Is Cami Anderson covering up her behind-the-scenes role in test scandal?

Damage control for Christie and Anderson
Damage control for Christie and Anderson

State-appointed Newark school superintendent Cami Anderson and her supporters have gone into frantic damage control mode to ensure her chances for reappointment next month are not hurt by a cheating scandal–but sources within the school system say she knew about the problem and may have tried to prevent its disclosure.

The original email to top school officials that revealed the breach in security indicated that a Barringer staff member who learned of it immediately called a central office staff member, Aurora Vieira, for advice about what to do. Vieira’s immediate supervisor is Gabrielle Wyatt who holds the title of “Executive Director of Strategy” and reports directly to Anderson.

“They are trying to make this look like a small problem limited to one or two students,” says Wilhelmina Holder, head of the Secondary School Council. “Only the students will be blamed for this and the adults will get away with it.”

The official statements from the central administration–one from communications director Brittany Chord Parmley and another from Newark school board president Rashon Hasan–have all focused on one Barringer student who allegedly took pictures of a state graduation exam with a mobile phone and sent them to other students at other high schools. Although Hasan promised an “ongoing investigation,” Parmley put out a statement saying only four students and, apparently, no school employees were involved.

So much for an ongoing investigation.

The original email exposing the cheating also said the student’s test answers were “corrected” by a Barringer staff member and central office was informed, but neither Hasan’s nor Parmley’s statement mentions that. It also says nothing about whether the students–at Shabazz and Weequahic–forwarded the test to other students at other high schools.

The Hasan/Parmley version of what happened does not make much sense. Barringer has a strict policy of requiring students to leave their mobile phones with the school office when they enter the building, a procedure checked by security guards. In addition, instructions for those who give state tests require proctors to ensure the students have no mobile phones.

Yet, somehow, according to the official version, a student–in the middle of the test administration–whipped out a cell phone that he got past two check-points and began taking pictures of the exam, an alternative high school assessment given to students who failed, or did not take, the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), the soon to be discontinued state graduation test.

The scandal comes at a very sensitive and embarrassing time for Anderson, whose resignation has been demanded by public officials, starting with Mayor Ras Baraka. Baraka, just two months ago, demanded a state investigation into conditions at Barringer. The school opened without adequate teachers, materials, furniture, supplies and even lunches.

The timing for Anderson is so bad. State education commissioner David Hespe must decide by March 1 whether to renew Anderson’s contract for another year.  A scandal involving Anderson and her alleged successes in Newark also would embarrass the presidential aspirations of her supporter-in-chief, Gov. Chris Christie, just as  he is expected to announce his run for the White House.

So Anderson’s subordinates are trying to make the case that she was in control of the problems at the high school, the city’s oldest. She obviously is not. Or maybe she was in control, but just couldn’t solve the problems.

Indeed, the day news of the scandal broke, Parmley and Brad Haggerty, an assistant superintendent, were touring the school with a Washington Post reporter as part of a national effort to rehabilitate Anderson’s reputation. Parmley once worked for former Washington, DC, schools superintendent Michelle Rhee, whose own legacy was tarnished by questionable testing practices. Rhee, like Anderson, is a champion of school privatization.

In comments given to The Star-Ledger, which held back publishing the story for a day, Hasan complained, not about Anderson or Barringer, but about the disclosure of the student’s name. It has not been revealed here, although the student is not a juvenile. Perhaps Hasan will reveal the names of all the adults involved in the scandal when his “ongoing investigation” is completed.

 

 

 

 

11 comments

  1. Justanotherteacher

    As a teacher in Newark for 10years this is not surprising. Most answers are corrected prior to the students writing them in the answer booklet. In regards to the cellphone issue that picture was definitely sent to students at other high schools than the 2 mentioned. And friends of mine who work at Shabazz has not even heard of an investigation. The only thing they were told is that the test was voided. Cami is on thin ice. But im sure this will be overlooked just like the other issues cause by lack of accountability in the district.

  2. Mythology

    Because the Star-Ledger has raised it’s price to $1.50 for a daily newspaper and NJ.Com is biased in it’s reporting of things happening in the Newark Community and the Newark Public Schoools, may I recommend that readers start logging on to NorthJersey.Com for their daily news information? Because of Bridgegate, the North Jersey communities have no use for the Govenor of New Jersey and are more likely to give true journalistic information to internet browsers about the goings on in Trenton then the Star-Ledger.

    Also, the New York Attorney General is taking down corrupt politicians in New York. Because of the way the New Jersey Govenor has funded the renovation of the Pulaski Skyway, he comes under the New York Attorney General’s jurisdiction also. This is not a good look for either Govenor of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Tick, Tick, Tick…

    Bob Braun: A lot of good ideas here but, as I have said in the past, I cannot support anything like a boycott of The Star-Ledger. It was once a great newspaper and can be again. It still employs some hardworking, honest journalists. Its editorial board and its chief editorial writer may be infatuated with Cami Anderson and, perhaps, his own importance, but this, too, shall pass. I am less forgiving of the dreadful coverage of Newark and the starry-eyed campaign to keep Christie in the running. I do endorse support for The Record and its website, northjersey.com. It has done the kind of great work all of us once expected from The Star-Ledger in the past.

