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.