Questions Newark’s Cami Anderson won’t answer–and probably won’t even be asked

Cami Anderson
Cami Anderson

(SEE UPDATED QUESTIONS BELOW)   Don’t expect too much from Cami Anderson’s appearance Tuesday before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on the Public Schools. Although inept as an administrator and tone deaf as a person, Chris Christie’s agent in charge of Newark schools easily cons those who don’t know much about public education. She’s smooth–and, with the exception of state Sen. Ronald Rice, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, and Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, most of the panel’s members are either clueless or wedded to outsiders with angles to play (state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, Joe DiVincenzo’s woman in Trenton, and the Republicans who would sell their grandmothers to make Christie happy).

 

The committee members should be doing their homework, but most won’t–and, in any event, not a lot of material for homework exists. Main-stream media often ignore what Anderson does in Newark. She has manipulated funding–through the Fund for Newark’s Future, for example–to keep spending on consultants off the books and beyond the reach of laws like the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

And legislators, even good ones,  are  generalists whose knowledge of any specific topic is hardly more than one question deep. They are also partisans–so we know the Republicans won’t say or do anything to embarrass the presidential wannabe. Chris Christie, after all, said he was the “decider” for Newark–and he has decided to keep Anderson in the city despite deficits, falling test scores, embarrassing mistakes, division, and even threats to the health and safety of children.

 

What follows are questions that not only should be asked but also should be followed up with the kind of care and preparation good trial lawyers devote to cross-examination. But the first rule of cross-examination is awareness of what the witnesses’ answers will be– and that will require a deep knowledge of the subject. Here goes: 1. What have you done, Ms. Anderson, and what will you do in the next six months or a year, to ensure the return of local control to the Newark schools as required by the state takeover law? What is your plan for that return?

Cerf: Making money, first from Global Education, now from Amplify
Cerf: Making money, first from Global Education, now from Amplify

2. We’d like to take you back to the beginning of your tenure in Newark. You were brought on by then Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf whose consulting firm, Global Education Advisers, was paid $2 million to develop a plan for closing public schools and launching new charter schools. Could you tell us how much of that plan evolved into “One Newark”?  In your discussions with Cerf and Gov. Christie, did you discuss Cerf’s plan and/or their plans to eliminate neighborhood public schools and launch new charters? What role, if any, did Mayor Cory Booker play in bringing you to Newark?

Tim Carden
Tim Carden

3. We are concerned that the personal and the professional are often confused in your operation of the Newark schools–that people you know personally somehow benefit from your position because you hire them or their companies. Although we will return to this question in a different contexts later, we’d like to start with where you live. Where do you live? Don’t give us an  address,  just the town. You have said you left Newark because of threats–did you ever report those threats to the police? Isn’t is true you lived in a home owned by De’Shawn Wright but had to leave when he returned to Newark? When you did leave, what role did Tim Carden, who heads TEAM Academy,  and his wife Amy Rosen play in finding you a home through Steve Plofker who, as you probably know, is married to Bobbi Brown? Do you have an opinion as to whether your personal relationships with Carden and Wright might possibly represent a conflict of interest?

 

4. The Parthenon Group produced the algorithm for Newark’s  universal enrollment plan that implements “One Newark.” Please provide a copy of the algorithm to the committee, along with an analysis of how it works and any evaluations of  and answer the following questions:  Please explain the business relationship among you as NPS superintendent, the NPS and the Parthenon Group. What services did they provide to NPS? At what cost? Who paid the cost? What was the relationship between the study of the Newark schools done by the Parthenon Group and the purchase of their algorithm? Why have you refused to make the algorithm public?

 

5.  If you could fully implement the One Newark plan and other reforms you support, tell us what the district would look like in 5 years?  How many public schools will be left?  How many charters?  What would teaching look like? Graduation rates? The distribution of special education students?

Gabrielle Wyatt--an 80 percent raise?
Gabrielle Wyatt–an 80 percent raise?

6.  This past year, you gave raises of up to 80 percent for your top assistants, many of whom now make $175,000 a year–how do you justify the raises given to your staff when the performance of the overall district is not improving?  How do you justify that in terms of the deficits you have faced? Can you explain why so many of your top assistants are people who worked with you in New York and other places and share many of the same resume points as you do–Teach for America, New Leaders, Broad?

7. On the subject of colleagues who share resumes with you, you recently asked the Newark school board to approve an increase in payment to an organization called Turnaround for Children, the CEO of which is Alison Avera, a former associate of yours both in Newark and New York. You asked for this increase despite the failure of Turnaround to help the so-called “Renew Schools” improve their student achievement profile. Why did you do that? Were the services provided by Turnaround the subject of bidding?

All in the family: Alison Avera and Tracy Breslin
All in the family: Alison Avera and Tracy Breslin

8. It also has been reported that Avera and her partner Tracy Breslin received more than $750,000 for their work in Newark schools. Could you explain that work? Why was it funded through the Fund for Newark’s Future?

9. Provide us with a list of all consultants, individuals as well as entities, that are currently receiving money for their work in the Newark public schools–with an explanation as to why such work could not be done by staff members. Please also explain how many of these consultants were hired through a public bidding process.

