GUEST: Top Newark student says time to speak is now

Jordan Thomas
Jordan Thomas

Today’s guest blog was written by Jordan Thomas, a senior at Newark’s University High School where he is valedictorian and earned a 4.5 GPA. He was admitted to Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Rutgers and will attend Princeton in the fall. He plans to go to law school and become a Constitutional lawyer. He was  the student member of the Newark School Advisory Board for this school year. He delivered these remarks at Tuesday night’s board meeting.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” 

This passage, derived from our nation’s founding text, the Declaration of Independence, details an individual’s natural propensity to tolerate, or, in some cases, suffer, rather than to excite disruption, engage in public denunciation, or demand absolute reformation in times of hardship and deficient leadership. Candidly, I admit that I have been one so guilty of remaining reserved and civil in both action and speech through the duration of the struggle that has occurred in the Newark Public Schools system these months past, blinded by a false sense of hope, a chimerical sense of promise, and a foolish belief that my words and admonitions would be heeded if conducted in a manner that coupled professionalism with discretion.

Unfortunately, an unspeakable decision that has been unveiled last week has revealed that approach to be ineffective, and, as stated by our founding fathers, there comes a time in which one must no longer hold his tongue or contain his extreme dissatisfaction.

That time is now.

Last week, a decision by the district was revealed to restructure the administrative body of University High School. Consequently, Principal (Regina) Sharpe and seven vice principals were notified that they would be losing their jobs. Sadly, and quite typically, little explanation was given to the students of the building as to why their beloved administration was being released except for a plethora of rumors that can scarcely be determined as true or false.

As a student of University High School since 7th grade, I can assure you that, had the courtesy of an explanation been granted, it would matter little as there is no valid reason for the termination of an administrative body that had developed a strong rapport with the students and that was doing a phenomenal job of managing issues caused primarily by previous inefficient policies of the district.

Truthfully, it is laughable that we, the Newark Public Schools system, dare to consider ourselves an organization of professionalism and respectable business when common business practice mandates that any company reorganization, unless elicited by intolerable factors, be conducted progressively so as to allow the new employees to become acclimated to the system. If, hypothetically speaking, the current administration was terminated due to low performance, the decision to radically replace the entire administration at once proves to be an ineffective means of rectification as the new administration will spend most of next year becoming accustomed to the culture of the school rather than leading successfully, and, judging by past actions of the district, may likely be terminated as well for their ineffectiveness.

Thus, concealed by a hasty, incompetent decision, one finds the termination of the administration at University High School to both stimulate a recurring cycle of failure and to reveal a malicious intention to ruin the esteemed institution. 

This…action is a deliberate component of a district-wide initiative to ensure the perpetual deterioration and failure of strong Newark public schools and the rapid proliferation of corporate-backed charter schools…

 Perhaps the most portentous fact revealed is the realization that this unjust and unsubstantiated decision to eliminate an effective group of educators in one of Newark’s most successful schools is not simply a display of spite or vengeance toward the administration at that school in particular. Rather, this confounding action is a deliberate component of a district-wide initiative to ensure the perpetual deterioration and failure of strong Newark Public Schools and the rapid proliferation of corporate-backed charter schools, a devious initiative apparent in the multitude of school closures that transpired in December, in the unmanageable school budget approved in April, and the progressive implementation of the One Newark Open Enrollment Policy.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once had a dream that individuals of all races could coalesce and coexist in perfect harmony. Similarly, I have a dream that students of both public and charter schools could coexist and be afforded true choice when selecting the best option for the acquisition of their education. Yet, in the current state of the district, what we have seen is that dream continually deferred as policies and statutes are incessantly contrived with the design of eradicating our right to effective public education, and fortifying the daunting abundance of charter schools in Newark.

Hence, I challenge the entire community of Newark to continue to advocate and to fight for what is rightfully theirs. There remains strength in numbers, and our voices will not be heard until we unite in masses. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Imagine how many individuals it takes to help the 40,000 students of Newark that are currently being targeted.


  1. To Jordan, I say, “superb.” He is expressing a righteous moral outrage; such as is underscored by the present administration’s handling of the situation. And by handling, I mean Brad Haggerty’s handling of Jordan and his associates– not a formal meeting behind closed doors, where a serious conversation could take place. Cami sent one of her emissaries, Brad Haggerty’s, Assistant Superintendent in charge of high schools to conduct a meeting in the lobby by empty trophy cases. A meeting that resembled something out of an 80’s Afterschool special.

    What is abhorrent about that is the dissonance behind what Cami says in her written support of Student protest, and what she actually does; particularly to strong student leaders like Jordan and Kristen. These are two young, bright, and promising individuals whose pursuits of justice largely reflect Cami’s as she recalls of herself in college. That she doesn’t respect them enough to recognize them is disgusting.

    But that’s Jordan’s point. That her behavior, and the behavior of those who support her and her policies are disgusting. We can tolerate no more. We can be complicit no longer.

