Christie and Cami have stolen more than money from Newark

 

Damage control for Christie and Anderson
Damage control for Christie and Anderson

 The reappointment of a failing Cami Anderson to a fifth year as Gov. Chris Christie’s superintendent of Newark’s public schools caused anger, of course. Sadness and disappointment, too. But these are not new. What is now taking over the emotions of the city’s residents and leaders is a pervasive and disorienting sense of bafflement. What Christie and his subordinates and allies have imposed on Newark seems like a logical impossibility, a contradiction: A numbing sense of surprise. It’s as if the city’s residents were forced non-stop to watch an absurd play where impossible nonsense regularly happens but is treated as normal. In the rabbit-hole that is Cami Anderson’s and Chris Christie’s Newark, failure is success, illegal is legal, wrong is right. And the more failure and illegality and wrongheadedness the city’s people witness, the less they can do about it–and the more Anderson is praised and rewarded. It is madness as public policy.

    Imagine, if you will, any other community in the state–or in the nation–where a public school superintendent can boycott her elected school board’s meetings for more than a year and yet suffer no professional consequences.  And is praised and rewarded.

    Imagine, too, a superintendent who, after four years of controversial stewardship aimed at improving measurable performance among students, must admit scores are lower—and yet she suffers no embarrassment. And is praised and rewarded.

   Imagine a public school superintendent who, no fewer than three times over the course of a year, defies the demand of the state legislature’s committee that, by law, is charged with monitoring her performance. And, again, no consequences. Except, she is praised and rewarded.

   Imagine a public official who secretly sells public property to a profit-making company whose principals have personal ties to her. No consequence. Just praise and reward. 

  

All in the family: Alison Avera and Tracy Breslin
All in the family: Alison Avera and Tracy Breslin

Imagine a public official who awards contracts to former associates—without oversight. No consequence. No criticism. Just praise and reward.

  Imagine a public official who insists on trying to fire tenured employees using a legal theory that fails time after time—a dozen times—and yet continues to spend tens of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars in legal fees in the futile cause. And, again, no consequences. Except, praise and reward.

  Imagine a superintendent who hires top assistants who have banned from working in their previous communities because of misbehavior. No consequence. Praise. Reward.

  The list goes on and on.  Special education students have their IEPs rewritten. A child dies after disappearing in the confusion attendant to a chaotic school opening. Is there an uproar? Is there an investigation? No. Cheating takes place on a state test, apparently in a botched effort to help an athlete graduate on time. Anything happen? No. On school time, she stops for a drink while students occupy her office. Result? Nothing. She is praised and rewarded.

   Indeed, this blog is in large measure a catalog of her missteps and mistakes, her failures and misjudgments. And it all has the same result: No result.

  The world many professionals in education have come to expect has been turned upside down. In no place but Newark could a chief school officer behave so badly, fail so miserably, act so indifferently–and be retained and rewarded with new contracts and bonuses.

  A list of Cami Anderson’s failures is only half the story of what has happened to the Newark schools in the last four years. The other half is equally baffling, equally disorienting and the other half is this:

   Not only has no one put an end to the list of mistakes and misjudgments, not only has she suffered no consequences as a result of her failures—but this is more important: Cami Anderson has drawn the praise and protection of people who should know better. Not just people who should know better—but people on whom others rely to protect her victims from her predations.

     This from Christie: “I have always backed Cami Anderson.” His words after introducing her in the middle of the 2014 State of the State speech.

     This from state Education Commissioner David Hespe: “Cami has worked tirelessly to implement positive education reforms that have benefited Newark students and parents. We look forward to continuing to support the progress that has taken place in the district.”

     This just today from the editorial board of The Star-Ledger, the state’s largest newspaper:  “There is plenty to like about the reforms Superintendent Cami Anderson has brought to Newark.”

   

Brenda Keith
Brenda Keith

Each  has a responsibility to prevent harm; each has, instead, denied such harm exists without even trying to determine whether it does exist,  and, in fact, each has contributed to the harm inflicted on the living, flesh-and-blood people of the city by their indifference to suffering.  By their indifference to a child like Brenda Keith. By their indifference to the children wandering around the city in buses. By their indifference to parents struggling with work schedules because they must spend hours getting their children to school.

  And therein lies the bafflement and the disorientation:  It is as if Newark’s residents were terrorized by armed robbers who lined the streets and publicly and openly committed their crimes. Who menaced and stole and yet operated with the collusion of law enforcement officers who stood by and encouraged the criminals.  Encouraged them and praised them and tried to make the victims believe the perpetrators were heroes. Published newspaper articles declaring their crimes to be “bold and sensitive” reforms. Madness as public policy.

  No,  this is not an exaggerated analogy. Christie and Cami and their enablers, the liars who call her failures successes, have stolen much  from the people of Newark and their children. They have stolen more than money.

They have stolen a community’s need to protect its own children. They have stolen pride. They have stolen dignity. They have stolen a sense of efficacy and potency, their ability to impact their own lives. They have stolen the franchise–the very power to vote.

  The elected leaders of the people—their mayor, their school board members, their freeholders, their legislators—cry out and identify the crimes and demand justice, but they are ignored. They are told the criminals are heroes. That Cami Anderson has been a champion for their children.