10. Please provide this committee with all documents relevant to this question: How has the “One Newark” plan affected transportation? How many more children need public transportation? What studies have you done on the impact of “One Newark” on the length of the “commute” children must make to their schools?

 

11. How many children who are Newark residents still have not been placed in Newark schools? How much instructional time was lost–and by how many students–because of the problems attendant on the first few weeks of class in Newark?

 

12. How do attendance and tardiness rates compare under “One Newark” with previous years? Have you analyzed those figures in relationship to the distance children must travel?

 

13. You designated some schools as schools that would be closed under “One Newark” and abruptly changed your mind. We have in mind the Hawthorne Avenue School. Can you explain how you made that decision and decisions like it?

 

 

14. How many neighborhood public schools will you close this year under the second year of “One Newark” and how many new charter schools–or “satellites” of existing charter schools–will you open? When will you inform the community of your decision this year?

 

15. Among the many groups you have laid off are technology coordinators? What is the readiness of the schools to implement PARCC? Will you be using computer-based tests or pen and paper?

Brenda Keith
Brenda Keith

16. You have taken pride in the number of administrators and others you have transferred out of schools–especially so-called Renew Schools–but can you tell us how you expect learning to go on in the midst of the chaos caused by frequent transfers of personnel? Specifically, please address what happened to the student Brenda Keith who apparently dropped through the cracks at West Side High School and later, after weeks of being missing,  was found dead just a few hundred feet from the school.

 

17. How many instructional employees are designated “educators without placement,” or EWPS? What is the annual cost of keeping these teachers on the payroll without using them properly?

 

18. How many teachers are now teaching outside the fields in which they are certified? How do you plan to stop this obvious violation of state law and regulations?

 

19. Why did you fail to ensure that 28 so-called “priority” and “focus” schools in Newark–under the terms of the NCLB waiver received by New Jersey–would undergo an assessment by a state Regional Achievement Center (RAC) as required by law and regulation? SCIARRALETTER

 

20. Why did you fail to comply with the law requiring employee and community support for conversions to charter schools?

Neil Thomas--denied due process
Neil Thomas–denied due process

21. Your office has continually tried to use an obviously flawed interpretation of the TEACHNJ tenure law to fire experienced teachers despite repeated rejections of this view by state-appointed mediators. Why? What as been the cost in legal fees of these futile efforts? How did you arrange to have state education department employees take down information from its website that proved you were wrong? Can you explain the timing of the Peter Shulman letter that appears to be an obstruction of a legal process?

 

22. Before you began firing experienced teachers under this flawed interpretation, you attempted to decertify some instructors but were rebuffed by the state in that effort to strip teachers of their licenses. Why did you pursue that effort?

 

23. The parents of special education parents have complained their children are not receiving transportation for their children and that, in many cases, their IEPs have been changed without due process–or simply ignored.  Are you aware that failure to follow individual  IEPs is a violation of federal law? What do you know of these complaints and what have you done to correct these problems? Please provide us with an analysis of the special education problem, including numbers of how many IEPs were changed in the last year.

 

24. Can you tell us why special education students with the most needs have been assigned only to public schools and not to charter schools under “One Newark”?

Wayne Dennis--His firing precipitated the chaos at Barringer
Wayne Dennis–His firing precipitated the chaos at Barringer

25. The principal of one of two schools co-located within Barringer High School was fired just before school opened in September. The other quit. Barringer opened in the midst of “One Newark” chaos, not just without leadership, but also without adequate supplies and desks and palatable food for the children. Please explain to us how you let these problems happen and continue for months?

 

26. During much of the chaos caused by the “One Newark” plan, you were traveling–including one a day you were supposed to testify before this committee. Explain the importance of this travel to the children of Newark. Also provide this committee with information concerning who paid for these trips and whether they were authorized by the state?

Natasha Allen--What was threatening about her reference to "brown babies"?
Natasha Allen–What was threatening about her reference to “brown babies”?

27. How can you conduct business as the superintendent of the Newark schools when you refuse to attend Newark school board meetings? Explain to us specifically why you felt threatened by these words from parent Natasha Allen– “I’m trying to figure out, like, do you not want for your brown babies what we want for ours?” –and used them to stop attending board meetings.

 

28. Please provide documentation that every public school in Newark has a certificate of health and safety. Why do some schools–like Louise A. Spencer– not have them?

 

29. Can you explain why you are deliberately promoting charter schools–including assigning students to them whose families did not wish to be assigned–knowing such efforts would result in a loss of enrollment at neighborhood public schools and a reduction in state aid to those schools?

 

30. You designated the so-called “Renew Schools” reform as a centerpiece of your alleged reform attempts–yet those schools have failed to improve student achievement. Can you explain why? Will you now end that attempt?

 

31. Do you believe it was ethical to hire Amplify, a company headed by the man, former state education commissioner Christopher Cerf,  who hired you for the Newark position?

 

32. Can you tell us why you insisted on hiring an organizatiion that employed your former associate Julia Phelan to provide additional, (not required) testing for English and language arts when the high school English teachers in Newark asked you to use the money to provide PARCC training to teachers?

Pink Hula Hoop--a crime?
Pink Hula Hoop–a crime?

33. Why did you sell the 18th avenue school to a profit-making company, Pink Hula Hoop,  that had no experience in running a school?

