Did Cerf help generate Newark schools business for the company that hired him?

A product from Cerf's new employer
A product from Cerf’s new employer

This is a brief memo to the United States Attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman.  Mr. Fishman: I am pleased you are finally looking into the behavior of members of the administration of Chris Christie,  the governor of the State of New Jersey and your predecessor as United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey.  Your inquiry is, from press reports, limited to the circumstances involving the closing of lanes leading to an interstate crossing, the George Washington Bridge, a possible attempted shakedown of the mayor of Hoboken, and the misspending of federal storm relief aid made available to victims of Superstorm Sandy but apparently used for campaign ads for the governor. I hope you also will look into the Christie Administration’s involvement in spending on schools.

I must confess I don’t have all the details yet—unlike you, I can’t employ the FBI to do research for me—but it is clear there may be violations of law arising out of the use of state and federal funds to buy materials from a company that had a relationship with the Christie Administration’s education commissioner, Christopher Cerf.

Just yesterday,  Cerf announced he was leaving to take a job with a company called “Amplify.” It is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch—you may remember Murdoch from the international scandals involving the hacking of voice mails.

The education commissioner directly supervises the operation of several school districts, including Newark. The elected school board there has been stripped of its power and, under statute, all  powers once vested in a local school board are now vested in the state-appointed superintendent of schools, a position now held by a woman named Cami Anderson.

Sometime within the last year or so, at a date unknown to me,  Anderson entered into a contract with Amplify to purchase educational materials. I do not know the amount of the contract but I have been assured by members of the school district staff that it runs into the millions of dollars.

I know specifically many schools in the district use a language arts program, published by Amplify. There may be other programs purchased by the state-operated district. Amplify products also are used in Jersey City, another state takeover district. Here is an excerpt from the minutes of the last Jersey City school board meeting:

“Mr. Bing provided update on the district’s Amplify Pilot. Amplify is an independent subsidiary of News Corporation, and is built on the foundation of Wireless Generation, the pioneer that brought mobile assessments and instructional analytics to schools across America. To date, Amplify has supported more than 200,000 educators and 3 million students in all 50 states as they begin their digital transition. The district has decided to lease the tablet packages, which are aligned to the Common Core State
Standards and are compliant with the PARCC assessment. Students get a high quality, 10-inch Android tablet that connects to available Wi-Fi networks and uses data filtering software to always ensure safe, secure access and age appropriate learning in school or at home. Infinity School was selected and 2 classes each will receive 25 tablets. The program will be expanding in the upcoming months with PS#38 participating in the
project. Amplify will provide high quality training, project management and customer support.”

You may remember the term “Wireless Generation” from a previous mess-up by the state education department.

This creates at least a grounds for inquiry as to whether Cerf, while in public employment, used his influence to generate business in Newark for a company that he knew was about to hire him.

It’s at least worth a few FBI interviews, isn’t it?

12 comments

  1. Source1

    Bob,
    The title of your article is written as a question. Can the answer to that question be anything but “yes?” Of course not.

    The answer is yes, yes, YES….

  2. Tamob

    Senator Rice and Assemblywoman Jasey are holding hearings next Tuesday, February 18th, at Newark City Hall from 7:00 – 9:00 PM on the Newark One plan. If you want to speak at the hearing contact these two representatives. There will be a Q&A a couple of weeks later. It’s an opportunity to have your voice heard to legislators who are trying to push for change in education and returning control back to the community.

  3. NPS teacher

    “Amplify Insight, the division of Amplify that Cerf will lead, specializes in technology- driven assessment tools. State officials yesterday said the state has no standing or pending contracts with any Amplify divisions, nor does it appear to have any business in the four state-run districts of Newark, Jersey City, Paterson and Camden.” How can they say this? Isn’t the Core Knowledge Language Arts Curriculum from Amplify???

  4. Kay White Slattery

    You go, Bob and keep going! I love you and what you do!!!

    Bob Braun: And you know I love you and all the Slatterys!

  5. P. Grunther

    It’s called “conflict of interest” and it is exactly this type of misconduct that Cerf was accused of when he worked for Klein (surprise, surprise, the person with whom he’ll be working at Amplify). There is no doubt whatsoever that Cerf has been implementing public policy designed to channel money towards his private enterprises and all at the expense of public schools and our children. This is not a new game but it is disgusting and absolutely needs to be investigated. Let’s hope that these Democrats who caved in so shamelessly to Christie when he was riding high will now pluck up the “courage” to do their job right.
    And one last thing: please someone out there squash the rumor that I heard at a meeting today with my local teacher’s union, i.e. that everyone in Trenton is saying that Christie will be replacing Cerf with Cami Anderson?! Can this possibly be true? Is the man insane?

  6. Galton

    Larrie Reynolds, and now Cami Anderson: it figures. Any NJ School Superintendent doing business with Amplify will self identify themselves incompetent and corrupt!

  7. alm

    Lots of *schools* use the Core Knowledge Language Arts curriculum – so it’s no surprise that some NPS schools are as well. What you are suggesting is a serious crime, and you have no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever. It’s irresponsible to make those allegations, or to insinuate to that effect, minus any evidence.

    Bob Braun: Oh, please. Just the failure of Cerf’s memory reeks to high heaven. I suggested an FBI inquiry because he is involved in a revolving door–working with NYC consultants, coming to NJ as a consultant, keeping ties with Global Education and Sangari, becoming a public official, and then going back to Murdoch’s shop. If you don’t see a problem here, then you’re not paying attention.

  8. Ron Wolfe

    I think it’s certainly worth investigating. The guys at the top and one-layer down in Amplify are getting rich off of the backs of their underpaid sales staff and the public taxpayer. A story with even bigger implications is the bent for school privatization that these folks have. Klein brought Rachel Wolfe – SVP for Amplify and former New Schools Network Director – on board in 2012. Now, he brings Chris Cerf on board. Tie this in to the Broad connection (Pete Gorman) and the tons of districts with Broad Supes (like LAUSD) this company does business with and you’ve got yourself a first-rate conspiracy! A few powerful people, teamed up with one mega-powerful person (Rupert Murdoch) using an institution originally purposed for the common good to get themselves rich(er)!

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.