The Newark board defies Cerf. Cerf (politely) defies the Newark board. Christie is still the “decider.”


An unapologetic Cerf takes control of Newark schools
An unapologetic Cerf takes control of Newark schools

The Newark school board Tuesday night ordered an end to the “One Newark” enrollment plan that has resulted in the dispersal of children throughout the city, the closing of public schools and programs, and a brave new future for charter schools. Of course, the Newark school board doesn’t have the power to do that and the entrepreneurial educator who does–Chris Christie’s former boss, Christopher Cerf–said he would continue “One Newark” despite the board’s action.

The school board did what it could to assert its independence and members of the community loudly and repeatedly signaled their distaste for the Montclair resident who once was state education commissioner and an officer of Edison Learning, a company that hired a second-rate lawyer from Morris County named Chris Christie to be a lobbyist.

The board also voted to fire Vanessa Rodriguez, the district’s “chief talent officer,” for allowing a former assistant superintendent to take unwarranted sick leave–something else Cerf doesn’t want to happen. He called the collection of New York refugees hired by former superintendent Cami Anderson to be top staff “spectacular.”

Cerf is much slicker–or, to put it another way, has much better manners–than the woman he both hired and replaced, Anderson, and he displayed them in his “superintendent’s report,” an oily recounting of how committed he was to “public schools” and “the children of Newark.”

Public policy, however, is a matter of definition–and Cerf made it clear he defined “public schools” as including charter schools–he was a member of the board of directors of the National Association of Public Charter Schools and a business partner of the head of the largest charter chain in Newark–and serving children included making sure they had good charter schools to attend. He was forced to admit, however, that he technically should not be a cheerleader for charter schools.

Cerf tried to tell the people of Newark no one was forcing children to attend charter schools, a contention refuted by several speakers who, unlike Cerf, hang around at the district’s enrollment center every day and hear complaints from parents who say they are forced to enroll their children in charter schools.

It was an odd night. John Abeigon, the president of the Newark Teachers Union, eviscerated Cerf and warned the former businessman he had four weeks to prove he was committed to public schools. Abeigon would not say what would happen.

Donna Jackson, whose command of rhetorical flourishes is extraordinary, repeatedly and ironically said, “Thank you, Mr. Cerf” as she recounted all the hurt he–as Cami Anderson’s boss and state education commissioner–inflicted on the children of Newark. She pledged to work to get rid of him with boycotts in September and October.

But, oddly enough, Mayor Ras Baraka criticized those who criticized the new status quo, arguing that privatization and charter schools really weren’t issues and that the school board should pay attention solely to persuading the state to hand over local control.

Baraka did, however, call the state’s “reforms”–reforms backed by Cerf– a “disaster” but then criticized commentators like this site for portraying what’s going on as a fight between state and local control advocates. More about this in later blogs.

In the end, however, Cerf did nothing–and said nothing–to suggest he really would  ensure an immediate end to 20 years of state control. He did say he was “unalterably and authentically” committed to local control. But, with a three-year contract worth $257,000 a year and no good job prospects, he is apparently in no rush.

And Christie, who once publicly lectured Baraka about how he–Christie–was the “decider” of all things educational in Newark–remains just that. The decider.






  1. Bob,
    I hadn’t known that Edison/Cerf had hired Christie. Wouldn’t that have been considered a conflict of interest the First Time NJ hired Cerf as Acting Commissioner?
    Was he Acting Commissioner because he didn’t have the requisite educational credentials?

  2. 1. I commend Mr Abeigon and Ms Jackson for their commitment. I urge their followers to contact NJ State Board members re One Newark. As long as State Board members think it should be implemented, it doesn’t matter how many State Superintendents are named/resign.
    2. Is Ras Baraka in the unenviable position where he can’t speak against charter schools because 20-30% of his potential voters are parents of charter school kids & it wouldn’t be smart to alienate them?

  3. If Mr. Cerf insists that ” One Newark” will not be dismantled, then have the common decency as to prepare an informational handbook that tells parents how this program works. The telephone numbers and addresses of the departments that run the program. How to dispute or correct the problem of having their children sent to different schools. This handbook should be informative, instructive and educational to all stakeholders of the City of Newarks Public Schools. It should be given out to every student on the first day of school.

    Bob Braun: Thank you for this. You are so correct.

  4. The Essex County suburbs stand by willing to support the orderly transfer of authority.

    1. Justin,

      Be prepared to wait in the wings for a long time.

  5. May God bless you Bob. You don’t need this in your life, and yet you continue to fight the good fight and keep us all informed of the nonsense that goes on in NPS at the hand of Christie, Cerf, Anderson, et al. We won’t read about this at – no, there, we read yesterday how wonderful Cerf is and how he is ready to dig his heels and get to work WITH the city of Newark, and a gloss over about having missed his first meeting. What is this man getting paid – is it $350,000? That would pay for 7 teachers–but of course, the teachers make too much, and according to Christie deserve a collective punch in the face and according to another a-hole, Kasich, don’t deserve lunch hour or freedom of speech or of assembly “if he were King.” Doesn’t that show you where America is headed? The republicans want to be King.

    Bob Braun: Thank you for your kind words–and thank you for reading what I write. Cerf’s annual salary is $257,000 despite a career marked by failure. In a just world, he would make minimum wage and teachers would make what he makes.

    1. I am one of the fortunate EWPs placed in a budgeted position outside of my certification. Let’s see how long it takes to rectify this malfeasance Mr. Cerf.

      1. How can teachers be placed in assignments outside of their certification? Working without appropriate certification is expressly prohibited by law.

        Bob Braun: So who will tell? The teacher who will lose her job? The district that is violating the law?

        1. Hi Deeply,

          Many, many teachers in Newark are working outside of their certifications. I, for one, worked all of last school year outside of my certification. My school is full of people doing the same.

  6. Bob – thanks for putting the fact that CHristie worked as an education lobbyist (and litigator). Very few people know that. When a good friend told me she was involved in a legal case that had Christie representing urban education, I found that so hard to believe that told her she must have the name wrong! Of course, I was wrong!

    So, Cerf has now defined the issue away – Charter privateer schools are now public schools?

    War is peace….Orwell!

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