 

34. Why did you sell the 18th avenue school to a profit-making company that can, in the future, sell off that land for private development?

 

35. Do you believe it was ethical to sell off public school property at less than appraised value to a close associate of yours and of Christopher Cerf, Tim Carden? Were you aware that a former mayor of Newark went to jail for allegedly selling off public property to a close associate?

 

36. Please explain how you believe helping former close associates like Tim Carden  and Amy Rosen benefits the children of Newark?

 

37.  Do you believe it is ethical to promote the private business interests of charter school management organizations and other groups you have helped receive funding and support in Newark?

 

38. Why did you support the award of tens of millions of dollars in state Economic Development Authority (EDA) to charter schools, some of which were run by your former close associates, when you remained silent when state School Development Authority (SDA) money for Newark projects was blocked by the governor?

 

39. Do you really believe in public education? If so, how do you explain all you have done in Newark to destroy neighborhood public schools and promote privatization in the form of expanded charter schools?

And take him with you
And take him with you

40. Why won’t you admit failure and resign?

 

41. How can  Newark’s public schools, paid for by all the taxpayers of NJ under the Abbott rulings, be turned over to private companies? Do we  get a tax reduction as a result? Where’s the Facebook money? How much of it was spent, and on what, and where’s the rest of it? What strings were attached to that money in the first place?

 

42.  In the seniority waiver you submitted to the education commissioner last year, you expressly stated that the waiver would not violate teachers’ statutory tenure rights. in fact, however, your request would have violated tenure rights, which is against state law. Why did you make a false statement in support of your request?

 

43. Please tell us what has happened to the 18th Avenue School property since you sold it as discount to TEAM Academy.

 

44. Was Christie’s public bullying of student leader Kristin Towkaniuk last summer political payback for her activities in the Newark Student Union? Is Kristin (and others) on a watch list?

45. When the 2013-2014 NJ Ask data was released this fall why did you shut down schools’ access to this data?  Have you released the raw data to the schools?  When will you provide a full data report of district progress for every subgroup in every school?

46. Since you refuse to provide complete information on the enrollment and attendance patterns resulting from One Newark can you please explain your understanding of accountability and transparency?  Can you explain why you think you are above any accountability to the tax-paying citizens of Newark?

47. Why, after five years, won’t you settle with local 617?

48. Why didn’t  you work collaboratively with all stakeoholders on the development of the “One Newark” plan?

49. In trying to explain why elementary school scores went down last year, you put some of the blame on the transfer to charter schools of students who might have scored higher. Why are you deliberately trying to make neighborhood public schools into schools that will take only those students who less likely to do well on statewide tests?

50. Your policies are aimed at enhancing charter school enrollment. Why are you doing that and then–a) contending parents are ‘voting with their feet’ and b) admitting those same policies lessen the effectiveness of neighborhood public schools. As superintendent, are you working for public schools or charter schools–and please don’t say both?

 

 

14 comments

  1. Joe

    If only our legislators had the knowledge and the courage to ask these questions of Anderson.
    NJ Spotlight recently had an article about the supposed miracle and success of a Renew School, the Quitman School. In my opinion, this is just another bit of propaganda for the destruction of public schools. The article even admits that there was a huge turnover in staff, many were fired and many just quit Quitman because they worked longer hours with pathetic fast food type of compensation.
    http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/14/12/18/a-taste-of-victory-finally-at-a-struggling-newark-school/

  2. Florence Swan

    Say what you want about Cami Andersen,but with all the picketing, walkouts and demonstrations , she is still the Superintendent of Newark Public Schools. Why?

    Bob Braun: Because Chris Christie, the “decider,” is still governor and he is both indifferent to New Jersey’s cities and corrupt.

  3. P. Grunther

    Ms. Swan…although Bob replied to your question, I’d like to add that the President of the United States can be impeached for improper conduct, but there is absolutely no process for removing Cami Anderson if her supporter and “appointer”, Chris Christie does not choose to do so. In all of the surrounding school districts, the Board of Education, responding to community input, could choose not to renew a Superintendent’s contract, but the citizens and taxpayers of Newark do not have that option. Fair? Our only hope is that a federal investigation reveals the answers to all of Bob’s questions above and the ensuing uproar forces Christie, for fear of losing the Republican presidential nomination, to remove her. But based on Obama’s and Duncan’s positions on education, I for one am not holding my breath that such a federal investigation will be completed any time soon. This really feels like Jim Crow and the carpetbaggers are profiting from the injustice being done to Newark’s schoolchildren. Indeed, your opening, “Say what you want about Cami Anderson…” is ironically appropriate…all we CAN do is “say about Cami Anderson” in the hopes that the situation is publicized enough to raise a protest!

  4. Mr. Outside Responding in Cami's Voice

    I spent the better part of two hours writing these responses. It started out as fun, but as I wrote, a weird thing happened. It was like I had become Cami Anderson. It was like I could understand her logic and her reasoning. Not that I support it. But I began to understand how she could make it make sense to her.

    My hope is that Bob will publish this post, and that it will be read and circulated. By the time I answered the last question, I wondered something else. Cami is not unintelligent. Right? She’s just not graceful. She sort of gets things done despite herself. So what I’ve done is make accommodations for this by pretending these were the real questions she would be asked on Tuesday, and then pretend she worked with her public relations team to make it sound intelligent and graceful.

