The madness of state control of Newark’s schools–the crystal clear sanity of Jimmie White

Jimmie White is thrown out of the board meeting--no room for a sane man in a crowd that accepts the irrationality of state control
Jimmie White is thrown out of the board meeting–no room for a sane man in a crowd that accepts the irrationality of state control

State control of the Newark schools is, well, just plain nuts. Crazy. Lunatic. Insane. A case study in mass hysteria put to the service of politicians who use it to enhance their careers while avoiding their responsibility to children and bureaucrats who can make a good buck pretending the process makes sense. Where else could losers like Chris Cerf and Cami Anderson make $257,000 with bonuses and chauffeured limousines? So far, I have found only one truly sane person in this whole mess and that was only the other day. His name is Jimmie White.

White, you might have read if you were not there, attended a school board meeting Monday night and the insanity of it all must have finally sunk in so he leaped from his seat, rushed to the stage where the board members and Cerf and  other bureaucrats were sitting, pointed his finger at Cerf and said, “You have got to go!”  He said other things like, “You caused all this!” and “One Newark has to stop!”

Of course, Jimmie White could not be allowed to stay there and shout sane things and so he was rushed out of the room, still yelling out perfectly rational comments.

This is why Jimmie White is sane and the whole structure of state control is not. White says he deliberately waited until Valerie Wilson, the school business administrator and one of those lucky, well-paid bureaucrats, finished a long, boring exegesis about how the Newark schools could get out from under state control by meeting all the requirements of something called QSAC–or, Quality Single Accountability Continuum .

White’s timing was perfect. His behavior dramatically illustrated the insanity of state control and his own sanity.


Because trying to get out of state control is a perfect example of what has come to be known as a Catch-22 and, those of you who already know what a Catch-22 is, know it is insane. This is how the Urban Dictionary defines Catch-22:

“A Catch-22 is a requirement that cannot be met until a prerequisite requirement is met; however, the prerequisite cannot be obtained until the original requirement is met. ”

A lesson to be learned
A lesson to be learned

In other words, an impossibility.

Follow along, please: Newark’s elected school board must meet all the requirements of QSAC before it can retain full control. However, Newark’s elected school board cannot meet all the requirements of QSAC because it has no power to do that.

Think about that.

Here’s just one example from the many Wilson droned on about:

One of the alleged failings of the Newark school district is that it provided “Inadequate submission of employment contracts to the Executive County Superintendent.” So, now, to meet this particular requirement–out of scores–the district must “Submit renewed or new employment contracts to the Executive County Superintendent for review and approval as prescribed by statute/regulation.”

Got that? But who is responsible for doing that? The board? No, of course not. Board members do not–indeed cannot–borrow an office at 2 Cedar Street and start putting employment contracts in envelopes and sending them to the “executive county superintendent”–what a title, by the way!

The people responsible for doing this are–you got it!–STATE APPOINTEES. State appointees led by none other than the weeping weirdo running the show, Christopher Cerf. Cerf is the state appointed superintendent, put in office by the Big Buffoon himself, Chris Christie. The state person actually responsible for this particular requirement is Vanessa Rodriguez, who has her own special title–“Chief Talent Officer.”  The school board has tried more than once to fire Rodriguez and Cerf won’t let it.

Are you following along? The board can’t get its control back until it does what the state says. But it cannot do what the state says because the state failed to do it in the first place and is insisting on continuing to fail because it is in the best interest of the state and its high-paid appointees to fail but let the board take the blame for the failure. If Cerf continues to fail–as Cami Anderson did before him–then the board continues to be powerless and, because it is powerless, it cannot force Cerf to do anything.


An endless loop of loopiness.

In the book “Catch 22,” the catch was this: crazy bomber pilots could be excused from flying more bombing missions during World War 2 ONLY if they were crazy. But, if they asked not to go on more bombing missions, then obviously they were sane because only a crazy person would want to go on more bombing runs. Got it?

In Newark, the school board can get its power back ONLY if it does what the state tells it to do. But it can’t do what the state tells it to do because the board has no power to do it and cannot tell the state appointees to do it. The board doesn’t have the power to fire the state appointees who refuse to do what the board tells them to do.

Even worse than that, state bureaucrats are making a lot of money in Newark at jobs they never would have had in the sane world and so have absolutely no interest in returning the district to local control. They probably would be fired if the board regained power.

