Have the people of Newark become invisible?

Chris Christie and Cami Anderson
Chris Christie and Cami Anderson

The renewal of Cami Anderson’s contract as state-imposed schools superintendent in Newark reveals some unpleasant truths many in the city and state may not want to face. The progressive wing of the state Democratic Party is all but dead. Support for public education among elected officials is waning. The political power of  both the city’s clergy and its public employee unions is non-existent. The election of Ras Baraka as mayor did nothing to stop or even slow down the “One Newark” plan. The privatization of the city’s schools will continue unabated.

And, to Chris Christie,  the governor of the state, the aspirations of the people of Newark are like mud stuck on the bottom of his shoe–he can just scrape it off on the nearest curb and keep on walking.

Cami Anderson’s victory–her considering it a loss, as far as I’m concerned, is just urban legend embraced by those who were embarrassed by that victory–also means this: The regard and respect public officials are expected to demonstrate for the people they serve simply do not apply to the people of the state’s largest city and probably not to the residents of most cities. And that’s probably because so many urban residents are people of color and poor.

Let’s face it: This country can elect an African-American president but, in places like Newark, residents are still treated as second-class citizens.

Why do I say that? Answer this, in what other school district would the superintendent survive after she said children would turn to crime if they were home from school because of the New Jersey Education Association convention? Cami could say that with impunity because the sentiments of the people of Newark simply do  not count.

In what other school district, would the superintendent survive  after forcing children attending neighborhood public schools to go to school in  blizzards while charter school children were allowed to stay home?

In what other district would the superintendent survive after refusing to attend public school board meetings?

In what other district would the superintendent survive after hiring one administrator who gave her own brother a $500,000 transportation contract and another who was banned forever from working in New York City because of financial and personal sexual irregularities?

In what other district would the superintendent survive after creating a chaos-generating enrollment plan without consulting the residents?

In what other district would the superintendent ignore the pleas of 77 members of the clergy who begged her to impose a moratorium on her plans?

In what other district would the superintendent survive after stripping neighborhood public schools of counselors and other staff while giving new hires at the top levels of the administration raises amounting, in some cases, to 60 percent increases?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after selling public property at bargain rates to a newly-formed, profit-making charter corporation headed by personal friends and business associates–a corporation with no history of school operation?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after ignoring the demands of a powerful legislative committee to answer questions about that real estate transaction?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after suspending five principals for expressing support for the city’s residents?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after telling the principal of the city’s highest-achieving elementary school he needs to reapply for his job?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after giving the principal of a nationally known high school like Science Park a poor evaluation and firing the entire administrative staff of a magnet school like University High School?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after ignoring the will of its people as shown in a mayoral election that was based primarily on her plans–plans that were soundly rejected?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after failing to include the needs of special education students in her enrollment plans?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after running a deficit of up to $90 million?

In what other school district would a superintendent survive after refusing to reveal the so-called “algorithm,” produced by private consultants, that has disrupted the lives of thousands of school children through the universal enrollment plan?

In what other district would a superintendent survive who deliberately created the circumstances in which enrollment dropped in public schools–and then used that as proof charter schools are more popular?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after going on a national tour of educational conferences after creating chaos and anxiety in the city?

In what other school district would the superintendent survive after accepting personal housing help from the family of people who run charter schools in the city?

The answer is, of course, in no other city. Or, in no other type of city. Certainly in no predominantly white community.

This could happen only because Newark is the type of city Newark is–poor, struggling, populated by people who can be treated with contempt, not just by a  Republican governor, but also by his Democratic stooges in Trenton and Washington.

Something much worse than the violation of all these expectations has occurred. Something bigger, with much greater implications for the future has happened.

I thought of this when I read accounts of the press conference held Monday by members of the clergy. I wasn’t able to be there but I felt a profound sadness when I saw to what depths the fortunes of the city had fallen. I mean no disrespect but praying for God to intervene to stop Cami Anderson just seemed to underline the utter powerlessness of the people of the city.

The people of Newark have become invisible.






  1. Mr. Braun, you are too right. And in the bicameral mind of confirmed bigots, such as you describe, with unending passion, in the likes of Governor Christie and Superintendent Anderson, that simple fact makes you wrong. I am not sorry that you have chosen (or has it chosen you?) this struggle as your cross to bear, and I wish that you will continue to bear it well. Someone has to vouch for the fact that, through it all, we are still here, even though few of the sons and daughters of Horton will even begin to hear the Who.

    Maybe Zuck should repeat kindergarten a few more times. It might help him over his love of things submerged which are able to fire torpedoes into civilian vessels, overcrowded and under cared for as they are described to be.

    This particular ship, the NPS Community, has been declared a garbage barge. But your flag, still waving, I can see, even without my binoculars. Courage, captain, one never knows the full effect of their devotion until the bell tolls for the last time.

    Once again, we are invited to see, that money alone cannot repair a legacy of abuse. Your post is the fruit of your labors, the labor of a lifetime. Thank you.

    And, BTW, I am also caucasian.

  2. Another great blog, but it should be noted that, as so many of us know, until Christie is recalled, indicted or somehow placed out of office (which is possible), Cami’s destructive tenure will continue. Future historians will look upon her years with sorrow.