    Answers in bold.

    1. What have you done, Ms. Anderson, and what will you do in the next six months or a year, to ensure the return of local control to the Newark schools as required by the state takeover law? What is your plan for that return?
    I haven’t done anything to return local control, nor will I pursue any initiatives to return local control to the Newark schools. That is not why I was hired. And it’s not why I took the job. I have no plans for return local control. Local control is part of the old guard, so it should be obvious it is not part of any of my plans for Newark’s future.

    2. We’d like to take you back to the beginning of your tenure in Newark. You were brought on by then Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf whose consulting firm, Global Education Advisers, was paid $2 million to develop a plan for closing public schools and launching new charter schools. Could you tell us how much of that plan evolved into “One Newark”? In your discussions with Cerf and Gov. Christie, did you discuss Cerf’s plan and/or their plans to eliminate neighborhood public schools and launch new charters? What role, if any, did Mayor Cory Booker play in bringing you to Newark?
    Senator Cory Booker played a central role in bringing me to Newark. The two Chrises, Cory and myself share a very clear vision of what the future of Newark looks like. In our discussions, we explored a plan changing the landscape of education in Newark by diversifying the k-12 education landscape. One property of that diversification is competition, and two properties of competition are winners and losers. I’m not eliminating neighborhood public schools. They are not able to meet the demands of the changing marketplace, and they end up losing market share, or in this case, enrollment. I have an obligation to make sure that the resources of the district and the state are used to maximum benefit. So, if enrollment is declining because a neighborhood is losing market share to another, better performing school, then I’ve got to make the difficult decision to close that school. That’s just market dynamics.

    3. We are concerned that the personal and the professional are often confused in your operation of the Newark schools–that people you know personally somehow benefit from your position because you hire them or their companies. Although we will return to this question in a different contexts later, we’d like to start with where you live. Where do you live? Don’t give us an address, just the town. You have said you left Newark because of threats–did you ever report those threats to the police? Isn’t is true you lived in a home owned by De’Shawn Wright but had to leave when he returned to Newark? When you did leave, what role did Tim Carden, who heads TEAM Academy, and his wife Amy Rosen play in finding you a home through Steve Plofker who, as you probably know, is married to Bobbi Brown? Do you have an opinion as to whether your personal relationships with Carden and Wright might possibly represent a conflict of interest?
    I am presently a resident of the State of New Jersey and therefore have fulfilled my residency obligations as a public servant under the guidelines of the NJ First Act. My transition to living in New Jersey has been made very easy with the support and warm welcome of fellow New Jersey residents; some of whom you’ve named who’ve extended courtesy and generosity to me during my initial and subsequent moves. Of the people you’ve named, we’ve worked together in various capacities of both political and educational natures in the past, and we find ourselves working together again. Professional relationships are likely to develop under such circumstances, which they have. And so may genuine friendships; none of which preclude any conduct of conflicting interest.

    4. The Parthenon Group produced the algorithm for Newark’s universal enrollment plan that implements “One Newark.” Please provide a copy of the algorithm to the committee, along with an analysis of how it works and any evaluations of and answer the following questions: Please explain the business relationship among you as NPS superintendent, the NPS and the Parthenon Group. What services did they provide to NPS? At what cost? Who paid the cost? What was the relationship between the study of the Newark schools done by the Parthenon Group and the purchase of their algorithm? Why have you refused to make the algorithm public?
    The Parthenon Group did not develop the One Newark algorithm. The Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice developed the algorithm, which they donated at a value which they did not disclose with us. The Parthenon Group conducted an audit of the district’s operations and produced a report complete with suggestions supported by their analysis, which makes recommendations towards strategically overhauling our operations.

    5. If you could fully implement the One Newark plan and other reforms you support, tell us what the district would look like in 5 years? How many public schools will be left? How many charters? What would teaching look like? Graduation rates? The distribution of special education students?
    I can not read the future. But One Newark is fully implemented and what we’re observing is that students are finally able to exercise choice. They have more access to better schools across the district. We’re seeing incremental gains in some of our lowest performing schools, and we’re closing “failure factories.” The high school graduation rate is up by 15%, and teachers now have access to more standard tools for teaching to ensure that all of our students are closer to 100 excellent schools in our city.

    6. This past year, you gave raises of up to 80 percent for your top assistants, many of whom now make $175,000 a year–how do you justify the raises given to your staff when the performance of the overall district is not improving? How do you justify that in terms of the deficits you have faced? Can you explain why so many of your top assistants are people who worked with you in New York and other places and share many of the same resume points as you do–Teach for America, New Leaders, Broad?
    I’ve worked as an educator for over 20 years, and I’ve had the privilege making acquaintances and working with some of the most talented people in the country. To bring reform to Newark, I was going to need help, and I was going to need the best and the brightest. I tapped the people who have demonstrated the ability to effect reform. Of the 18 people at the top of the pay scale in the district including myself, their combined salaries amount to 0.3% of the district’s annual budget. When compared to the deficits in Newark, it emphasizes just how important and why it is important to attract and retain the best and brightest talent to effect reform.