    We must simply stop participating in the defrauding of students, families, communities and teachers. I implore all and any who are reading to do the following:
    – Stop using One Newark Enrolls.
    – Do not fill out a One Newark application
    – Write and mail a certified letter informing the Superintendent which neighborhood school you, the parent decided you will send your child to. Send letters to: Cami Anderson, 2 Cedar Street, Newark, NJ 07102.
    – Do not allow your children to take any standardized tests. Test scores do not count towards overall student grade, even if they are recorded in the report card.

    These counter measures are an integral part of defeating the harmful reforms this administration is trying bring forth. Cami is depending on numbers to justify her policies. She has a boss, just like anyone else, and her boss(es) want to see her numbers from time to time. If she is not reaching those goals, or reaching the wrong kinds of numbers, then her bosses will be forced to make a change, starting with a new superintendent.

  2. Well written

  3. Jordan, I hope this hugely important statement gets the hearing it deserves in Newark and beyond. It is so difficult for people to recognize evil acts even as they unfold right under their noses. The People need to understand that Cami Anderson’s acts in Newark are designed, as you point out, to destroy public education and the lives of students like yourself.

    Congratulations on your scholastic achievement and for having become an eloquent writer and a concerned citizen.

  4. This young man has a hell of a future ahead of him. Great job, Jordan. Keep up the good fight. Comeback to Newark someday and run for Mayor, heck, Governor.

  5. Bravo, young man! Bravo! You have a bright future, and Newark public schools should be proud to have you on board advocating for them.

  6. I am sure Jordan appreciates the compliments he is receiving from these comments but I have a sneaking suspicion that he probably appreciates Mr. Outside’s plan of action even more. Everyone who sees what is going on in Newark, both inside and outside of the community, must take action to put pressure on the NJDO to place a moratorium on the One Newark plan and put pressure on the Governor’s office to dismiss Cami Anderson. If enough voices are raised loudly enough, something might actually change and that, surely, is Jordan’s true goal.

  7. very well stated…and eloquently…and based on reasonable thinking, not emotion…we all need to get behind the effort to save our public school system…otherwise, we may as well get some fiddles out while newark burns…thank you young man

  8. In the words of our ancestor, Frederick Douglass, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by those whom they oppress.” “Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!” As displayed by this young brother, our ancestors live and speak through us. If we would just stop and listen, we would undoubtedly hear them.

  9. Jordan, what a fine speech, a true encapsulation of the despotism, and a truly magnificent rendering of why it is vital for the community to come together and run the tyrants out of town.
    Outside Man, you are spot on.

    It is time for Cami Anderson to recognize that all of her alleged idealism has been pimped out to privatizers and public education destroyers. She allowed it to happen, and she is now encrusted in callousness, corruption, and condescension.

  10. B-R-A-V-O, to say that your spoken words have inspired me this evening would be an understatement! Thank you… And Mr Outside, we’re on it! I stand in protest of every action that this superintendent imposes and we must continue stand firm against Cami Anderson and her One Newark plan.

  11. Phenomenal Jordan, continue to be relentless and united in your efforts….there is stength in numbers! #keepyoureyesontheprize

  12. Articulate young leader. Encouraging for all of us that this next generation has such passion and such intelligence. I have a different perspective on the overall. I feel like the students are terrific, teachers are ALL caring people, (some more qualified and skilled than others on wide spectrum from my experience) and administration is trying to move it forward. I don’t like seeing people who go out of their way to be divisive. Life is not a Saturday morning cartoon. We are not really divided into good guys and bad guys. It’s easy and maybe emotionally satisfying to try and undermine leaders and get people wound up. It’s a lot harder to bring people together to find a way forward. I dont have all the answers for sure but wish people could support leadership of the kids, each school and the district overall a bit more.

    1. There comes a time when you realize some people are beyond reasoning with, Mr. Hoogterp. That time has come and gone with many, most certainly with the like of Cami Anderson and her “team”.
      That is not to say that this has devolved into a game of “good guy” versus “bad guy”, sir. Jordan Thomas is rightly pointing out that the One Newark plan is harmful to Newark. You can’t negotiate the terms of abuse. None of it can be allowed. Those that push for it’s implementation cannot be allowed to do so. At all. You can’t negotiate the terms of abuse. You must wholeheartedly stop it.

  13. Bob,

    I feel and share your anguish. It is amazing. As they say, “I can show you better than I can tell you.” No one should be needing to walk -out or picket, as their individual circumstances change. It is a system that is being fought, therefore, a strong and system-wide (all the people involved, every school) counter effort at the same time, needs to be waged. The courts should be bombarded with legal filings.

    Bob Braun: I agree.

  14. This was well presented.

    I would love to see a response or op-ed from a current charter school student. The spin that is shoved down the throats of charter school students is disgusting.

  15. Jordan has and still does make the most sense of anyone. I say we make him our next super!

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