Charters closed, public schools open in snow emergency: Does the state care about Newark’s children?

Newark when the decision was made to keep schools open--but only publics, not charters. Courtesy of Alturrick Kenney.
Newark when the decision was made to keep schools open–but only publics, not charters. Courtesy of Alturrick Kenney.

Newark public schools are open today despite some 12 inches of snow in some parts of the city. The city’s charter schools—whose leaders insist are just as public as conventional public schools—were closed. Apparently the safety of charter school children and teachers is more dear to the hearts of Newark’s school leaders than is the welfare of  conventional public school children and employees.

Essex County—Newark is the county seat—is under a state of emergency.  Every other school district in the county is closed.  Every school district in neighboring Union County is closed.

Every district bordering Newark—Elizabeth, Hillside, Irvington, East Orange, South Orange-Maplewood, Belleville, and Bloomfield—is closed.

The Montclair schools, where state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf really lives, are closed. The Montgomery schools, where Cerf says he lives, are closed. The Delbarton School, where the governor sends his children, is closed.

It makes sense to close schools during a snow emergency. Children could get hurt. Could it be the state administration of the Newark schools doesn’t care about the city’s children?

There is a context for all of this. Contexts, actually.  Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent of  of the Newark public schools, is at war with the people of Newark.

Just one week ago today, four Newark princpals appeared at a rally in a church and spoke up on behalf of the fears of Newark residents about a plan to close or transfer to charters or otherwise “repurpose” about a third of the city’s public schools.

Within 48 hours, Anderson  suspended those four principals indefinitely. They were ordered downtown, their keys were taken away and their emails were blocked.  Their names are H. Grady James, Deneen Washington, Dorothy Handfield, and Tony Motley.

Just as the snow began to fall Tuesday, Jan. 21, “investigators” from Anderson’s office were dispatched to the schools these principals led to interrogate teachers and parents. The tone of the questions made it obvious what would happen to these principals—they would be accused of fomenting opposition to the Anderson’s ill-conceived plan to close public schools and boost charter schools, called, ironically, “One Newark.”

No investigation, this. This is a witch-hunt. Welcome to Salem on the Passaic.

On that same Wednesday last week, Daryn Martin, the president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at the Ivy Hill School arrived at the school to find two highly-paid school administrators from Central Office tearing down notices he had put up announcing a PTO meeting.

He tried to stop them. Martin, who has two children in the school, was banned from ever setting foot  in the school or any school property. The school principal, Lisa Brown, was suspended for allowing Martin to post the PTO notices—although the notices had always been permitted before. This time, however, the PTO members wanted to talk about “One Newark.”

Talking about “One Newark”—unless you support it—is dangerous in the city of Newark.

But not so dangerous  as sending children to school in a snow emergency.

While this was happening last week, a Newark central office employee named Jacqueline Bostic—once active herself in the Vailsburg schools as parent—was getting upset about what was happening to her school district.

She went to use the ladies’ room and got on her cell phone.  She said something that was apparently taken to be critical of “One Newark.” She, too, was suspended by Anderson.

Will crime go down today?
Will crime go down today?

But there is more context to this. Last November, in a fit of pique against Newark teachers who attended the New Jersey Education Association, Anderson sent out a letter to city parents about why she had to close the schools at the last minute because she hadn’t planned for so many teachers to be absent—despite a state law requiring schools to allow teachers to attend without penalty.

In that letter, she warned crime would go up because Newark’s children would be in the streets. It was a racist letter and she apparently recognized that because she tried to withdraw it. For thousands of children, parents, and teachers who saw the original letter, it was too late. The first version—she called it a “draft” despite her signature on it—was sent out.

So, maybe, she kept the schools open today to keep crime down in Newark.

There is more context. Anderson and her boss in Trenton, Gov. Chris Christie, are great fans of charter schools. They are doing everything they can to help the charter schools while they neglect the conventional public schools. Money for new construction for charter schools easily goes through the state Economic Development Authority, while money for Newark public school repairs is delayed by the state School Development Authority. The charter schools are allowed to exclude special education students, English language learners, and other needy students; regular public schools can’t.  Charter schools somehow manage to let problem students go—but not until after they receive public money for them.