    7. On the subject of colleagues who share resumes with you, you recently asked the Newark school board to approve an increase in payment to an organization called Turnaround for Children, the CEO of which is Alison Avera, a former associate of yours both in Newark and New York. You asked for this increase despite the failure of Turnaround to help the so-called “Renew Schools” improve their student achievement profile. Why did you do that? Were the services provided by Turnaround the subject of bidding?
    I did not ask the school board for an increase in payment to Turnaround. The sum total of Turnaround’s services amounted to roughly $990,000.00; $700,000 of which was paid for through a grant from The Foundation For Newark’s Future, but the balance of $290,000.00, which I consider a discount for much needed services would have been our responsibility. Though I submitted a resolution to the school board for approval, a gesture of good faith and will, my position as district superintendent empowers me with final fiscal control with I exercise at my discretion.

    8. It also has been reported that Avera and her partner Tracy Breslin received more than $750,000 for their work in Newark schools. Could you explain that work? Why was it funded through the Fund for Newark’s Future?
    The scope of Turnaround’s work was to support the initial cohort of Renew Schools in the course of the renew process and throughout the inaugural school year. We were fortunate to have been awarded a grant by The Foundation For Newark’s Future to subsidize their work.

    9. Provide us with a list of all consultants, individuals as well as entities, that are currently receiving money for their work in the Newark public schools–with an explanation as to why such work could not be done by staff members. Please also explain how many of thse consultants were hired through a public bidding process.
    I’m happy to direct you to the district’s office of purchasing who I will instruct to make those items available to you immediately.

    10. Please provide this committee with all documents relevant to this question: How has the “One Newark” plan affected transportation? How many more children need public transportation? What studies have you done on the impact of “One Newark” on the length of the “commute” children must make to their schools?
    I’m happy to direct you to the district’s department of transportation who I will instruct to make the information available to you immediately.

    11. How many children who are Newark residents still have not been placed in Newark schools? How much instructional time was lost–and by how many students–because of the problems attendant on the first few weeks of class in Newark?
    To my knowledge, all Newark residents have been placed and every student is on pace with instruction. There are no students without placement at this time. The success of initiatives such as the extended day program, and afterschool has enabled us to recover what little instructional time any affected students may have lost.

    12. How do attendance and tardiness rates compare under “One Newark” with previous years? Have you analyzed those figures in relationship to the distance children must travel?
    Although promising, the data is inconclusive at this time. This is the first year of One Newark, and we will not be able to provide a full analysis until the end of the school year.

    13. You designated some schools as schools that would be closed under “One Newark” and abruptly changed your mind. We have in mind the Hawthorne Avenue School. Can you explain how you made that decision and decisions like it?
    The circumstances at Hawthorne required flexibility. The state had already approved a charter for a school at Hawthorne’s location. However, Hawthorne had already been demonstrating significant performance. Simultaneously, the deficit created a situation where the talent that contributed to Hawthorne’s success could be facing job change. The solution I presented to Hawthorne’s parents, leadership, faculty and to the charter management organization, was to maintain the present leadership, and by defacto, the faculty, but to satisfy the obligation to grant charter occupancy by contracting the management of the school to the charter management organization.

    14. How many neighborhood public schools will you close this year under the second year of “One Newark” and how many new charter schools–or “satellites” of existing charter schools–will you open? When will you inform the community of your decision this year?
    I cannot know how schools will perform in the future or how plentiful their enrollments are. Without that information, I cannot speculate on what the school marketplace in Newark will look like.

    15. Among the many groups you have laid off are technology coordinators? What is the readiness of the schools to implement PARCC? Will you be using computer-based tests or pen and paper?
    Our administrators are ready to administer the PARCC assessments. They’ve been undergoing intensive training all year and report that their schools are prepared. PARCC assessments are designed to be administered exclusively online.

    16. You have taken pride in the number of administrators and others you have transferred out of schools–especially so-called Renew Schools–but can you tell us how you expect learning to go on in the midst of the chaos caused by frequent transfers of personnel? Specifically, please address what happened to the student Brenda Keith who apparently dropped through the cracks at West Side High School and later, after weeks of being missing, was found dead just a few hundred feet from the school.
    It is my expectation that the best and brightest school leaders will rise to ensure that instruction is uninterrupted. NPS regrets what happened to the fallen student, and we are pursuing answers to explain exactly what happened.

    17. How many instructional employees are designated “educators without placement,” or EWPS? What is the annual cost of keeping these teachers on the payroll without using them properly?
    EWPS are employed in a variety of non-instructional capacities throughout the district supporting our efforts wherever they can. Presently, the combined salaries for EWPS is between $7.9 and $8.5 million. Almost 3 times as much as the highest paid salaries combined.

    18. How many teachers are now teaching outside the fields in which they are certified? How do you plan to stop this obvious violation of state law and regulations?
    To my knowledge, no teachers are teaching outside of their certifications. You’ve clearly pointed out, doing so is a violation of state law and regulations.

    19. Why did you fail to ensure that 28 so-called “priority” and “focus” schools in Newark–under the terms of the NCLB waiver received by New Jersey–would undergo an assessment by a state Regional Achievement Center (RAC) as required by law and regulation?
    I am not aware of any such oversight.

    20. Why did you fail to comply with the law requiring employee and community support for conversions to charter schools?
    My staff and I have engaged the community and various stakeholders in both formal and informal settings throughout the city to discuss charter schools.

