Hey, Cami Anderson–don’t run away, answer the question

Cami Anderson
Cami Anderson

I’ve listened to the tape many times and, as best as I can determine, Natasha Allen said this to Cami Anderson at Tuesday night’s Newark school board meeting: “I’m trying to figure out, like, do you not want for your brown babies what we want for ours?”  That’s when the superintendent abandoned  her responsibility and ran away.

Natasha Allen
Natasha Allen

I spoke to Ms. Allen afterwards and asked her to repeat what she said and she offered a fairly close paraphrase. Ms. Allen was not speaking from a script, she was speaking  extemporaneously and from anger, so the words might have been a little different when she repeated them to me.

I took it as a sincere question from one young mother to another that really meant this:

Why can’t you understand we want for our children what you want for yours?

I found nothing offensive about the remark. I found it poignant and honest and direct–and maybe the most important challenge thrown at Ms. Anderson the entire evening. And I am seriously puzzled by why the superintendent chose that moment to run away from her responsibility to explain her disruptive plans to the residents of Newark.

I’ve read some accounts that the state-appointed superintendent was “driven” from the meeting. That is utter nonsense. She left freely–and, indeed, the audience booed her for running away. The city’s residents wanted an answer to the question–why doesn’t a state official have the just plain human decency to understand the pain of others?

Ms. Anderson appears, on the tape, to be shaking her head and saying, “Not my family,  not my family.”  I get that public officials don’t want their private lives dragged into the public sphere–including public officials like Gov. Chris Christie who put his family into taxpayer-funded campaign ads posing as ads aimed at raising money for relief from Superstorm Sandy.

But let’s be real here. Natasha Allen is not a school employee afraid of losing her job. She is not a politician running for office. She is a mother–her daughter Sapphire Allen, a 16-year-old honor student t at Newark Vocational, also spoke that night–and she came to a recklessly overcrowded venue Tuesday night to express her fears and her anger about what the superintendent was doing to her child and all other “brown babies” in the city.

“I used the words ‘brown babies’ because it’s the black and Latino children who are the most hurt by her plans,” Ms. Allen told me.

Ms. Allen was direct. She set the tone early, insisting she would not call the superintendent “Ms. Anderson” because she felt the boss of the Newark schools had shown disrespect for the city’s residents and children. She expressed anger about reports–so far denied by her press spokesman, Matthew Frankel–that the schools superintendent moved to Montclair.

So there it was: One woman, one mother, against another. Face to face. One woman asking another an important personal question. One mother asking another mother why Ms. Anderson doesn’t understand that, despite poverty, despite racism, despite the state’s criminal neglect of its cities and their schools, the mothers of brown babies love their children as fully and as passionately as more affluent, more fortunate, mothers love their babies–brown or white or black.

The superintendent owes Ms. Allen an answer. She owes all parents an answer. Not as the former executive director of Teach for America. Not as Christie’s $300,000 agent in Newark. Not as one of Time magazine’s up-and-comers. Not as a school superintendent.

But as a mother. Cami Anderson–this is a woman who has disrupted thousands of families in Newark with a plan that will close their schools, require them to put their children in unfamiliar neighborhoods. She has insulted parents by suggesting their children would cause an  increase in crime if they stayed home from school because of the teachers’ convention.

So how about an answer? To my paraphrase of Ms. Allen’s remark: Why can’t you understand we want for our children what you want for yours?

Or, as Ms. Allen put it that night: “I’m trying to figure out, like, do you not want for your brown babies what we want for ours?”

You can’t run away, Cami Anderson. Come back and answer the damned question.

 

19 comments

  1. Kelly

    I agree completely Bob. I was there and was one of the “overflow” attendees who were finally allowed into the cafeteria so we wouldn’t freeze to death outside. Three of us carpooled and drove around the area for at least 30 minutes looking for parking (which was ludicrous considering the school had an empty underground lot and there were PLENTY of police to secure it).

    Luckily, a friend inside was keeping us abreast of what was happening via instant messaging. We then decided to “FaceTime” so we could see and try to hear part of the proceedings but the noise level and lack of satellite signal eventually ended that solution. At about 8:00, our friend on the inside alerted us that many people left and there were plenty of seats available.