And, now, charter school children and their teachers can stay home during a snow emergency,  but regular public school children and their teachers cannot. Making the charters even more popular.

As my friend and long-time school observer, Rob Broderick notes, “This is being done to drive down attendance numbers in the regular Newark public schools.  Thus, the Notabully gang can use the lower attendance figures to “prove” that kids there don’t think they’re getting a good education and should go to charter schools instead.  Disgusting but unsurprising.”

And, of course, it put many teachers who also are parents of school-aged children in a terrible bind if they don’t live in Newark. Either they can stay home with their own kids and be penalized at work–or come in, only to discover that parents of their schoolchildren kept their kids home to be safe. (Thanks, Nan-Cee).

So far, it looks as if Newark schools had about 10-12 percent attendance. Newark–and state–taxpayers paid a lot of money to heat and light empty schools. But it looks as if the parents of Newark’s children had more sense than did Cami Anderson.

I know the mainstream media doesn’t want to touch much of this story. The newspaper I once worked for keeps calling Anderson’s plans “bold and sensible” –the words also used by Christie and Cory Booker. I guess Anderson thinks that, as long as she owns the heart of The Star-Ledger, no one else will see what is happening.

But, you know, guys,  it is not bold and sensible to endanger children during a snow emergency.

  1. This is being done to drive down attendance numbers in the regular Newark public schools. Thus, the Notabully gang can use the lower attendance figures to “prove” that kids there don’t think they’re getting a good education and should go to charter schools instead. Disgusting but unsurprising.

    Bob Braun: Great insight. Going to steal it for blog and FB post. With credit, of course.

  2. Outrageous…how much evidence do the people of this state, indeed this nation, need before they rise up and shout, ENOUGH!
    The children of the City of Newark have been damaged educationally, emotionally, now their very lives are being put in danger. My God, when will this end…

  3. Cami,the Canary can only speak a few words,Charter,Charter,close em close em public,my bonus,my bonus,and where is my chauffeur ?This disgusting administration is more then incompetent they are dangerous.I almost,almost wish Beverly Hall and Leo were back.God Help Me.Gotta go Cami need another cracker.

  4. Same kinds of things have happened in Detroit. The more peopleealiz exactly what’s happening, the more likely they will be to fight back. This is so obvious and outrageous!

  5. Christie,Cerf,Cami..The triple c flu,get the vaccine .Kick them out.

  6. […] traditional schools – 10 a.m. delayed opening Newark charter schools – closed (blogger Bob Braun reported) North Caldwell – closed Nutley – closed Orange – closed Roseland – closed […]

  7. Why did central office staff have to come in after kids? Yep they had to be in by 11:00 am.

    I kept my kids home because the roads were not ready. The kids that were walking had to walk on the street. How dangerous! But I gues that’s what we get for opposing the dictator and the one stop initiative. Seems to me like payback for speaking up!

  8. Something is very wrong with this picture, can you see the blatant disregard for the needs of the most precious commodity in the city of Newark; the STUDENTS! Look at the isolation and animosity that’s being perpetuated in our district and your faces at Christie’s, Cerf’s and Anderson’s discretion…what is it going to take before we are “sick of tired of being sick and tired”?

  9. We live only 2 houses from my son’s school. It was a sheet of ice to get to the school. Theres no way in heck I was going to walk him to there today. I am looking into home school, Newark has no programs for high functioning autistic children. Cami Anderson thinks these kids should go to school in 12 inches of snow and ice. Not my kid. Shes a git

  10. So maybe it is time we are done being sick and tired and we say we are not going to take it anymore. Lets declare our own snow day and keep everyone home. Or some kind of protest in earnest that forces the issues that Cami is hiding from. How about we get every single principal to speak out – will she suspend them all? Ideas?

    Bob Braun: From what I hear, there are many principals trying very hard to stay on Cami’s good side so that their careers do not suffer. Someone likened meetings with her to State of the Union addresses when Congressional sycophants from the party in power rush to shake the hand of the president. People are frightened in the Republic of Fear.