    21. Your office has continually tried to use an obviously flawed interpretation of the TEACHNJ tenure law to fire experienced teachers despite repeated rejections of this view by state-appointed mediators. Why? What as been the cost in legal fees of these futile efforts? How did you arrange to have state education department employees take down information from its website that proved you were wrong? Can you explain the timing of the Peter Shulman letter that appears to be an obstruction of a legal process?
    I stand by our interpretation of the policy. We developed it, afterall. I stand by pursuing the judgements against those who we believed to be shortchanging our students. The district’s legal department employs a team of lawyers who are salaried district employees. I am happy to direct you to the district’s budget department who I will instruct to make available to you, the already publicly available salaries of these public servants. I cannot speak to the coincidence of Mr. Shulman’s letter and what I presume to be the regular maintenance and updating of the State Department of Education’s website.

    22. Before you began firing experienced teachers under this flawed interpretation, you attempted to decertify some instructors but were rebuffed by the state in that effort to strip teachers of their licenses. Why did you pursue that effort?
    I stand by our efforts to remove from the classroom, teachers we believed were shortchanging our students.

    23. The parents of special education parents have complained their children are not receiving transportation for their children and that, in many cases, their IEPs have been changed without due process–or simply ignored. Are you aware that failure to follow individual IEPs is a violation of federal law? What do you know of these complaints and what have you done to correct these problems? Please provide us with an analysis of the special education problem, including numbers of how many IEPs were changed in the last year.
    This is the first I am hearing of these complaints. I work very closely with my special assistant in charge of special education, and she has not brought this to my attention. That is not to say that people may not have complaints, but we have invested in a call and enrollment center where people with concerns about those with special needs can get the support they need.

    24. Can you tell us why special education students with the most needs have been assigned only to public schools and not to charter schools under “One Newark”?
    For the most part, NPS has the intra and intercity resources to accommodate special needs students. Even when a special needs student is placed in a charter school, the coordination of that students supports all happen through NPS.

    25. The principal of one of two schools co-located within Barringer High School was fired just before school opened in September. The other quit. Barringer opened in the midst of “One Newark” chaos, not just without leadership, but also without adequate supplies and desks and palatable food for the children. Please explain to us how you let these problems happen and continue for months?
    No school year starts without a few problems. The situation at Barringer was no exception. We were able to manage the issues by ensuring that we had strong Vice Principals who were able to manage both schools while we worked to find the best and brightest talents for both principal roles.

    26. During much of the chaos caused by the “One Newark” plan, you were traveling–including one a day you were supposed to testify before this committee. Explain the importance of this travel to the children of Newark. Also provide this committee with information concerning who paid for these trips and whether they were authorized by the state?
    I travel around the country to gather support for Newark. Much of the philanthropic support we benefit from and the talent we attract is by way of me being an ambassador for Newark. The State Department of Education authorizes my travel, and the students benefit when we receive funding for extended day programs to keep students engaged.

    27. How can you conduct business as the superintendent of the Newark schools when you refuse to attend Newark school board meetings? Explain to us specifically why you felt threatened by these words from parent Natasha Allen– “I’m trying to figure out, like, do you not want for your brown babies what we want for ours?” –and used them to stop attending board meetings.
    I conduct business as the superintendent at the school business meetings which typically take place publicly at NPS Central Office the day before the school advisory board meetings. Though I am happy to engage in dialogue, and to answer questions, even when questions may come from people who are obviously upset, and upset because of what they think I’ve done, or not done, I refuse to be a party to the kind of hostility that defeats the progress I am working hard to secure for everyone.

    28. Please provide documentation that every public school in Newark has a certificate of health and safety. Why do some schools–like Louise A. Spencer– not have them?
    I am happy to direct you to the department of facilities and maintenance whom I will instruct to make those items available to you immediately.

    29. Can you explain why you are deliberately promoting charter schools–including assigning students to them whose families did not wish to be assigned–knowing such efforts would result in a loss of enrollment at neighborhood public schools and a reduction in state aid to those schools?
    I am promoting 100 excellent schools. I don’t care if they are neighborhood public schools or charter schools.

    30. You designated the so-called “Renew Schools” reform as a centerpiece of your alleged reform attempts–yet those schools have failed to improve student achievement. Can you explain why? Will you now end that attempt?
    Reform is not an overnight process. It takes time, and what we’ve observed so far are just early returns. I cannot abandon the renewal efforts this early in the process. For true reform to take place, it will require a commitment to see it through over the course of a long term and big picture.

    31. Do you believe it was ethical to hire Amplify, a company headed by the man, former state education commissioner Christopher Cerf, who hired you for the Newark position?
    I don’t believe it was unethical. That is, to the order of relationships, Mr. Cerf regardless of his employer continues to work as I do, in the field of education. He has earned my trust, and that of those who work for me. My subordinates had the choice of hiring any company who responded to the open bid. They chose Amplify.

    32. Can you tell us why you insisted on hiring an organizatiion that employed your former associate Julia Phelan to provide additional, (not required) testing for English and language arts when the high school English teachers in Newark asked you to use the money to provide PARCC training to teachers?
    I believed we would be better served understanding how to respond to students’ underperforming in English and Language Arts than to the English teachers’ PARCC training. The administrators were receiving the training and would be required to train the teachers, allowing us to satisfy all three goals efficiently.

