Lying with numbers in Newark

The only audience that matters to Cami
The only audience that matters to Cami

Here’s the core of the problem in Newark schools: Cami Anderson, Gov. Chris Christie’s agent in Newark, has the numbers that reveal how well or how poorly she is doing. No one else, including the city’s elected school board, has them. So she can make outrageous statements–like the first day of school had 90 percent attendance, as she said Tuesday night, and all the school buses ran on time–and, while everyone else believes she’s either lying or demented, or both, they have no way of disproving her.

Members of the school board–or a majority, because the panel is divided–are trying to force her to reveal the numbers, but there really isn’t much they can do. She is the “decider’s”– Christie’s–woman on the ground in Newark and she can tell the board members to shove it, which is what she often does, but nicely. Most of the time, nicely.

A number of exchanges at Tuesday’s night’s board meeting between Anderson and board members illustrate the problem. For example, after her outrageously positive description of how well the first days of school went, Philip Seelinger, a board member from Newark’s Ironbound, described how, when he toured schools the first days of school, he saw overcrowded classrooms with 35 or more students jammed into one learning space, in violation of Cami’s own policy.

Anderson, who fancies herself light on her feet intellectually, immediately saw an opening. The reason, she said, was that “there always has been overcrowding in the Ironbound” because the schools in  the predominantly white and relatively prosperous neighborhood are attractive to parents. So she works very hard to shoe-horn kids into the schools and, after all, parents want siblings in the same school, so that creates a problem, too. See–choice really does matter, even more than neighborhood schools.

Her comments, understandably, created an uproar. Members of the audience shouted at her and for good reason. She managed, in her snarky way, to touch on all the divisions that have kept parents powerless to do anything about her dispersal of students throughout the city. She was exacerbating racial tensions–white versus black. Economic differences, too–relatively affluent versus the poor.  At the same time, Anderson was justifying “One Newark,” showing there was a demand for “better” schools that only her plan could meet.

There was only one problem with Anderson’s clever, if venomous, reasoning–and that was described by Seelinger after the uproar quieted:

“I never got the chance to finish,” he said. “Where I saw the overcrowded classrooms, it wasn’t only in the Ironbound. It also was in the schools in the North Ward and the South Ward.”

Anderson, who, while quick with a left jab, has no staying power in the ring, became quiet. She thinks she is a lot smarter than the school board members and, when they prove to be more knowledgeable than she, she goes reeling against the ropes, making mental notes about how she can get her expensive consultants to answer that one.

Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson
Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson

Clearly, the school board members are trying to fight back, to give an alternative and more realistic narrative to refute the Cami in Wonderland story about how all parents are happy, all Renew Schools are successes, all buses run on time, and the city is on its way to becoming Happy Valley on the Passaic.

But they can’t do it without the numbers–and Anderson won’t give those numbers to the board. Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson–a board member who was president until ousted by a coup engineered by the new board president, Rashon Hasan, an Anderson ally–asked her for a comprehensive set of statistics that would reveal the condition of the schools.

She wanted the “real numbers” of students who attended school the first week. She wanted a breakdown of the cost of buses that traveled throughout the city without children in them (It’s easy to be on time if you have no passengers). She wanted all the sources of third party funding–funding that cannot be accounted for in the usual way. She wanted the numbers of teachers and administrators wasting away at taxpayers’ expense in Newark’s rubber rooms.

Anderson, in his dismissive way, said she would get the numbers “if they are available and, if they are not, I will provide explanations.”

“I’m not interested in explanations,’ said Baskerville-Richardson. “I want the numbers.”

Exclusive possession of the numbers allows Anderson to depict her success to the only audience she cares about–Christie. Because Christie only cares about showing to the rest of the state and, now, as a presidential candidate, the rest of the country, that he is the tough guy who faced down “those” people in Newark–the people of color, the unions, the restive poor, all those enemies of the Republicans.

He wants to show the people of South Carolina that, well, if he can pacify Newark, imagine what he can do in the Middle East–real presidential material, this rotund “Newark guy.” And he needs Anderson to keep cooking those numbers and tools like David Hespe to keep her in office despite the cost to his reputation for integrity. Christie is not trying to persuade anyone in Newark; he doesn’t give a damn about Newark, except as a slogan–“I am the decider.” He wants to be seen throughout the nation as the great white master, bringing light and order to the masses.

The media play a big role by failing to play any role at all. Cami Anderson already owns the heart of what’s left of the only statewide newspaper, The Star-Ledger, as does Christie, so her portraits of “reform”  won’t be challenged there–they are all “bold and sensible” moves, according to a numbingly repeated newspaper refrain. But most of what she says is intended for outside media whose representatives often only think of Newark as a place with an airport, a Budweiser brewery, a sports arena and, away from Broad Street,  a lot of people who don’t look like them. She has conned NJTV and NPR and Brian Lehrer. The only real challenge comes from the students who are willing to pull off demonstrations and get their bones broken–creating scenes that attract the television cameras from New York and show all is not well in Happy Valley.