    I told that to one if the many officers in the hallway and asked if we could be let in to occupy those seats. He replied, “It doesn’t work that way. They’re not allowing anyone else in.” Really?

    So my colleagues and I quickly texted and posted via Facebook to the Union leaders. By 8:20, we were ushered in to the vacated seats. Just in time for the hullabaloo.

    I believe Ms. Allen and all Newark parents deserve an answer to that question. I also commend the Board for continuing the meeting although that was not what Ms. Anderson wanted. They showed the community respect and it was returned with gratitude. The people of Newark are informed and have valid points. They will not be pushed around (and anyone who grew up in Newark knows that). If the powers that be think this was the climax of events, they are sorely mistaken. This is a taste of Newark citizens waking up and getting READY to fight. We are relentless and focused. In the words of a Newarker, “You don’t mess with mine”. Looks like gloves are coming off.

    Bob Braun: Thank you for your insightful note. Twice in one week the Anderson administration risked the welfare of the city’s residents–first by keeping schools open in a storm and then by scheduling what it new would be a heavily attended meeting at an inappropriate site. Mindless.

    • Becca Field

      Ms Anderson risks the welfare of the children of Newark every single day by allowing them to attend schools that are in dangerous disrepair – full of exposed mold, asbestos, poor air quality, poor heat and ventilation. And she has not used her direct line to the Governor to expedite repairs. I believe endangering the life of a minor is a crime.

  2. Awo

    This was a typical and textbook reaction when people are called out for their colorblind/covert racism. They storm away in a huff to make it about their hurt feelings and distract from the issue at hand. It’s her way of trying to sabotage the discussion, dialogue, and even the meeting. The other textbook reaction was to ensure she had people around her who would pat her on the back to comfort her *pain* and hurt feelings. Well, what about the pain and hurt feelings of the children, parents, and community of Newark? They are hurting too. Don’t their hurt feelings and pain matter? But here is the deal: the people of Newark were not there for her hurt feelings; they were there for their democracy, their survival, and the education of their brown babies.

    Bob Braun: Nicely put.

  3. Jeff Ballin

    I’ve never cared for people who dish it out but can’t take it, but having said that, Ms. Allen could have easily meant that her reference to “your brown babies “inferred all of Newark’s students of color rather than the superintendents family.
    It is apparent however that there really is no plan at work here. They are haphazardly moving children, closing schools, selling off assets, etc. solely with the purpose of moving this towards a profit-making venture. Students and people of Newark not a concern. One thing that has been proven through a variety of surveys is that while parents want the best schools for their children, they also want them to be as near as possible to the residency. This holds true whether we are talking about urban, suburban, or rural schools and children. Wait until this spreads to the wealthier suburbs.

    • Tamob

      It won’t spread to the wealthier suburbs because they have voting power. This can only be attempted in areas the powers-to-be feel they can manipulate because they don’t fear the voting block of the community. Corrupted politicians and money-grubbers seak out those they perceive as weak. Newarkers are showing them they made a mistake. They miscalculated and will now pay the price. They need to get out now. Newark, show the country you are not apathetic. Continue to speak out and show up!

      • Laura

        I think you’re wrong – it is spreading to the suburbs even as we sit here conversing. Just look at PARCC, Common Core, SGOs and SGPs. These acronyms are not about children and they are not for education. Their intent is solely and specifically to make the maximum amount of corporate profit possible off of our children’s future. We have to keep up the pressure. It’s not going to go away soon.

  4. Robert Rock

    In the United States, we absently-mindedly think that White moms can have White babies or Black babies (depending on the dad), but Black moms can only have Black babies. Contradictions of a constructed ideology of “one-drop” race. Maybe the Superintendent’s exit is related to the desire to believe her baby is not brown?

    Bob Braun: I think you’re right. If Ms. Allen had just said, “I’m trying to figure out, like, do you not want for your babies what we want for ours?” I believe she would not have stormed out. It was the reference to “brown babies” that caused the problem for her and, really, that’s a problem for all Newark citizens who need someone who doesn’t have such a peculiar attitude toward race. I’d also point out that many in the audience also reacted to the phrase “brown babies,” knowing, intuiting, that it would be a challenging statement for her. The incident, as if we needed any more evidence, that race remains a potent factor in public policy.

