Newark’s school chief Cerf to consolidate power–local control is still far away

Brad Haggerty–the new power in Cerf’s public schools–is trading in Anderson’s hatchet for Cerf’s.

Christopher Cerf, the state bureaucrat, private business entrepreneur, and charter school advocate who was supposed to bring local autonomy to the Newark public schools, isn’t acting like someone about to give up state control of New Jersey’s largest school district. In fact, he is about to announce a sweeping reorganization of the system that only entrenches his–and the state’s– power.

Roger Leon--no longer an assistant superintendent, but he's got a job.
Roger Leon–no longer an assistant superintendent, but he’s got a job.

Gone are all of the assistant superintendents, including Roger Leon, for a long time the anti-state activist community’s superintendent-in-waiting once state control was eliminated. While Leon will keep an administrative position under Cerf–the still-to-be explained “chief operations officer”–he will no longer be an assistant superintendent, according to sources close to officials at school headquarters.

The top-level purge skipped over Brad Haggerty who will become the second-in-command under Cerf with the titlew of “chief academic officer”. Haggerty was for years the enforcer for Cami Anderson, the former state-appointed superintendent and Cerf protégé.

“He’s the new bright star in the state administration,” said one source at school headquarters.

This is what I wrote about Haggerty in April, 2014–when he got a fat raise from his friend Anderson:

Then there is Brad Haggerty, who was a charter school leader in New York for “New Visions,” one of the endless number of private, non-governmental organizations that Cami surrounds herself with. His raise was $35,000, from $140,000 to $175,000. He has served as Cami’s hatchet man for negotiations.

Peter Turnamian--Gone from Newark
Peter Turnamian–Gone from Newark

Newly-named assistant superintendents were drawn from the ranks of  principals, mostly from the North Ward–Kathy Duke Jackson, First Avenue School; Robert Gregory, American History; Erskine Glover, Quitman Street; Yolanda Mendez, Roberto Clemente, and Carolyn Granato, McKinley.

Gone–apparently without much remorse from anyone–will be Peter Turnamian, a less than popular assistant superintendent who founded what he called the best charter school in Newark. The best charter school in Newark failed. Turnamian also was the less-than-genius behind efforts of the school district to take away special services from special needs children by developing a new “pathway” that meant intimidating teachers into talking parents out of the services their children needed. He helped to write a literal script for the money-saving assault on special education.



Also out of a job is assistant superintendent Mitchell Center, another long-time Anderson loyalist. I wrote this about Center when he got his big raise from Anderson:

 He is an assistant superintendent and, more important, an old Cami friend from the New Teacher Project, New Leaders, the New York City schools and charter schools—so Cami is making sure her old friend and longtime co-privatizer is well paid.

Other high-ranking bureaucrats will get new titles but keep their jobs and their 6-figure salaries.

Center--he and Cami go 'way back.
Center–he and Cami went way back and now he is out of a job.


Many lower level administrators will be fired. School board sources there is a list already drawn up and given to the school board–but it has yet to be released.

Cerf has been selling his reorganization to school board insiders–his relations to the new school board dominated by Mayor Ras Baraka have vastly improved–as a way of both making central headquarters more efficient and eliminating Anderson loyalists.

The only real Anderson loyalist to maintain true power in Newark will be Cerf himself who, as the state’s education commissioner,  appointed Anderson, approved all her policies, allowed her to ignore laws and regulations governing charter schools and school reform, and upheld her budgets. Since taking power almost a year ago, however, Cerf has all but said, “Cami who?” and pretended he had nothing to do with his protégé’s policies.

But there is more to Cerf’s palace coup than changes in the ranks of his top lieutenants, the dismissal of long-term employees, and the dismissal of a few Anderson loyalists. And that has to do with the deal cut between Baraka and Gov. Chris Christie that resulted in Anderson’s dismissal and Cerf’s hiring after he helped make a mess out of the private company Amplify headed by his own mentor, former New York City schools chancellor, Joel Klein.

Some may remember the Baraka/Christie deal was supposed to guarantee the return of local control to Newark. Indeed, Baraka boasted the deal would bring local control within a year, probably less.

Didn’t happen. And, apparently, isn’t going to happen.

A key element in the deal was the creation of a committee known as the Newark Educational Success Board (NESB).  The NESB–made up of a majority of Christie-lovers and charter school advocates–was a convenient closet in which to hide three of the most vocal anti-Christie activists in Newark. They were Mary Bennett of the Alliance for Newark Public Schools; Grace Sergio, a parent activist, and Jose Leonardo, the head of the increasingly powerful and active Newark Student Union (NSU).

Those three very strong personalities have all but disappeared from public view–and, with them, the hopes of a city to have a school system response to its residents.

The NESB was supposed to provide a “road map” for the return for local control but that was a lie. It was really designed to squelch public opposition to Christie and Anderson just when Christie was announcing his ill-fated presidential campaign.

The NESB was supposed to hold a series of open community hearings, gathering the views of Newark residents for how the city should take back control. That didn’t happen. It was supposed to present its report by the end of the school year. That didn’t happen.

