Christopher Cerf is a liar and a con-man who wants to divide Newark

Our beloved superintendent
Newark’s beloved superintendent

Of all the lies, half-truths, canards and other deceptions the new state boss of Newark schools dumped on the people of Newark at his first public appearance Tuesday, to me, this was the most repugnant: He said that, to comply with seniority rules, he had to lay off some of the most “beloved” teachers who worked for the city.

With those few words, Christopher Cerf, a failed entrepreneur who lives in Montclair, clearly showed just how poisonous he intends to be as the man who finishes the job Gov. Chris Christie set out to do–destroy Newark as a united, cohesive community politically strong enough to play a role in state politics.

First let’s start with this: There is no measure of “belovedness” on any teacher evaluation form I have run across in more than 50 years of writing about education. Who knows which teachers are “beloved” and which are not?

Sure, we all have memories of teachers we loved, but that’s a far cry from the superintendent of schools–a former state education commissioner–declaring with the assuredness of fact that the Newark school district was forced by nasty old union rules to lay off “beloved” teachers.

Cerf admitted he knew very little of Newark and couldn’t get the names of his subordinates right–and yet he pretends he knows, for a fact, that teachers who were “beloved” were laid off while teachers who were not, or were somewhat or even a lot less, beloved, were able to keep their jobs because of seniority rules.

Hey, Cerf–the people of Newark, the employees of Newark, we know what you’re up to. You’re trying to tell the parents and children of the city that the school employees and their unions don’t care about the children, don’t even care about the “beloved” teachers who, mythically, serve the children of the city but had to be fired because of seniority.

This is the kind of vicious pandering to resentment that led to the violent, divisive 61-day strike in Newark nearly 45 years ago when some found it politically advantageous to interpret duty-free lunch periods as a statement of indifference by the union to the children of the city.

Is that what you and Donald Katz and all your pro-charter, Montclair friends want for Newark? Do you want to tear it apart the way it was torn apart in 1970 and 1971?

My guess is you figure the Newark Teachers Union is too weak  to respond–or won’t risk alienating the community again.

If that’s true, you are even more cynical than I took you for–and believe me, Mr. Amplify/Edison Learning/Global Education Advisers/Public Private Partnerships/Pink Hula Hoop/GEMS Education/Sangari Global, I think you are about as cynical as any of the grifters I have encountered in public education the last half-century.

You are a slick con man, my friend, a dealer in educational snake oil–and that was clearly on display when you tried to con the people of Newark into thinking you were no longer the nation’s preeminent champion of privately run charter schools.

You used weasel words to hide the truth–oh, yes, you’re committed to public schools, but you counted charters among those public schools. You said the majority of schools would remain “traditional” public schools–but didn’t mention TEAM Academy is counted as two, not 13, schools because of the sleight of hand you used as commissioner to allow charters to flourish without review. You said you had nothing to do with funding charters–knowing full well that every new charter student, every new charter schools, is money taken away from real public school students–and you and Cami Anderson encouraged the growth of charter schools to the detriment of public schools and their children. You inflated the number of parents who “chose” charter schools by failing to mention they had no choice but to accept charter schools–that’s not choice.

Those were lies.

And you know damn well,  Mr. Cerf, that you wouldn’t know a “beloved” teacher from a ham sandwich–and that seniority is designed to protect Newark employees, many of whom also are Newark parents, from politically-motivated dismissals.

You can fool some people,  but I know many people in Newark have your number.

So cut the lies and leave.

12 comments

  1. Urban Educator

    As one of the less beloved teachers, I have been force placed into a position for which I have no credentials. At least Cerf can cross me off the EWP list.

  2. Public Education Supporter

    It’s playing out exactly as we feared it would…and as much as I like the man and supported him in his campaign for mayor, it’s very, very hard not to feel like Ras Baraka was played.
    What I would like to see is a group like the NYC hedge clippers, made up of Newark students, teachers and parents, go protest outside Cerf’s big house up in Montclair…bring the battle to his doorstep. It’s what he deserves…and I bet Montclair Cares about Schools would join the protest since many people in Montclair know exactly what he’s up to, and maybe a crowd outside his “Estates Section” house would educate those who don’t about Cerf’s despicable actions in Newark.