  5. Nisee

    She got mad b/c her baby isn’t brown. According to the article on Fast Company.com, he’s “a blue-eyed, curly haired, 3-year old, named Sampson.”
    On a side note, check out her domestic partner, Jared D. Robinson’s profile on the site below. He describes himself as a “full-time dad and fisherman”, courtesy of Cami’s bonuses for destroying Newark Public Schools.
    http://www.meetup.com/L-L-Bean-Paramus-Park/members/11292157/

  6. Joseph Del Grosso

    Bob,thank you for your blog it is motivating to all of us.The real story of SCHOOLGATE is how one billion dollars is being spent.They are almost broke,legal fees to connected law firms,consultants,so much I won’t bore anyone.Since 1995 how much has been spent?We still lack supplies.

  7. Frances Irizarry

    When a snow storm hit Atlanta, the parents and citizens complained. Right away the mayor, governor and superintendents of certain schools became defensive and are still trying to calm people down. Why is Newark any different? What does it take to have the “people in charge” respond with respect to the parents and citizens of Newark?

  8. Barbara Foster Abdur-Razzaq

    Don’t be fooled by the hype, Anderson is infamous for having temper tantrums at meetings and leaving or not showing up at all! My opinion is after two hours of sitting, she decided I’ll make the people think I’m upset about the comment made, anyone can understand that, right…WRONG!
    What I don’t understand is why there isn’t some kind of disciplinary action against Cami Anderson for leaving or not attending a scheduled Advisory Board meeting when it’s a part of the contract package? As a highly paid employee and parent Cami’s behaviors and actions at best are very unprofessional and serves as a poor example for our youth and parents of how to conflict resolutions!

  9. Barbara Foster Abdur-Razzaq

    Don’t be fooled by the hype, Anderson is infamous for having temper tantrums at meetings and leaving or not showing up at all! My opinion is after two hours of sitting, she decided I’ll make the people think I’m upset about the comment made, anyone can understand that, right…WRONG!
    What I don’t understand is why there isn’t some kind of disciplinary action against Cami Anderson for leaving or not attending a scheduled Advisory Board meeting when it’s a part of the contract package? As a highly paid employee and parent Cami’s behaviors and actions at best are very unprofessional and serves as a poor example for our youth and parents of how to resolve conflict!

  10. riseupnewarkers

    Bob, thanks to Christy’s corrupt nature….cami’s basically a goner. Any charter that does business with her is going to be making quick deals with the devil. They will surely live to regret it!

  11. educationwillsetufree

    One Newark is promoting true segragation. The Newark child study team has been instructed to review all existing special education IEPs.
    The purpose? Charter schools have historically been accused of not taking in special needs children or “getting rid” of them after the annual Oct. 15th count. Our Newark superintendent, Cami and her side kick, Lauren Katzman ( director of special education) have found a way around this. They are having the CST identify the highest performing special education students (even willing to pay overtime) in order to place those students into the charter schools so charters avoid criticism by having a so called special education population. The CST ( made up of child advocates) has been put in a very awkward position. NPS is willing to spend extra monies (slated for the children of Newark ) to
    deceive parents and the public just so that charters can look good. Shameful!

    • Yoda46

      Under Title 6A only the CST team has the ability to change programs or classifications. ALL CST members should follow the law and If administration goes after them they should contact the office of spial education at the state or county level.

      • Concerned Parent

        Special education laws have been trampled on for at least 6 years in the Ironbound, forcing ALL special needs students into “one-size-fits-all” environment.

        Under the misleading name “full inclusion”, which implies that students are receiving full day special education services in the general education homeroon.

        The reality is students with special needs usually only get half a period of math and ELA services (50 minutes of in-class support out of a 100 minute period) and almost no special needs students receive services in Science or Social Studies.

        Furthermore, if a student is working far below grade level and it’s determined by the team that an alternate environment is necessary (which rarely happens because the board “rejects” these placements), the parent has to choose between sending their child to a different school in the district with the classroom setting that the student needs (none of which are in the Ironbound area) or declassifying their child if they refuse that setting. The result is that now there are special needs students being educated as general education students, with no accommodations or modifications, and the teacher’s evaluation will be based on this child’s scores.

        Try getting away with THAT in a suburb! This is why I left teaching and living in Newark. As a parent, I couldn’t watch my child’s education become a non-priority.

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