Mayor Ras Baraka–how powerful did you feel when Christie dismissed you as a “hostile” black man and tells you he is the “decider” who can ignore you and the wishes of those who put you in office?  How much of that contempt and disrespect can you take? How do you feel knowing–as you admitted in answer to my question at  Tuesday’s press conference–that you really don’t have much power?

State Sen. Ronald Rice–how powerful do you feel when Anderson flips you the bird and refuses to show up at your hearings? When she refuses to answer your questions? When she has so much influence with legislative leaders of your own party that you cannot even win subpoena power?

Members of the elected school board–how do you feel knowing she despises you so much she will not appear in public with you? That she treats you as irrelevancies?

Unions and your leaders–what have Christie and Cami done to you? What have they stolen from you? Your power? Your willingness to fight? The courage of your members?

Religious leaders–where did you hide after your first letter? Where now is your concern for the catastrophe you warned might come?

Often, it seems the only people willing to stand up to Christie and Cami, the only people who still can respond with dignity to the insults of this regime,  the only people who are not disoriented by the magic tricks of the chief clown and his assistant, are a few dozen students belonging to the Newark Students Union. They, perhaps, are too young to be hypnotized by the Trenton tricksters.

See–Christie and Cami have not just stolen control of the schools from Newark and its elected leaders. They have stolen what, in every other place, would be the expected order of things. That democratically elected leaders set policy. That professionals listen and follow their guidance. That laws are obeyed, mistakes are corrected, wrongs righted, people, especially elected leaders,  are treated with decency and respect.

Christie and Cami have spit on Newark’s elected leaders and their legitimate concerns. And, forgive me, but I believe it is because you and the people you represent are black and brown and poor. And, because you are black and brown and poor, you are–to them, to Cami and Christie and Hespe–irrelevancies. You appear powerless, unable to do anything. Irrelevant, certainly to the governor and the school superintendent and the commissioner.

Writing letters hasn’t worked. Issuing press releases hasn’t worked. Going to court hasn’t worked. Calling press conferences hasn’t worked. The indifference of Christie and Cami to common expectations of civilized behavior and professional conduct have turned the world upside down. What once worked in Newark, what works elsewhere for other people in other places, doesn’t work in Newark any longer.

Sen. Rice said something at the press conference that should make everyone pause and think. He said the climate now was like it was in 1967.

That year, the world was turned upside down, too.

 

14 comments

  1. Urban Teacher

    I am white. I am old. I remember 1967 clearly. My career has been irrevocably damaged by Anderson and her minions. I used to be a well respected teacher. Now I am forced to bow my head to those who know less than I. I suffer daily humiliation and harrasment. The circle of influence encompasses the entire Newark Public Schools community.

  2. myra

    I said it before and say again that only a full scale boycott will turn this tide. The people you talk about know that economics and a lack of focus keep the parents and even teachers from taking drastic action. Thats why they keep charging ahead.

  3. BC

    There must be something else going on behind closed doors, if you follow. It’s the one and only thing I can think of that would allow christie to reward this kind of obvious and blatant incompetence. I can’t think of one other plausible explanation. Can you?

    • Urban Teacher

      BC,
      Christie’s goal is to destroy public education in Newark. Anderson is advancing his agenda nicely. It is out in the open. No closed door machinations are necessary.

  4. DeeplyConcerned

    Beautifully stated. This isn’t how a democracy is supposed to work. With the help of the local press — that often acts like a state-run media — and the Democratic political bosses — who willingly sold their souls to a sociopathic demagogue — Team Christie is an occupying force that’s accountable to no one.

  5. P. Grunther

    Reply to BC. I can think of a dozen things going on that keep Christie supporting Anderson and the doors are pretty wide open if you know where to look. Just for starters: the people that Anderson plays footsie with are wealthy hedge-fund managers and the like who invest heavily in political campaigns…just look over the river to NY where Cuomo is doing the exact same thing, i.e. pandering to the people who are profiting from education, whether it be Pearson’s, self-same hedge-fund managers or people like Campbell Brown. Second, Christie has bragged to right-wing donors for years that he can and will bust the unions and it’s not hard to see how Anderson is helping him on that count. And finally (not because I’ve run out of explanations but because I don’t want this post to be too long), if you weigh the above considerations against whether Christie will actually take any flak from those whose opinions he cares about (which leaves out all the people who Bob discusses in his post, e.g. people of color, students, truth-telling journalists, left-leaning local politicians, etc.), you quickly see that his actions will only earn him praise and more campaign support and dollars. The question unfortunately is not WHY Christie supports Anderson’s incompetence and criminal actions, it’s only HOW can they be stopped. Let’s see what Rice’s delegation to D.C. accomplishes and though I admire him for what he’s doing, I have serious doubts that he’s going to see any serious action as a result of his protest. Hope I’m wrong!!

