Newark’s schools: Three questions begging for answers

Newark's school leaders.
Newark’s school leaders.

Nothing beyond silence, resignation, and acquiescence comes out of Newark’s once united and vocal pro public school community anymore, but there are three questions that should be answered. They probably won’t be until it’s too late to do anyone any good. Here they are:

1. Why have schools and families throughout the rest of the state received their PARCC scores but not Newark? What scam is Christopher Cerf, the state-imposed superintendent, planning to make him and Gov. Chris Christie look good while making traditional public schools look worse? By the time the scores are made available to teachers, they will be useless as diagnostic and remedial tools.

2. Why is no one protesting  the decision by the so-called “Brick Academy” to bypass state law and become a charter school through the clumsy expedience of closing down and reopening as a privately-operated school. We know of course that Dominique Lee, an old-time Teach for America crony of Cami Anderson, has been given unprecedented private, entrepreneurial control of Avon and Peshine. But there is a law requiring a vote by teachers and family to convert a public school into a charter. Why is it that following a law is always a requirement of the powerless—but never of the powerful? We know why Cerf is allowing this—like Anderson, Lee also was a creature of Christopher Cerf. But where is the advisory board? Where is the mayor?  Where is the teachers’ union? Was this illegal conversion part of the mayor’s deal with Christie?

3. It is now almost the end of the year and the twins of school destruction, Cerf and his new-found ally Valerie Wilson—Don’t you just love hearing, “You can call me Val” and “You can call me Chris”?—are still blocking school budgets and personally approving (or disapproving) every cent spent by traditional public schools. The schools, already stripped barren of amenities common in suburban schools, have been denied funds for supplies and field trips. When will the budget cuts end? When will Wilson resign?

  1. Re #1 Maybe Newark parents will decide to Opt Out their children en masse. The test results don’t offer much in terms of diagnostic value when results are given after the school year they’re administered. We’ve yet to learn that the PARCC tests have quality questions or are valid.
    Re #2 The article you linked says that a decision re Brick Academy will be made in the spring. So the families must cope with the uncertainty (and some youngsters may have been shunted from other closed schools in prior years).
    The article reports that administrator’s hiring would be affected by the # of EWPs–but didn’t Cerf say they’d reduced that number?

  2. Another question for you Bob:

    How is NPS getting away with refusing to address the needs of handicapped students desperately in need of services mandates by state and federal law?

    Bob Braun: Newark students don’t count in the eyes of the state and federal government. After 50 years of writing about children in the city, that’s the only explanation I can come up with.

    1. I hear Cerf admits to being well aware of the under servicing of special needs kids in Newark, but that just rules out willful ignorance as an excuse. What success is possible through the courts?

  3. Chris Cerf’s machine has a lot of whirring parts and a few key features.

    Behold how it moves. So powerful. And with such purpose. Who, we might be asking ourselves, is worthy to stand, tall and unmolested, before Chris Cerf’s colossal machine?

    Here’s a little test. Does proximity to the juggernaut make you feel a little bit (at least) high, or does it make you feel sick? First the one, and then the other? Some of both, maybe? Or is there no effect at all?

    Here’s another test. What will become of the ones who, following prolonged exposure to the effects of Cerf’s machine, become sickened? What is the plan for them? How many shots at re-habituation will they be granted? And what becomes of them then?

    What kindness awaits those who were, initially, pleasantly intoxicated but then thought better with regard to the costs of their having partaken?

    What are the implications for a program that is specifically designed to make you (a little, at least) drunk on a manufactured image of yourself? And dependent. So very, very dependent.

    And why is it so much easier to hawk such wares among the wounded?

    I think the recovery community calls this addiction replacement. Or, if you prefer, addiction transfer. I know it is difficult to hear, but please take heed of the fact that there is a lot of money to be found–and made—in the management of human affliction, especially when treatment is fueled by a massive funding pool such as one might find in a lucrative insurance market, or a taxpayer-funded kitty of big cat proportions. Or–oh joy—a specially cultivated combination of the “desirable traits” of both.

    How fungible are those big ole assets? Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

    How will education be any different, once it is delivered into the hands of the corporate few? Far too many of us (what is the latest term? Disadvantaged? Underserved? Ignorant and heathen?) have already met up with the for-profit justice system. When will people learn that only the rich and powerfully vetted can get away with theft on a massive scale. That is, of course, why they hate socialists and want to take away their lunch money. Affording the least perfect a respectable shot at a livelihood isn’t in the numbers, even for the holiest of Job Creators.

    Corporate, we might recall, is willing to sell us just about anything that can be owned and branded, even stuff that kills you. And they lie about the hazardous effect (the externalities) for as long as they are able to, before they cover their tracks with a nice affordable payout and a festive ironclad bow–hermetically affixed to a gift-wrapped black box of sealed testimony–and predictably sally out of view towards their next best and most profitable adventure. Another expedition, still one among many, already lined up on a very impressive conveyor.

