(Bob Braun’s Ledger presents the text of a statement read by John Abeigon, NTU president, and directed to state-appointed superintendent Christopher Cerf at the last school board meeting.)
Respect is earned, not received just because someone wishes it so. Returning local control is not your sole responsibility here. Returning to this city a school district that is 80 percent privatized and 20 percent ruins is unacceptable and we will do everything in our power to stop you if that is your intention. (We have at this time every reason to believe that it is). As the last state-appointed superintendent of Newark’s public schools, you have plenty of work to do here restoring the traditional schools that the now discredited Cami Anderson abandoned for three years.
We have had enough “reform” to last us a lifetime—look at the shambles your predecessor left. And, if you cannot see it, or feel that you have a different opinion or narrative of what we’re seeing, then perhaps you’re not the right person for the job and you should resign immediately. And take Vanessa Rodriguez with you.*
Your predecessor left a wake of failed policy, fiscal ruin, and failed reform. So much so that the word “reform” shall be forever repugnant to true educators and synonymous with unveiled attempts by privatizers to wrestle control from public education.
The now discredited Cami came and spoke about site-based budgeting and principal autonomy—all of that was reform mumbo-jumbo. Budgets are not site based, nor are they designed to provide education to children. The Rafael Hernandez School, given last year to a novice, well-intentioned principal, is still short-staffed, few resources are available and training is nonexistent. The future of those children in NPS** hands is as dead as the cemetery that faces the school.
For all her talk of teacher empowerment, teacher-this and teacher-that, Lafayette Street School is still ruled by a megalomaniac. A vote of no confidence to have her removed by 100 percent of the staff led to nothing more than a staff meeting to discuss the issue—at which the principal sat in with a notepad and a pen. So much for open discussion about leadership. Last year, 13 teachers left that school (who leaves Lafayette? No one!)—young, eager, vibrant teachers, good teachers, great teachers, come-in-early-and-leave-late kind of teachers. And this district could have cared less.
“One Newark”*** is a crime against children and parents. Parents have lost jobs, siblings are separated, cultural differences spat upon, the ability to grow in a neighborhood school and form lifelong friendships and loyalty to an alma mater—gone.
Kids don’t cry at “Renew”**** school graduations any more because they don’t know anybody—gone!
Number of top achieving Newark charter schools placed in a successful Newark traditional school by “One Newark”—ZERO.
Number of top-achieving Newark traditional school students placed in a successful Newark traditional school by “One Newark”—ZERO.
Number of top achieving Newark traditional school students forcibly removed by “One Newark” and sent to a charter school against their parents’ wishes—103 and counting. And we don’t have this year’s numbers yet.
The horror stories will continue until “One Newark” is abolished. Changing its name to “student assistance centers” fools no one.
Your predecessor fired or let go of hundreds of aides and clerks, demanding that staff left behind do more with less. She eliminated drug and attendance counselors in some reform Kool-Aid-inducted trip that told her the community and faith-based organizataions would help fill in the vacancies—bodega owners would call NPS security if they saw Johnny cutting class, the homeless guy sell The Star-Ledger at street lights would call DARE if they saw Mary buying a nickel bag of heroin. And, of course, the district reported 100 percent attendance throughout the district!
All eliminated positions must be restored. The majority of these employees are Newark residents. Many are single moms, most are Hispanic or Black working poor. I have never met anyone in my life who so professed to love urban children and yet despised and disrespected their parents as much as the now discredited Cami Anderson. When will you correct her abuses and call these dedicated workers back?
Don’t even get me started with the crimes committed against veteran, experienced teachers at the hands of your mentee. And the so-called Pathways Program to attend to the needs of special education students. The whole notion of short cuts to special education, the whole notion of employees without placement (EWPS), is abhorrent to true educators—a potion a rational, God-fearing person could only ascribe to the work of the devil.
The reform movement has been outed! Broadies***** Anderson and Chris Cerf colluded to fail our schools in order to enrich reform-for-profit and politically connected neighbors at the expense of taxpayers and the lives and reputations of educators. Our schools are not failing—they have been failed. No wonder the 25 percent lowest performing schools are all “reformed” schools.
Cami needed to fail our schools and you aided and abetted. What she did was morally reprehensible. We were right all along and here’s the evidence:
“The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has found the New Jersey Department of Educaion (NJDOE) failed to comply with requirements of its Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver by not intervening to improve 28 low performing schools in Newark…Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf improperly gave into a demand from Newark’s state-appointed superintendent, Cami Anderson.” (USED letter dated 6/19/2015 to the Education Law Center.
Who was she to demand anything from you, her boss? Much less to force you to commit an impropriety with federal regulations, the education of students, and the lives of educators?
If you ever did anything improper as a teacher, aide or clerk in this district under the discredited Cami Anderson, you’d have been fired on the spot, in a heartbeat.
You have four weeks to reverse her evil and prove to us that you are here not just for your much-benefited friends and contacts but also the traditional schools that fund them at great detrimental expense.
Our path as a teachers’ union is clear.
* Rodriguez is “chief talent officer” of the state administration. That’s a “reform” name for personnel director.
**NPS–Newark Public Schools, the official designation of the state administration. Not to be confused with the Newark school board that NPS officials call the school advisory board.
*** “One Newark” is the universal enrollment plan originally devised by Cerf when he was a consultant to the Newark schools and executed by Anderson after Cerf was named state education commissioner by Chris Christie. Cerf’s firm, Global Education Advisers, operating out of his house in Montclair, received $500,000 but he claims he never received the money.
**** “Renew Schools” was the original name of schools singled out for special “reforms.” Most of them failed to improve student performance. Now schools targeted for reform–meaning unin-busting–are called “turnaround” schools. The brand “Renew” lost its attractiveness.
*****”Broadies” are graduates of a non-accredited school called the Eli Broad Academy begun by a billionaire entrepreneur to teach a generation of “reform”-minded educators to “disrupt” public education. Cerf is a graduate but Anderson is not, although she has pursued the academy’s policies.