  6. Christine

    Hi Bob.
    Thought you might be interested to know that Shavar Jeffries has come to Montclair NJ in the guise of a Rhee-esque organization called Montclair Kids First.
    http://www.montclairkidsfirst.org/about-us.html
    Montclair has been organizing hard against reform. Montclair Cares about Schools has inspired the creation of 36 Cares About Groups throughout the state. MCAS supported Baraka. The Broadie Superintendent Cami Anderson has just resigned, leaving the budget in a shambles, and student Refusals of the PARCC are on the rise. MCAS put together a Refuse the PARCC video (totally grassroots, no funding or backing) that is making the rounds https://vimeo.com/120619448. And here’s an interesting note, last week, Newark Teachers ran a paid ad reprinting your Pink Hula Hoop Part 1 in the Montclair Times–which shows the links between certain Montclair residents and Team Academy Charters. MCAS is posting on Facebook.

  7. basia0917

    Christine I think you meant Broadie Superintendent Penny MacCormack. She accomplished everything she set out to do: disruption and disaster.

  8. Brick City Eile

    Bob you are so right in your analysis of the plight of the citizens of Newark. They are treated like a “Third World” country where outsiders come in and undermine the native democratically elected government and population and impose their will. U.S. foreign policy over the years has been based on this very model. Demonize, invade, take over another country, undermine their government and people’s wishes and impose your political and economic agenda as you please. In the process they destroy the lives of millions of people who end up powerless. They have been doing it under the ideas of neoconservatism a new form of imperialist philosophy with devastating results for many countries around the world. Now it seems that in this country both political parties under the direction of their plutocratic masters have turned to similar tactics domestically but under the ideas of economic neoliberalism that seeks to privatize government services, deregulate banks and businesses, destroy unions, reform education based on a corporate model, and all in order to undermine the power of the many and usurp it with the power of the few. Democracy is under attack in this country. Schools are at the very front of this attack. Those who control education, control the political and economic agenda of the future. I used to live in Newark and worked for the NPS from 2002-2012. I currently live out of state and have noticed that the plight of the people of Newark is hardly ever reported on local and national media. I called the Utrice Leid radio show ( The Leid Report ) on the Progressive Radio Network on 10/30/14 to talk about the plight of the Newark schools. She is well aware of what is going on and we both agreed that Newark is heading in the direction of cities like New Orleans and Detroit. She calls it “a reimagining of the cities philosophy” which is a movement set up to purge cities of undesirable people, in order to replace them with so called desirable people. Bob keep up the good work, because with out your reports not many of us would be aware of what goes on in the Newark School system.

  9. Mr. Outside

    BC,

    Your innuendo is unfounded.We don’t see Christie in our offices. Ever. Secondly, the only men she spends time alone with are fit-looking, leading man type, golden-age of jazz styled black men. Whether it [was] Corey Booker, her partner, or her driver.

    It’s an interesting pattern, coincidence, I think. But nothing scintillating or scandalous. I assure you.

    But as for why he keeps her? No one else is dumb enough to take the job working for him as his political career teeters, and no one wants to hire her after seeing how she does in the national spotlight.

  10. Catherine Lugg

    This is what you see when a government dissolves into a kleptocracy. It’s all about the looting, period. Clearly, the grand imperial overseers (!) of the Newark Public Schools are all about stealing as much as they can from all forms of revenue, including physical plants, labor, and real money.

    In any other state, the entire state populace would be up in arms, because “if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.” But in NJ, the voters just look and shrug their shoulders.

    Christie and his pals wouldn’t be able to loot with impunity if the voters actually gave a damn. Clearly, they don’t, which is how kleptocracies gain traction and thrive.

    Over time, NJ is going to increasingly look like Mississippi on a bad day. Horribly segregated, with oligarchs and kleptocrats running most levels of governance.

    Unless the thieves are arrested, tried and convicted, things will only worsen.

  11. Jack Rodgers

    great job Bob, as usual……It’s simple,as usual…follow the money….Christie should be in jail for what he has done to new Jersey and yes,Newark.Cami should go with him.

  12. Bill Wolfe

    Bob – this is superb work, and my apologies for being so late in getting to read it, I’ve been distracted by Christie’s Exxon deal.

    I’ve documented the same pattern of incompetence, failure, and no accountability for Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.

    It is really discouraging, but we have no choice but to speak the truth as we know it and fight for what’s right.

    And by those standards, you and your readers and lots of people in Newark are doing a hell of a good job!!

  13. Victor Saraiva

    Just discovered this blog, it is indeed a great honorable effort by Bob Braun, whose columns, while at the Ledger, I always read. Nice to consider that what he writes here he does from the heart and soul without having to worry about an editor’s pen.

    I have been a city resident for nearly 50 years; attended the public schools and Rutgers Newark; experienced busing; the chaos of the riots; the promise and rhetoric of Johnson’s Great Society as it trickled down to Newark; but mostly what stands out in my mind IS THE CORRUPTION ENDEMIC IN THIS CITY, COUNTY AND STATE.

    People who are robbed of a proper education become ignorant adults, and are thus easily controlled. Sadly a case can be made that what is occurring in Newark’s public schools may be a controlled experiment that if successful will become a national model to be implemented soon.

    Thank you for your dedication Mr. Braun.

    Bob Braun: Thank you for your kind words and welcome to my blog.

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