Newark teachers demand Cerf “reverse the evil” of “One Newark” and privatization

NTU President John Abeigon tells new state-appointed superintendent to "reverse the evil"
NTU President John Abeigon tells new state-appointed superintendent to “reverse the evil”

(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.




  1. We have become witnesses to a leader becoming a leader with this oratory on the current state of the Newark Public Schools. May he be followed by many others who currently have a position of authority in the city of Newark and have not stepped forward to defend our children. They have been enablers to these moral crimes.

  2. I beg to differ Mythology. We are way past the oratory stage. Baraka is a great orator in the Civil Rights tradition and he appears to have made a pact with the devil. At this juncture, I am more interested in tachlis (Yiddish for practicalities) as I face the sunset of my career.

    1. I agree. But Mr. Abeigon has taken a public stance in stating the abuses that have been committed against the children and adults by Mr. Cerf et. Al , and as you state Mr Baraka has not even done this in his oratories. Mr. Abeigon will have to face down with Mr. Cerf continuously during this school year as this is a contract year for the teachers of Newark. The contract negotiated by the late Joseph DelGrosso expires and he will have to address these abuses against his members in a new contract. My point is that he will need all the assistance he can get in his battle to get a fair and reasonable contract for his members from the Christie Administration. One other point you should take note of is the power to negotiate is slowly being returned to the teacher because Cerf has to return the EWPs back to the classroom and there are less TFA teachers in the district. Mr. Cerf cannot continue to waste the taxpayers of New Jerse’y’s tax dollars by running up another annual deficit like Anderson did with the blessings of the governor. If this misuse of taxpayer money was ever revealed on a national level, how long do you think he could continue to run for POTUS? Thus, he makes a deal wth Baraka because the Newark Community was getting too powerfully vocal against his policies under Cami Anderson’a leadership. Especially, after the principal at Central High School revealed the abuses to the special needs students at her school. This was a Federal Crime so that’s the real reason Cami had to go. So , if you can influence any person to support Mr. Abigon in his efforts this year I strongly encourage you to do so.

      1. Mythology,

        Your points are well taken. The last contract was completely untenable. I have taken home less money each year. The establishment of the EWP servitude class should never have been allowed. Randi Weingarten came personally to Newark to negotiate the “historic” contract, which was a capitulation to the Christie administration. I work in a renew school where test scores are flat and we suffer the indignities if the EWA. This year I have been force placed as a Bilingual Teacher despite not speaking Spanish and not holding the proper certification. ESL vacancies in my building were filled by others with far less experience than I. Your mention of a fair contract for teachers made me laugh. The NTU has been derelict in its duties to the EWPs and others. Cerf has shifted the burden of paying for EWPs from the district to the individual schools to relieve himself if the responsibility of resolving the injustices perpetrated against veteran teachers. You need to wake up Mythology and relinquish your blind faith in the union. The teachers of Newark will continue to be subjected to a litany of abuses under One Newark and state control. NPS will be seventy percent eviscerated with the remaining high needs children not favored by charters warehoused in renew schools.

  3. 1 Bob, Thank you for posting JA’s statement–I’d been curious what he said when I read about the Advisory Board meeting (the one that didn’t conflict w wedding anniversary).

    2 For return to local control: What will be required re having teachers certified for classes they teach? I doubt control could be approved if there are numerous teachers assigned outside their field. So what is Cerf/NPS going to do? The Christie5/Baraka4 panel should address this promptly. Is Senator Rice’s joint committee addressing this?

  4. Great speech by John. Let’s hope he means it and as NTU president, means to follow it up with action.

  5. This is a bright red line – it has to be backed up with action by the community, students, and teachers. Don’t back down! No deals!

  6. Bob, You may be writing about this as I key. LA Times & WSJ report Shavar Jeffries named President DFER. He replaces Joe Wlliams (a former Daily News reporter), who will work for Walton Foundation. Interesting career paths for both.

  7. Bob, Remember your essay for NJ Monthly Sept 2014 issue (posted 8-14-14) “The Great Debate on School Reform”? Have you seen Jonathan Alter’s “Why Liberals Should Learn to Love Charter Schools” 9-1-15 The Daily Beast?
    See also Peter Greene Curmudgucation blog & Mercedes Schneider blog for their responses.

    •JA says “Newark’s charters enroll a higher percentage of poor students than district schools.” (Hope to see eloquent responses from Jersey Jazzman, Bruce Baker.)
    •JA cites Dale Russakoff’s new book The Prize and BLITHELY says, “much of the $200 million … has been squandered.”
    It’s exasperating.

  8. Great to give a speech. Great to identify the problems. But we need actions. We don’t need a solidarity elected president (I am not yet convinced he is a leader) standing at a board meeting. We need educators crowding the room. We need leafleting parents outside schools. We need teachers organized for their own profession and their students. What has he done as second in command and now president of the NTU to organize members to agitate and create a movement? We all know what’s wrong. If the path of the NTU is clear to him I hope we all see some evidence of a growing movement in Newark. It’s not enough to talk. If I am missing the action, please fill me in. Maybe I’m just not seeing it.

  9. Our increments and step progressions are frozen! John Abeigon talks…Talks…TALKS…EMAILS…TALKS! Empty phony worthless talk.

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