  3. It is my belief that the new Mayor will be able to make them at least audible, if not visible. But a strong leader alone doesn’t comprise a movement. Newark’s citizens should be seen AND heard by their government; locally as well as in Trenton.

    The current dismissive-ness from Christie and others who claim to “know better” what is good for others (who are equals according to our Constitution) harkens back to the days of pre-revolutionary France and Marie Antoinette. Except he’s eating it all including the cake.

  4. […] Braun does an excellent job at showing how completely racist and undemocratic it is that Chris Christie can re-appoint a […]

  5. Agreed. The Churches Won’t Fight, TheyHaveNothingTo Lose. Only Gain, In More Members When The Tyrants all but Extinguish The Little HoPe We Have Left For Our People. Even Our Predecessors Had Awareness of Fight Or Flight. Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained. GoD Gave Us Free Will! Rock em’ Brick City! Stop Settling.

  6. Unfortunately for the citizens and students will be subjected to racists and systematic injustice until a law suit is filed declaring the acts of the governor and superintendent is RACISM. No suburban school system are being forced to embrace charter schools and the dismantling of public education. Until citizens, students, politicians and clergy take a stance to fight against the Wall St investment/machinery of charters in Newark we will continue to be subjected to the disenfranchisement in our communities.

  7. Civil disobedience or the last one out of Newark should just shut the lights…

  8. http://www.politickernj.com/76041/sources-under-andersons-leadership-newark-public-schools-fear-state-internal-dissension-mounts?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Wake%20Up%20Call%20NJ&utm_campaign=Wake%20Up%20Call

    Bob Braun: I am second to no one in my admiration for Mark’s work and I urge everyone to read his dispatches from Newark (think of it–a medium actually covering Newark!) but, frankly, this kind of wishful thinking has been going on for months and has led to naught but frustration. Cami got what she wanted, Christie got what he wanted and Hespe did what he was told.

  9. Bob my heart is so heavy with the state of affairs that is now NPS, I’ve stated before that I am product of the NPS and lived in and around Newark all my life. Despite what many think, residents in Newark have gone above and beyond to have their voices heard. I have sat in board meetings where it was standing room only an watched as parents some of whom are young and who at first glance would not give a favorable first impression, stood and articulated their needs and wants for their children. The impassioned voices of the people has been ignored. I don’t understand how this has not been heard in civil rights hearings. John Dewey once said “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.” This is exactly what is happening in Newark, Democracy is being destroyed.

  10. An incredibly powerful piece!!! There’s an administrator in Newark who was banned from working in NYC because of financial and personal sexual irregularities?! How did he (she?) get a job in Newark and why hasn’t anything been done about this?!

  11. What about the facebook guy? He lost a lot of money in the Newark Public School system. Maybe we should send this post to him and see if he cares. I bet Christie will talk to him, after all he has the big bucks. And this administration listens to money!

  12. To answer your question: No Bob. History has shown that the people of Newark have always been invisible. Just used from time to time by politicians to advance their own political careers.

  13. In what community?

    In Chris Christie’s NJ.

    Cami serves at the pleasure of Gov. Christie.

    Christie is pleased.

  14. Remember that it is Cami’s desire to set a precedent, to be the vixen visionary of vetting of public education. Newark will not be the last district to be so dismissed and disrespected. I have stated for months that Cami Anderson would not be leaving. It is time, Newark residents, to insist, vociferously and persistently, on your rights: your right to be heard, your right to be represented, your right to be respected, and your right to the alleged “choice” that they keep insisting they are giving you. It is time to clamor for justice. It is time to combine your voices and your forces, and to channel your frustration and anger into a concerted, consistent, and unending demand to be treated like the citizens you are. It is time for you to go loudly after the man who did so much to bring this horror, this plague, down upon his allegedly beloved community. It is time for you to demand that Mr. Booker right the tremendous damage he has permitted to e done, that he has sponsored, that he courted. Chris Christie may hold the reins, but Corey Booker led the Trojan horse into the center of your city. From where I stand, this is the most disturbing fact of them all.
    I have no doubt that his heart was in the right place when he opened this Pandora’s box, but he let everything poisonous out and somehow managed to slam the lid shut before hope had a chance to emerge.

  15. I don’t know Ken Gibson,..”Wherever big cities are going,..Newark is gonna’ get there first,..”. Looks like Detroit, and Chicago, Atlanta, and others are trying to beat most folks to Hell. Let’s face the facts. Indeed a mind is a terrible thing to waste. In fact, it is one of the few levels of power the poor and disenfranchised can control is the mind. This power is excercised through books, media, and most importantly schools. Schools are sources of information, ideology, self-identification, and most emphatically Purpose. Students were on the front lines in the civil rights struggles. Black Student Unions shaped policies in white institutions in past decades. Do you want to continue control of the masses in urban areas, promote self-destruction, and governmental dependency, then destroy the schools and your goal is met. Do for Self.

  16. […] victory, Mayor Ras Baraka does not control the schools of Newark; neither does the community.  Bob Braun, fifty-year reporter for the Newark Star-Ledger and now a blogger, recently despaired about the loss of community control: “The political power of both the city’s clergy and […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

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