But the board continues to try. Today, the board will step up its effort to show the absurdity of Anderson’s depiction of Newark. Four members–five would be a quorum and they would have to go through all the formalities of an official meeting–will hold a 5 pm news conference at City Hall to repeat their demands for the truth.

Good luck, school board. Truth isn’t part of Cami’s narrative. She can’t handle the truth.


  1. There is one, and only one, reason why Anderson will not release the numbers and the source of those numbers : the numbers are not favorable to her administration.

    Attendance numbers?
    Student Test Score numbers?
    Graduation rates?
    Student Drop out rates?

    By the way, Christie will do for America what he did for New Jersey.

    1. There are no true numbers. Students are still enrolling in schools. Students are on rosters and haven’t shown up. No one knows where these students have gone. Classrooms are out of state law compliance with students numbers. People are running around with their heads cut off. Supplies can’t be found. People are told to bring their own supplies, such as pencils, paper, ink, etc.

      Since Newark is supposed to be a data driven district, I say “SHOW ME THE DATA!!!!!”

      It shouldn’t be that difficult. X amount of public school students were enrolled last year. X amount of teachers were teaching these X amount of students last year. Now this year these same X amount of public school students should be enrolled in schools that have X amount of teachers. The two numbers should work out, even taking out the number of students that were forced to attend a charter school this year.

      If I ran my classroom the way NPS is running the District, no data, hiding the data, disorganized, not enough desks for students, etc. I would not have to wonder what my final evaluation would be nor if I would have a job for the coming school year.

  2. First we’re– I mean, first they’re going through the data to see which information actually does show progress. That’s the first layer if deception. We– damn it; I mean she will point to those exemplars and say, “See? Progess!” That establishes credibility. Next, she will sanitize the less spectacular results and project them in the following ways:
    – She will pit schools against one another; demonstrating how although the cohort of schools may still be performing abysmally, one of them is outperforming the others.

    – She will emphasize the most miniscule gains from the best performing school and make comparison between that schools scores from this year and the schools scores from years prior. In other words, she will take a school that is at the bottom let’s say, 6%, and say that school is doing well because it’s not at the bottom 5%.

    – For schools that she can’t spin a story for, she will simply say reform is something that will happen over time and that although we are four years into her tenure, it will happen soon, but much later.

    Here’s a picture of her conspiring.

  3. BB, Not Necessary to Post here but relay info on yr Facebook page.
    Re your Facebook post concerning moldy packaged food: Report it to USDA Food & Nutrition Services, who administers National School Lunch Program. I don’t think they require a name for a phone report. 609-259-5025 is Robbinsville, NJ MidAtlantic Reg’l ofc.

  4. Since when is the ironbound white? It is an immigrant neighborhood that is ignored completely by the city of newark. Classess have always been overcrowded! We need another building given the massive construction of residential property that occurred in the past decade. By the way maybe someone can point out to her the massive loss of teachers at ironbound schools and questionable transfers. My kid does not have a teacher!!!!! This is the cami plan going after good schools and destroying them!!!! A bad teacher may affect a students growth but bad policy affects an entire generation. This is such moment!

  5. Wow. My husband and I just watched her lying face, Cami Anderson, on News 12, NJ. She said they walked door to door getting the good news out about One Newark’s enrollment plan. This is the same woman who walks out of meetings, and won’t meet with parents or the Mayor, etc. She touted lying figures, absolutely, about how in 4 years under her Superintendentness there are less dropouts, higher scores, and 1000 more pre-k kids, but didn’t tell the truth about how they got those 1000 more pre-k kids. She said the rotten apples are just a few who are politicizing Newark schools, etc., blah, blah, blah. She was on for about 2 minutes (?) and said an entire diatribe about how she is good, everyone else is a rotten apple focusing on the small glitches. She snubbed the boycott, she said bussing was successful, and basically hand fed her drivel to the camera.

    How to do know when Cami Anderson is lying? HER LIPS are moving. She refused to meet with anyone. She doesn’t HEAR what is being said…she deflects.

    If she believes that there are only 4 schools in Newark that are “highly desirable” and THAT is what is making parents angry, then how does her One Newark plan address making the remaining schools better? Certainly not by charterizing them. Certainly not by having an inadequate number of professional staff and teachers, and over crowded classes. She is so full of crap, my tv smells bad from having her appear on it.

    Bob Braun: And isn’t it sad the reporter didn’t know enough to challenge her? That’s not journalism, it’s public relations.

    SOMEONE NEEDS TO GET ONTO NEWS 12 NJ to rebut her. Someone? Anyone?

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