    33. Why did you sell the 18th avenue school to a profit-making company, Pink Hula Hoop, that had no experience in running a school?
    The district needed the money.

    34. Why did you sell the 18th avenue school to a profit-making company that can, in the future, sell off that land for private development?
    The district needed the money.

    35. Do you believe it was ethical to sell off public school property at less than appraised value to a close associate of yours and of Christopher Cerf, Tim Carden? Were you aware that a former mayor of Newark went to jail for allegedly selling off public property to a close associate?
    I believed it was ethical to divest ourselves of property that we were no longer using at capacity to generate the revenue we needed to stay open and to keep people employed. Further, I am aware that a former Mayor went to jail for privately profiting from selling public property to a close associate; a crime and premise of which is not applicable to me.

    36. Please explain how you believe helping former close associates like Tim Carden and Amy Rosen benefits the children of Newark?
    Tim leads one of the most successful and consistently performing charter networks Newark. We’ve worked together before and we are working together again in different roles towards the same objective. I consider Tim a great human being. I don’t know how someone like Tim, considering how well his schools are doing, doesn’t benefit the children of Newark.

    37. Do you believe it is ethical to promote the private business interests of charter school management organizations and other groups you have helped receive funding and support in Newark?
    No.

    38. Why did you support the award of tens of millions of dollars in state Economic Development Authority (EDA) to charter schools, some of which were run by your former close associates, when you remained silent when state School Development Authority (SDA) money for Newark projects was blocked by the governor?
    I cannot comment on economic policy.

    39. Do you really believe in public education? If so, how do you explain all you have done in Newark to destroy neighborhood public schools and promote privatization in the form of expanded charter schools?
    I affirm that I do believe in public education. Everything that I’ve done, and all the initiatives I pursue are with the intent to ensure that every student has access to 100 great schools.

    40. Why won’t you admit failure and resign?
    I haven’t failed, and I won’t give up.

    Bob Braun: I find this, well, an odd exercise. You did a better job than Cami did in reality.

  5. mike

    “30. You designated the so-called “Renew Schools” reform as a centerpiece of your alleged reform attempts–yet those schools have failed to improve student achievement. Can you explain why?”

    Dear Bob,
    As I have commented before, these renew schools are being used as a dumping ground for students that are not wanted, such as SPED and poor preforming or poor behavioral students, and to be used to negatively evaluate EWPs and other transferred teachers NPS is trying to fire or force out.

  6. Bob Russo

    Thank you Bob Braun! I grew up on Second Street in Newark. Attended a great public school, Sussex Ave. Elementary, where I edited the 8th grade newspaper which I named the “Sussex Satellite” in 1960, when we were all enthusiastically following the campaign of our new leader John F. Kennedy. Then on to Webster Jr. High for a year before attending the oldest high school in NJ, Barringer, where I ran for class president in 1964 and learned my first hard lesson in politics, when I lost to a handsome senior class singer: charisma counts. But I did learn everything about New Jersey and Newark and government from the greatest elementary and high school teachers, who I viewed as mentors and sought to emulate during all my next 50 years in education and politics.
    I am outraged by the dismantling of the public school system in Newark, where I got the greatest educational experience anyone could ever want. It enabled me to succeed at Rutgers University in Newark, where I received straight A grades in Political Science and the 1968 Poli Sci award. I then moved on to night classes and an MA degree at the same great public university right in my home city of Newark! When I first started teaching at my old Sussex/Roseville Ave. School complex in 1968 right out of college, there was NO BLACKBOARD in the 80 year old Roseville school’s 3rd grade classroom. I protested this lack of an essential teaching tool at that time, but went out and bought my own mobile blackboard for $30 so I could teach my overcrowded class of 35 students. As a “permanent sub” at the time, I immediately joined the Newark Teachers Union, AFT Local 481. It took two strikes and many arrests of good, dedicated teachers to get the starting salary to $9,000 in the early 1970’s.
    I was a good teacher, still living in the neighborhood where I grew up, walking to Roseville Ave. School every day with the children I taught. A model for a “neighborhood teacher” that everyone says we need in our urban areas. But I left after 4 years to go on to work at Essex County College, then NJ State government with the Byrne administration’s Public Advocate. I eventually ran the Essex County Consumer Services Division under Peter Shapiro and concluded my government career during the Florio thru Codey administrations as NJ Consumer Affairs Division Lemon Law Director. All during that time span of over 30 years I have continued to teach on the college level at Rutgers University in Newark, Montclair State University in my adopted town, and at Kean University. I became the Adjunct Faculty AFT union President at MSU, and now a VP for Higher Education with AFTNJ. What makes me as concerned as the closing of the school I began to teach at, Roseville Ave. Elementary, and the disruption in the Newark schools due to the flawed and forced “One Newark” plan, is the continual demonization of public school teachers and their unions. I have been a proud member of the American Federation of Teachers for over 46 years, as well as an active member of the CWA union which represented NJ state workers. These unions have a great history of building the middle class in America and New Jersey, of supporting working families and communities, and of promoting public services and public education. I am outraged at the attacks upon these good organizations by the right wing billionaires who want to take control of public education and government for their own profit and ideology. I was a good teacher, and I helped lead a good union then on the K-12 level, and now on the university level. I will not sit by quietly while our historical Jeffersonian commitment to equal access to a free public education for all is attacked and dismantled.

