden, Hannah Richman and Dan Adan.  Carden, his wife Amy Rosen, and Cerf were all once partners in the Public Private Strategy Group (PPSG) which, among other things, helped New York City’s school privatization efforts. Carden  is also chairman of the board of Friends of Team Academy Charter Schools, the fund-raising arm of the charter school. Cerf, before he became commissioner, also was a member of the charter school’s trustee board. Now, he says, he recuses himself from any decision involving the school. Including, one wonders,  any decision that generally helps charters, including Team Academy? Right.”

Critics of Cami Anderson are jubilant that she left. She was disrespectful, even racist, in her attitudes toward the people of the city–refusing to come to public board meetings and lying about why. First, she said she was troubled about references to her family. Then she blamed Baraka’s campaign. The real reason was her absolute contempt for the people she claimed she was trying to help.

My former colleague at The Star-Ledger, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Richard Aregood, refers to Cerf, Anderson, Carden, and the rest as “grifters.” I agree with him but I’m also sure he would agree with me that Cerf is a far more experienced and accomplished grifter than Anderson. Hell, he said he moved to Somerset County to get Senate confirmation when everyone knew he was living, as he still does, in Montclair. A neighbor to Tim Carden.

Here’s the problem:  The most significant sentence in the Christie’s administration’s announcement of Anderson’s resignation as Newark superintendent has nothing to do with her or her replacement, Christopher Cerf. It’s this:

“Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka plan to issue a more detailed statement in the coming days on this leadership transition to establish a common vision and path forward for the future of the Newark Public School District.”

Sources within the school district say this means Christie and Baraka will announce a pathway toward local control. Indeed, in his own statement today, the mayor said:

“The resignation of Superintendent Anderson is the first of many steps needed to regain local control of Newark Public Schools. Our ultimate objective is local control of our schools and we will continue to work diligently and fervently towards this end. This is an opportunity for transition and we want to be able to return control to parents to make decisions affecting their children’s education.”

An opportunity for transition? Maybe. Those who were aware of the negotiations that led to Anderson’s resignation say they were happy because Christie is moving toward restoring local control. Indeed, to me,  that was the most shocking aspect of the deal–even more surprising than Cerf’s reinstatement. Don’t forget, just a few weeks ago, he mocked students demanding local control and said he had not changed his opinion about the issue.

Think of the logic here: Does anyone believe Christie has seen the light? Ok, and if he did–if he were knocked from his horse like Saul  on the road to Damascus–would he appoint as his commissioner Christopher Cerf, the patron saint of charter schools and the godfather of TEAM Academy?

And, don’t forget, the earlier reports had Cerf coming in as an interim. But the statement put out by state Education Commissioner Monday David Hespe said nothing about his interim status. What it said was this:

“Mr. Cerf will be recommended for a three-year contract consistent with initial contracts in other state-operated districts including most recently Camden.”

A three-year contract is not an interim contract. It’s the maximum a superintendent can receive.

I don’t buy it.

Frankly, bad as she was, I’d rather see Cami Anderson running the Newark schools than Christopher Cerf. See the judgment of my friend and colleague Mark Weber  (Jersey Jazzman) on just what sort of man Cerf is at http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2015/06/cerfs-up-in-newark-and-that-means-more.html

I don’t doubt Ras Baraka’s good intentions. He has been consistent in his opposition to Anderson and his support for a return to local control. Baraka also, however, has been careful to support charter schools.

I don’t want to see a plan for a return to local control that sees a further destruction of neighborhood schools in favor of charter schools run by the friends of Christopher Cerf. That price for getting rid of Cami Anderson would be far too high.



  1. The return to local control rhetoric is hogwash. A three year appointment is not interim. It is of the same duration as the teacher union contract that is expiring as I write. Cerf will advance the charter takeover of Newark Public Schools by leaps and bounds. He is a skilled politician whose past ethical indiscretions are too numerous to list here. It is a sorry day for the Newark community.

  2. Anderson is a casualty in the war against public education. But her departure doesn’t mean the defenders of public education have won. As you state, Cerf is a smoother operator than Anderson but no more than ally of Newark than she was.

  3. Don’t worry about Cami. She did Christie’s bidding and will move on to a bigger and better appointment and position as a reward. Newark was always just a stepping stone.

  4. Will Cerf do a flip flop on the Common Core as Christie has done? This is a silly question, but why would you hire the man who selected Cami Anderson in the first place and Anderson has proven to be an incompetent disaster. Hespe praises Anderson as he pushes her out the door; if she were as great as he says, why would you shed her from the superintendent’s position? The reformers and their lackeys have absolutely no shame.
    Kudos to Bob Braun for breaking this story.

  5. Bob!
    Thanks for an awesome job you are doing around NJ. God bless! I look forward daily to your master piece. I have stopped buying SL . Did Star Ledger ever carried the news of the fall of their goddess?

    For Cerf, is a

  6. Bob, you are so right that Cerf is much more of a threat to public education than Cami was. I was not happy that Cami was leaving when I saw who her replacement was. It truly scared me and still does.

  7. Bob: Who would you suggest for superintendent for Newark?

    Bob Braun: I would ask Marion Bolden to come back as interim while the district did a search. I am sure there are many people out there–in and around Newark as well as elsewhere who could do the job. I have one or two names I would be more than happy to give out if such a search ever starts. Right now, I’m not sure of what’s happening.

  8. Local control of a Charter dominated, privatized, segregated, and hollowed out public school system is a Pyrrhic victory.

    I hope Baraka is more savvy than to get played in that kind of deal.

    Bob Braun: You are exactly right.

  9. No politician can come out against Charter schools so long as they look better than public ones. Witness the outrage in response to Assemblywoman Mila Jasey’s proposal to halt further Charter school development for 3 years.
    Until we do a better job of explaining how Charter schools prey on poor people like private prison cos and Walmart, we’re screwed.
    Someone has to make it a political issue that parents understand.

  10. In corporate America Cerf is known as the pit boss; he is much worst! And a wolf in sheep clothing! This gets awful at every step! NO WORDS Bob! Very upsetting; the struggle will only get worse!

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