    You don’t get to be big time, after all, without the ability to plan ahead. While you are not busy burning both ends in a quest to capture someone else’s lightning in your own trademarked bottle.

    Regardless of the outcome, here and with regard to the Newark Public Schools, we should be making a very careful assessment of Cerf’s machine–while it is rather more hungry and feeding out in the open–because the trouble is not going to end when Chris & Chris have their transformative way in Newark. It will not be settled, once and for all, by a private/public partnership. Who, do you suppose, in this particular bondage ritual, gets to be the bitch? Do we really think they are selling freedom?

    For one and for all?

    A love of the truth, when combined with careful observation and a few extra ounces of courage, will get you through even the tightest of pinches, arriving like a heavenly kiss. You know, the kind of deliverance that no one can predict? That once in a lifetime, and yet unending, who could imagine, beholden to nobody variety that has your own true name on it?

    The kind of experience that a blind and fawning urge for self-preservation cannot begin to approach, even when accompanied by a fantastic goodie bag and a color-coded tee shirt, or an Ivy League window decal (while simultaneously withholding a bunch of embarrassing and proprietary trade secrets from public view).

    And there is one salient fact which we ought never let out of our sight, because such carelessness is liable to render us plucked and ready for shrink-wrapping at the local upscale market. This is not Christopher Cerf’s machine. His is simply another franchise operation among many, even though he shares—too perfectly–initials with that other plotter named Chris.

    “Hi, I’m Chris,” the Governor of NJ famously says, while on extended safari for new political donors. The stateless statesman. Tell me about it. Who used to be his favorite rubes?

    The machine that these two tout belongs to their masters. Chris and Chris are here for the pleasure it brings to self-sniffing and arguably megalomaniacal billionaires (even the softer ones), who modestly palpitate at the sight of these two noble warriors wielding this latest weapon–the newest educational battle gear which they so carefully designed and commissioned, somewhere, over there, in their favorite laboratory. With the help of fresh-faced IT people galore.

    Cami came. Cami did not conquer. As it turns out, she was expendable, but she bought Sir Cerf some valuable time to mount a revised strategy and with it new tactics, while her efforts flushed out some vital information about the ability of their “enemies” to resist Cerf’s play. Or should that be inability? She also accomplished, through that favorite and too often misguided vehicle of steadfast loyalty, the protection of her adopted master’s face, who, at that time, may well have been Christopher Cerf. He hired her, after all, and the private/public revolving door does little, by now, to blur such relationships.

    Superintendent Anderson discovered that Newark ain’t that easy, at least compared to other urban targets. What will the lesson be for Christopher Cerf, Newark’s newest white hunter, now conveniently based (camouflaged?) in a reputedly progressive bedroom suburb?

    Had Superintendent Anderson been more wildly successful in her own time, if not in her own right, Chris Cerf would not need to step into the breach and risk dirtying his gentleman’s hands, as he now must. Who has noticed which hands he will gladly shake, and what distinguishes those he will not? How genuine is his smile? Can anyone, besides his funders, even say for certain?

    What gifts, besides his native charisma (such as it is) has Mr. Cerf to offer? And who, really, is buying the charisma?

    Bob Braun: Good to hear from you again. Cerf reads my blog and your post will drive him up a wall because he thinks in the sort of abstractions you command so well. He knows he is a phony and we have a collection of his emails from my days in The Star-Ledger that prove the point so well. If anyone in Newark had the courage and political independence to stand up to him (and the other Chris) he would fold like a character from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” So far no one has pushed him–and probably won’t. He has the personality of a Potemkin village and would show it at the right provocation.

  4. Mr Braun, Thank you for tweeting the info re NYC report on cleaning contaminated sites, including Shabazz & Maple Ave schools, which were supposed to have started clean-up plans by Jan 6 ’14 and May 7 ’12 respectively but did not until Nov 20 ’15.
    •Cami Anderson had time to compose puff pieces for Huffington Post (loved reading @ her crew team flying to meets); hire Mike DuHaime’s staffer’s spouse; travel to Rick Hess’s Washington, DC conference BUT did not have time to address this??
    •Chris Cerf should have overseen the clean-ups BOTH before & after he was “excited about what he could do from that seat” at Amplify. Oh, wait, he was busy celebrating wedding anniversaries 2012, 2013, 2015.
    When people would comment “criminals”or that these folks should be in jail on your Facebook page I thought they were engaging in hyperbole.
    •Also, David Hespe, former Chief Intervention Officer Tim Matheny, and current Chief Intervention Officer Chris Snyder have been remiss.

    Do the 77 clergy members who signed the 2014 letter have any attorneys in their congregations?

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