  3. Leslie

    Time for Newark parents to get out and rally to get rid of this system of closing neighborhood schools in favor of schools that just want to get rid of teachers in the union. They also want to get rid of senior teachers who are making more money based on there many of years in the schools, to hire new teachers at charter schools who don’t have experience and union option, and get paid far less.
    It’s time for the parents to take back there schools from these liars.!!!
    There is no evidence that these schools are doing better by our children and if the money was kept in the community schools instead of closing them they would do well.!!

  4. Mr. Outside

    This commentary is addressed to the previous comment or and anyone else reading.

    None of you will do anything. You will quietly protest on this site, in your breakrooms at the schools, or during your prep, but you will do nothing.

    You will do nothing when they place you outside your certification. You will not do much when they levy tenure charges against you except retire, or hope the union will take care of it. But you yourselves will do nothing.

    You have become sedentary and I don’t understand how you justify allowing a handful of failed business people, and grad students with ZERO experience dictate the terms of your employment. It is inconceivable.

    You let students draw a more radical line in the sand than you and your unions could. You let children lay seige to a bureaucratic despot before you yourselves simply said in unison, “Enough is enough.”

    When will enough be enough for you? For your students? I understand, pensions, health benefits, retirement, and your regular income is all on the line. For you so called “beloved” teachers who have so much more of those things at stake, why the hell do you not fight back and fight like hell?

    They’re doing to Chris Cerf’s former employer Amplify what they’re trying to do to Newark Public Schools. Sell it off. But unlike you all, he didn’t stick around for the fire sale. WHY THE HELL ARE YOU?

    Look, the Newark school district is for sale, whether you want to believe it or not. If you are employed by the district, that makes you an asset, which makes you part of the district. By association, that makes all of us for sale. But buyers want a working system with working people; not a kit they have to staff themselves from scratch; not a husk of an organization where the infrastructure, the people, the assets are in strike. It’s not attractive to prospective buyers.

    School starts this week. You want things to go like they’ve been going? Do nothing. You want to protect everything you’ve worked for? DO NOTHING your way.

    • Urban Educator

      Mr. Outside,

      We are not assets. We are liabilities.

      Bob Braun: I can’t speak for Mr. Outside, but I would say the men and women who work for the NPS are treated, not as human beings, but as economic units, like widget-making machines in a widget factory. You are therefore replaceable and interchangeable and so subject to policies designed to save money by buying the cheapest available economic units as widget-making machines. An experienced, professionally-trained teacher with graduate degrees and multiple certifications and participation in health care and pension plans will cost the district, say, X. She will be considered an increasing cost into the future as her existence increases costs to the pension system (unfortunately for the likes of Cerf and others, laws still prevent the elimination of these economic units through termination with extreme prejudice). It makes far more economic sense to reduce, to the extent possible under the law (until the laws can be changed) the costs of these economic units by hiring as many newly-trained, Teach for America short-termers, who will not cost much initially and will not represent increasing pension costs because they will go on to the financial industry where the restraints on spending are not so salient. Taxpayers still must foot the bill for these economic units but the subsidies are better hidden than property taxes raised to pay for public education. In the end, the cost of the widget-making machine will be X-Y, and the difference will then be available to maximize profits of charter-management organizations and reduce taxes on the very wealthy. Frankly, I agree with Mr. Outside to this extent–pretty soon, there won’t be too much left to lose for the traditionally-trained and employed teacher. The new anti-tenure laws, the palpable frustration and heartbreak, the contempt shown by the main-stream media–all of these will drive them out–and, so, when a strike vote is called, no one will vote for it. Good-bye, public schools. In a nation riven by radical income inequality and racial isolation, a system of education that values human worth is no longer necessary. The public schools will be viewed as a sort of quaint artifact of ancient times, like Socrates teaching in the marketplace.

  5. Urban Educator

    Amen Bob!

    I feel like the wife living in fear of leaving the abusive husband because he is a good provider.