    1. Better to die on your feet then to live on your knees.We will remove her from her office,using all the means necessary to save our schools.If we must be jailed so be it,we are living in a prison with guards,spies,rats and still manage to give our all. The end is at hand,stay strong we are almost home.

  11. I work in one of “THOSE” public schools… of my 16 students, 2 showed… Another came in after I took attendance & call went home… We consolidated classes & my admin sent me 2 more kids. We have 600+
    kids… about 150 came today!

  12. I’m not sure exactly what the point of this article is, but as Charter schools are somewhat independent from NPS, they independently made the decision to close.

    Are you saying that the Superintendent purposely allowed schools to remain opened, knowing that it would be difficult for children to get to school to lower attendance?

    Bob Braun: Yes, that is what I am saying. Can you refute it? Can you provide another explanation that makes sense?

    1. Today miss Cami scheduled hearings to try and get teachers to rat out the 5 suspended principals.. the teachers were told in advance selected by her.She said the hearings must,must happen to matter what.So school was open while Essex county had a State of Emergency.No other school system was open.We house the largest population of special ed students, it was almost a disaster. Cami is leaving,very soon.

    2. How are Charter schools private when they are funded with public dollars? Are they also segregated? I am sure that it is unconstitutional to turn away children based on disability.
      …its a 21st century -ism…can we coin it…”disabilitism”???
      Bob Braun: No, let’s just call it bigotry.

    3. I don’t think this closure issues is about attendance data or safety of kids.

      It’s about power and control.

      When the “administration” (“we”) says schools are open when they obviously should be closed, that is designed to send a message to the kids, parents and faculty the “we” are in control and “we” can fk with you. (so don’t fk with us!)

  13. I HAD 2 children in my class today… What a shame.

  14. Can a grassroots movement stop the 3Cs (Christie, Cerf, Cami) Express??!! Debates won’t stop it…rhetoric will fuel it…administrators and teachers are blamed for it. Let’s do what we have to do … take it to the street. Broad Street between Cedar Street and City Hall. Imagine students, parents, residents, relatives, and other citizens from Newark and neighboring towns convening in downtown Newark on the same day at the same time. A mass student walk-out. Taxpayers demanding that the Newark school district be released from the state and returned to Newark control. Stop the 3Cs Express Train! We care about our schools, our children, and their education. Period. No discussion of issues. No negotiations of terms. No explanations of options. Just do it! Next stop … Broad and Market!

  15. I have custody through the state of my five younger cousins. I refused to send them to school yesterday because I was concerned for their safety. Their bus drivers called me and asked if I was going to send them to school or keep them home. My street was not plowed, the sidewalks looked untouched. So, if my area looked like that, I could only imagine how other areas looked.

    I agree with the writer above who wrote of a grassroots movement to stop the 3Cs. I agree, such a movement could be effective; however, much more is needed above and beyond rallies and walkouts. Court action needs to be taken on behalf of the families affected by all the issues brought out in this article and the continuous failure of the schools under state mandate to meet the needs of our children. Return the decision making power back over to the city. Also, it’s time to recall Christie and his bullying administration. People, it’s time to take a stand!!!

    Bob Braun: Thank you for this thoughtful note.

  16. Hello Bob,

    I am on record to speak at the advisory board meeting Tuesday. I am speaking as an Advocate for public schools. I came back to Newark because I wanted to teach in the public schools. I know this one thing…parents must come out, stand up, walk forward and take back their community schools. I say Help is needed. The state is dismantling our communities.

  17. Teachers and students in schools were expected at work at 10:00 am on Wednesday. Employees in the Central office, where Cami and her cohort work, were told they needed to be in no later than 11:00 am. And they have subsidized underground parking, unlike most of the schools.


  18. I don’t think this closure issues is about attendance data or safety of kids.

    It’s about power and control.

    When the “administration” (“we”) says schools are open when they obviously should be closed, that is designed to send a message to the kids, parents and faculty the “we” are in control and “we” can fk with you. (so don’t fk with us!)

  19. […] a super snowy day in January, Cami Anderson played a not-fun game of “charter-kids-stay-home, public-school-kids-bundle-up and get to school!” […]

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