And now persons close to Cerf and his plans are saying local control is not likely to happen before Christie leaves office in January, 2018. Christie has, after all, become the Chief Supporter of the maniac Donald Trump who could be the next president of the United States–and will certainly have a good job for the governor.

So it’s still important to Baraka and his allies in the Newark schools that no one in the city embarrass the embarrassment we have for governor. Until his term ends in 2018–or he becomes Trump’s vice president or US attorney general.







  1. Smh! Thanks Bob for continuing to tell the truth…apartheid Newark is still up and running I see.. why doesn’t Christie just have the employees and students pick cotton and tobaçco all day! He sure has enough overseers! Freedom is bliss! Greetings from Charlotte.

    1. Mr Mötley,
      I was wondering what you are doing. Did you complete your dissertation? Best wishes

  2. This is an interesting article, Now I better understand why my daughter is not able to transfer from Early College High School A High School On The Campus Of West Side High School. After Allowing Everyone Except God The Video Of Her Being Assaulted In Class While A Teacher Was Present Its Still Doesn’t Warrant A Transfer. Heaven Help Us All. No One Is Safe When There’s A Political Machine For Those That Have.

    1. Please email me. We need to talk:

  3. […] Bob Braun gets it right again: Consolidating power among Christie’s friends in the Newark school system. […]

  4. New Visions’ Mission Statement: We are dedicated to ensuring that all New York City public school students, regardless of race or economic class, have access to a high-quality education that prepares them for the rigors of college and the workforce. Further, we are committed to sharing innovative tools, strategies and lessons learned in New Visions schools with others in New York and throughout the country to prove that meaningful change is achievable at scale and success is possible for every child.
    Substitute Newark for New York and this is what Brad Haggerty should be bringing to Newark. Let’s hope that he will prove to be able to effect positive change for ALL Newark’s students. I know people who have worked with him at New Visions and all of them have made positive changes (after leaving New Visions) in their new positions. (The one I know the best is presently on vacation and I will get back with more information in a week.)

  5. “New Visions, as you know, is a non-profit (not private) and accepts public funds from NYC public schools. New Visions, with funding from Bill Gates, reformed select NYC public schools that were once labeled as dropout factories. Yes, they have a charter arm, which I don’t completely agree with, but 80% of the organization is working with traditional NYC public schools. When I worked with Brad at New Visions he was a leadership facilitator working with traditional public schools. He may be more reform-leaning than you would like but he’s not a bad guy.”

    Bob, this a direct quote about Haggarty from someone (my daughter, Jessica) who worked closely with him while they were at New Visions. I trust this person with my life and totally value her educational opinions.

    I believe that if you met with Brad Haggarty you would find he is his own man and you two could find common ground to benefit all the children of Newark.

    Casually dropping her name in a “Do you know anyone with the last name “Knevals?” might soften the conversation. ?

  6. Which schools were reformed Harriet? What methods were used?

    1. “Haggerty was the founding HS principal in Brooklyn for 4 years at the HS for Global Citizenship (non-charter high school) as one of the new century small high schools that Gates funded in the Prospect Heights Campus after that large high school closed due to violence and being a dropout factory. I think if Brad can find a non-charter answer he will look for it but he’s also a big proponent of choice for parents and students.” Direct quote from someone who worked with him at New Visions.

      I don’t know the method, but that can be researched.

      I find it so astounding that one of his picks for assistant superintendent is Kathy Duke-Jackson whom I taught in first grade and fifth grade at Quitman, taught with at Newton, and was my principal at Burnet when Ras Baraka was vice principal. When you walk into her First Avenue School, you would think you are 10 miles up the road in the heart of the suburbs.

      Erskine Glover was just at the White House. He was honored for his leadership at Quitman St. School.

      Change is coming. I believe it is not what Christie expected because he doesn’t have a clue. It will be better.

      1. Gates has publicly owned up to the lack of success of his small high schools venture. Students benefit from the availability of a variety of courses and activities. You may not be aware of the fact that Gates’ experiments in education are widely criticized by those of us who actually teach. He profits from his educational philanthropy by promoting ever expanding use of technology.

  7. Bob,

    Where is the NTU in all of this?

  8. You have to wonder whether these newly-named assistant superintendents drawn from the ranks of principals would serve the students of Newark better if they remained as principals instead of being shuffled off to the central office.

    1. Agreed. Duke Jackson has a utopia at First Avenue. I don’t think that any of the VP’s there have the cojones to demand what Jackson demanded from her team and the students. A real shame.

  9. I went to the last board meeting at science high on June 22,2016
    I expected to see the names of the New asst superintendents. I
    expected to see the names of the ones removed. It was not
    in the board minutes. How can I find this information?

    Bob Braun: Good luck with that. Some names were released at the business meeting last week–but you had to be there to hear them. The information on the school district’s website is outdated and no press release was issued. He issued a brief annual report with the names involved in new promotions but he didn’t say whom he fired, demoted or otherwise threw under the bus. Cerf has turned the school district into an agency about as transparent as North Korea–and the school board is allowing it.

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