    Bob Braun: I don’t want to like your analogy but it’s apt.

  6. First Hand

    When TeachNJ was passed in August 2012, the tenure law changed for teachers. A teacher must now work four years, in the same district ,before achieving tenure/seniority. The TeachNJ law states:

    “ In order to achieve tenure pursuant to this subsection, a teacher shall also complete a district mentorship program during the initial year of employment and receive a rating of effective or highly effective in two annual summative evaluations within the first three years of employment after the initial year of employment in which the teacher completes the district mentorship program.”

    If a teacher has tenure, but is not rated effective or highly effective for two years in a row, the teacher will automatically be brought up on tenure chargers, per the TeachNJ law. See below:

    “(2) if the employee is rated partially effective in two consecutive annual summative evaluations or is rated ineffective in an annual summative evaluation and the following year is rated partially effective in the annual summative evaluation, the superintendent shall promptly file with the secretary of the board of education a charge of inefficiency, except that the superintendent upon a written finding of exceptional circumstances may defer the filing of tenure charges until after the next annual summative evaluation. If the employee is not rated effective or highly effective on this annual summative evaluation, the superintendent shall promptly file a charge of inefficiency.”

    Mr. Cerf, all teachers want to be “beloved” by their students, but frankly, it takes more than a year, two, even three, or four years for teachers to become “beloved” teachers. It takes a while for the teachers and the families to bond together. Rarely does this happen in the first few years of a person’s teaching career.

    The reality for the teachers in Newark is that the “beloved” teachers are the tenured or teachers with seniority that are leaving in droves either moving to other districts or retiring, because of people like the former superintendent, Ms. Anderson, you as the present superintendent, Mr. Cerf and the governor of New Jersey.

    Here is something that may surprise some of your readers Mr. Braun, and yet, maybe not. The following is directly from the New Jersey State Board of Education Minutes of the Regular Monthly meeting in July 2015.
    “Achieve NJ Educator Evaluation Year One Reflections”
    “Peter Shulman, Chief Talent Officer provided a presentation of the first year of implementation of AchieveNJ, the state’s new educator evaluation and support system. He stated that the analysis of the data shows that novice teachers (those with 0-2 years of experience in a district) were more than twice as likely to earn Partially Effective ratings as experienced teachers. He also stated that experienced teachers were more than twice as likely to earn Highly Effective ratings. He further stated that this early data supports the Department’s recent efforts to improve preparation, induction and support for new teachers across the state.”
    Mr. Cerf, the only thing that is happening to the “beloved” teachers in Newark, is because of the One Newark Plan they are being forced to either sign the Employee Work Agreement (EWA) so they can stay in their current schools. Or they are being forced to go into the Employee Without Placement (EWP) pool and are being moved from their current school, where yes they are “beloved” by their students, to a completely new school.

    The bond that these teachers have created with their students, the families, the community, and even their co-workers has been broken because Mr. Cerf, you are continuing to support The One Newark Plan. The One Newark Plan was designed to destroy public schools in Newark forcing the “beloved” teachers in the neighborhood schools to leave and work in other Newark schools and/or outside of their certification, unless of course they decide to move to another district and/or retire.

    I pride myself as one of those “beloved” teachers. I have been forced to leave my neighborhood school because I refused to sign the EWA. Where are you, Mr. Cerf, in supporting me and the students and families that I have been ripped from working with?

    • Abigail Shure

      Today was my last day in my current school and I feel very sad. I was happy to see many of my former students in the past two days. Some waved. Others stopped to chat. One student hugged me each of the three times I ran into him in the hall. I am heartbroken to leave dear friends and acquaintances whose reparte I enjoyed. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to encounter so many dedicated teachers and para professionals.

  7. FiftyYearsanEducator

    Extensive conversations with the NJ DOE OPRA custodian (NJ version of Freedom of Information FOIA act suggests that in Violation of NJ and Federal Statutes Chris Cerf JD shredded many documents he sent and received while Commissioner of NJDOE! He is a Columbia Law school graduate who knows this forbidden! (Probably criminal!) PS Cerf doesn’t have a NJ Teacher or Principal’s license!

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