    Our problems are apparently coming from the State leadership level and being imposed on our local communities like Newark, where I was born and raised, to Montclair, where I have served as Mayor and a member of the town Council for nearly 15 years, I have, therefore, decided to explore running for Governor of this great state of New Jersey, which has been my lifelong home, to bring a clear focus on this dangerous trend of anti teacher, anti public education attacks from those who have their own agenda of profit and ideology, which is the antithesis of the American Dream which I grew up with at my family’s home on Second Street in Newark.
    I know it is an almost impossible dream for someone without great resources to compete in this expensive arena of New Jersey politics, but I learned how to win many elections in Montclair and Essex County, as well as accept some losses, from my great public school teachers in the City of Newark, and my excellent public university professors at Rutgers in Newark as well. So I am going to “explore” this difficult challenge on their behalf, as well as on behalf of all the working families who I grew up with in Newark, as well as the overburdened taxpayers of Montclair and other communities in New Jersey, who pay the price imposed by an unfair state and national system of financing public education! Let the diaglogue begin! Bob Russo, Montclair Deputy Mayor

  7. Becca Fields

    While Braun is correct that she may not answer many of these questions, the strategy going in must be carefully crafted. If the Legislators go on the attack upfront, asking many of the questions framed here with premises that she will deny, she will avoid answering by denying the premise and she will get defensive. My thought is that we ask her to elucidate, within her world view, what is happening – using her own measures and goals against her. For example, if lower scores are explained by transfer students, how can we expect One Newark where student mobility is high, to produce higher scores? The hearing needs to establish clear benchmarks and expectations, it needs to challenge her portrayal of what she has done as progress but it needs to be done so craftily. there needs to be a very clear set of asks in terms of data and information and a deadline by which they will be produced to the Legislature. Mostly I would focus on her treatment of those that she judged to fail at their jobs – the standards used to measure them and why – and then ask her according to those standards why she is still working there.

    Bob Braun: Can’t disagree–but, honestly, I don’t see much of a point to this if it’s not part of a larger investigation into state control of all takeover districts with a concentration on Newark and its privatization and corruption. The recent legislative coronation of David Hespe as enabler-in-chief shows me where these legislators are and it’s a pretty ugly place.

    • booklady

      Ms Fields,
      In Cami Anderson’s “world view”:
      1. She is “fiercely/laserly focused” on the Renew Schools, which haven’t shown improvement under her reign.
      2. It’s OK that Barringer HS has multiple problems: Classes 35+ youths w/o enough desks, books/Uncertified teachers/course scheduling that would be unacceptable in Mendham=Christie’s hometown.
      Just assign Barringer to Dr K Honnick, a genuine educator who strives to do right by students.
      3. The problem isn’t that CA closed neighborhood schools; it’s that too many parents want a school on the “secret sauce” algorithm list.
      4. According to Anderson’s spring 2014 Huffington Post article, she excels at getting new crew boats and plane tickets to crew races. [Not sure how her predecessors, Dr Clifford Janney and Marion Bolden, stood on Title IX crew racing]

      If you’d watched Anderson’s
      –fall 2014 “press conference” or
      –the AEI video of her spinning w Rick Hess, you’d realize there’s no sense asking for her world view. It doesn’t connect to Newark Public Schools’ reality.

      • Becca Fields

        You are correct that her world view does not correlate to
        The reality that is on the ground. (Incorrect in your assumption that you have not seen the clips). But she is being judged according to her standards by those that keep her around, not the reality. If demonstrating the reality was enough to bring her down she would be long gone. There might then be a challenge the to corner the decision makers to rid us of her according to their own standards. It may not work but nor will an attack on her for her delusional views of her actions and accomplishments. We’ve been doing that for a long time. Thats my take and I may be wrong. Whatever it takes I will be happy to see something work.

    • Bill Wolfe

      The Gov. can get away with challenging the premise of a reporter’s question at a press conference.

      But an Executive branch employee testifying before a legislative committee can not challenge the hostility or premise of a legislator’s question. They are obligated to answer it.

      So, I disagree with you there.

      Plus, if you allow Cami to construct the narrative and frame the performance metrics, you’ve already lost the debate.

  8. Who else

    Booklady, I’m not sure if you’re being facetious about Dr. Honnick (hope so) but if she’s not one of Cami’s people, she spends so much time trying to look like one it’s basically the same outcome, isn’t it?

  9. Sarah Harnick

    Cami will definitely hijack the meeting as soon as she is allowed to speak. I’ve seen Rochelle Hendricks do the same thing, much to the consternation of the senate committee chair who invited Hendricks to the committee meeting to answer some questions. Of course, Hendricks was on a “tight schedule” and couldn’t stay any longer than her “brief” comments.
    Expect the same from Anderson. Cami will show up with her set of facts and figures. Then she’ll claim to have an important meeting and leave. Parents of Newark schoolchildren, wake up and smell the coffee. She is sacrificing your children for someone else’s ambition.
    As a product of public education from kindergarten through an MFA, it pains me to watch what Christie and his co-conspirators are doing to public education.

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