But there is more. The whole process is irrelevant anyway. Jersey City just got full control without meeting all QSAC standards. Why? Because the state education commissioner–this time, David Hespe–can do it. The law gives him discretion.  And this is the worst–four years ago, Newark–yes, Newark–met all the QSAC standards and should have received full control but the state education commissioner at the time decided not to do that. He, too, had the legal discretion.

Want to guess who the state education commissioner was at that time who shot down Newark’s right to local control?

Authentically committed to local control and traditional public schools?
Authentically committed to local control and traditional public schools?

You got it–none other than Christopher Cerf. The same man who now says he is “authentically committed” to local control.

Crazy. Insane. Irrational. Impossible.

Unless, of course, the whole thing is a state fraud to keep Newark schools unconstitutionally poor and racially isolated while making money for charter school operators and their real estate corporations. Then, I suppose, it makes sense.

Yet almost everyone involved in this goes along as if this were the most rational set of circumstances in the world. The school board goes along with it. Mayor Ras Baraka goes along with it. The really crazy “Newark Educational Success Board” pretends it can untie all the knots–when we all know it’s just a fig leaf to cover the deal made between Baraka and Christie and provide time for charter schools to get big enough and strong enough and rich enough to take over the Newark public schools and turn the few remaining neighborhood schools into stripped-down warehouses for the neediest children.

That “success board”, by the way, meets again today. It is dominated by pro-privatization people–like Donald Katz, a trustee of Uncommon Schools which just got permission from the mayor’s planning board to build a new charter school.

The good people on the board–the Newark people–should get off of it. It’s just part of the insanity.

Look, face it–it’s just nuts to go along with this Catch-22. It will allow charter schools to take over the Newark public school system and make a lot of money for a lot of people who live in places like Mendham, Montclair, and Glen Ridge.

That should be obvious. Obvious to any sane person.

But, the other night at the school board meeting, it was obvious to only one person .

Jimmie White. A truly sane man who was thrown out of the meeting because the meeting itself was part of the insanity.

Thanks, Mr. White.













Inadequate submission of employment contracts to the Executive County Superintendent Submit renewed or new employment contracts to the Executive County Superintendent for review and approval as prescribed by statute/regulation



  1. We can never forget that Chris Cerf was trained at the Broad Superintendent Academy
    This is the source of all the insanity.
    “Acting N.J. education chief Cerf revises account of ties to consulting firm”

  2. I especially enjoyed reading this article Mr. Braun. It seems like every article I read in the Star Ledger is written as if the local school advisory board has done something wrong for the past 20 years when in fact it is the state that has had full control for these 20 years. Any logical thinker would conclude that any alleged failures are the fault of the state and that the system should be turned back to the local school board immediately. Nothing in what is currently going on seems to make any sense other than to conclude that the state is purposely holding onto control until the true public schools are destroyed.

    Bob Braun: Thank you. I don’t see how reality could be read any other way. Cami Anderson and Christopher Cerf, although they, in fact, worked for the state failed to meet the state’s standards and, you’re right, the elected school board, with no power, was blamed. And still is. The state–particularly under Chris Christie–wouldn’t fund the schools, wouldn’t relieve segregation in the schools so, now, it is selling the schools to thr privatizers.

  3. One of Christie’s appointees to the Newark Educational Success Board, Rochelle Hendricks, was also appointed by Christie to his ethically-challenged State Ethics Commission, which has acted as a shield for the Gov and his cronies.

    Bob Braun: So sad. She has been a disaster for higher education as well.

  4. Part of Christie, republican and Charter school privatizer MO is to create the conditions for failure, blame public schools for failure, and then use the manufactured failure as a justification for privatization.

    Christie did this with police in Camden – his state budget cuts forced police layoffs. As a result of layoffs, crime and murder rates went up. He then used high crime rates to replace Camden police with non-unionized county police.

    To top it off, he now claims credit for reducing crime, especially murders, based upon comparison with the INCREASED rate his own budget cuts created!

    Bob Braun: And nowhere in the mainstream media can be found any of this analysis. Just mockery from the likes of Tom Moran who cannot see what is rally happening around him.


    1. “Republican”? The Dems are totally in on this too, including Booker and Obama and now, unfortunately, Ras Baraka.

      They say the Dems and Repubs can’t work together, but they sure are working together here and we the ones (kids, parents and teachers of Newark) who are being screwed.

      Bob Braun: Exactly. Don’t forget Shavar Jeffries’ Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

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