  3. Mythology

    It’s time to start thinking about who is going to be the next Superintendent of the Newark Public Schools. Cami Anderson does not have the support of the Govenor of New Jersey anymore. He is trying to become the next POTUS so the scandal that has occurred in the Newark Public Schools has to be hidden as far as he is concerned. This is one reason why she is on the run. Another is that Senator Booker isn’t supportive of her either. He’s in Washington D.C. He dosen’t even come to Newark to see how he can help solve the problems that are occuring to his constituants and their children.

    Also, the Teacher for America people that she has hired are leaving the District in droves. They cannot deal with the pressure that the experienced Newark teacher can. They are also running out of Camden and the Paterson school districts.

    I think maybe they will decide that the two year committment to teach in an urban school distict is too much and will file for bankrupcy on their student loans rather then try and teach in an urban school district when they aren’t given the proper support necessary to be successful.

    Bob Braun: Last year at this time, rumors flew about Cami Anderson’s imminent departure. No such luck then and I doubt it this time, as well. New Jersey’s cowardly thug-in-chief will lie about Cami the way Cami lies about Cami to the Huffington Post and Forbes–and he will continue as long as he is in the running.

    • Concerned

      Barringer was caught cheating. how is it that you are trying to bring down students at Shabazz and the integrity that Shabazz exhibited. I know that none of the students at Shabazz cheated on the exam because I was there!!!!! and beside, we did not answer that question so please stop reporting that Shabazz students were envolved!

  4. Stressed

    “Yet, somehow, according to the official version, a student–in the middle of the test administration–whipped out a cell phone that he got past two check-points and began taking pictures of the exam…”

    If you had any idea how difficult it is in ALL schools to have students give-up their cell phones voluntarily or find all the cell phone hiding places you wouldn’t say, “Yet somehow…” I’ve worked in magnet schools and Barringer, and no matter where you are, cell phone policing is a job of its own. At Barringer, you have 100s of kids coming to school at a reasonable amount of time before school and a steady stream that come-in well into first period. They hide their phones in all kinds of places – like their underwear, for instance. They hand in a phone that doesn’t work anymore and keep the active one in a cosmetic bag. They have more ways of hiding their phones and new ways of doing it than you can imagine. There are actions in place to take phones from students who are caught with them but they’ve become the nemesis of teachers and staff. As it is, you have security, metal detectors, administration, and teacher volunteers who are at the entrance doing their best to keep weapons out of the building and check-in cell phones.

    “Yet, somehow…” Ask any high school teacher anywhere, any city, any suburb, if there was an answer to end the distraction and aggravation cell phones cause in schools. Some schools have technology that blocks signals and/or use cell phones in the classrooms as part of instruction but there are schools that are still trying to monitor, police, collect, you name it. Using cell phone to bully, plan fights, take inappropriate pictures of other students and text them virally, take pictures of tests… the list is long.

    Bob Braun: Wisdom obviously learned from experience I never had. Thank you. But there is still more to this story.

  5. booklady

    M, I’ve wondered who’d want to take on Newark superintendent role after C Anderson. It will be a monumental challenge.

    Re the TFA people who don’t want to complete 2-year commitment: I doubt they could file bankruptcy on student loans. It’s possible they can get a reprieve on payments until they find other employment.

    • Becca Fields

      Precisely. Well said Urban Teacher. Whereas if we focus our efforts on getting out of state control her departure is part of the package. The next one might be better but better under an oppressive system is still unacceptable.

      Bob Braun: Ok, so for all who believe a return to state control is a better strategy than trying to rid Newark of Cami and her minions, what’s your plan? Elect a mayor dedicated to a return to local control? Prove state control is no better than local control in terms of student achievement? Have the Joint Committee on Public Schools expose the failures of both state control and its leadership? File litigation to return Newark to local control? Meet all the requirements of the law for a return to local control? Get the governor to admit education should be a local issue? Let’s see–didn’t all that happen? Ah, yup, it did.

      • Becca Fields

        No Mr. Braun, the plan is to change the statute regarding state control and to do so with legislative, mayoral, and popular support. And to do it in the context of an increasingly active and powerful electorate. To reach out beyond Newark to create a coalition to get this done. And while this long term plan requires planning and energy, and advocacy, I have every confidence you will continue to point out what is wrong with the status quo leadership which will help in the ultimate goal of self rule for all school districts in our state not just the wealthy, white ones. Happy to discuss this in more detail with you if ever you desire.

  6. Mythology

    The reason I encourage you all to continue to be outraged and confident that this situation will be reasolved is because of Mr. Braun’s and many other Bloggers across the nation have, and contiue to do so, exposing the illegality of what is happening today in education.

    Never, ever, ever did they expect the push back from the citizens in Newark and in New Jersey that they have received and it continues. This is the main reason Anderson sold 18th Ave School. She didn’t expect any push back in what she did. Never did she expect a journalist like Mr. Braun, to document the goings ons in NPS that he does.
    So this current situation at Barringer means that the city of Newark needs to find a qualified superintendent, that has the aproppriate credentials, to present to the Nation as a solution to Anderson.

    Don’t ever belittle or lose faith in what you are contributing to solving this problem. Newark has encouraged many a community nationwide to question what is going wrong in education in their community and nationwide.

    All need to take a bow for your efforts and contribution.

    Mr. Braun I really like the idea of you blogging on this corruption in New Jersey. Though you seek no reward it will come.

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