Category: Education

Sensing Cami Anderson’s weakness, Baraka heats up attack

Mayor Ras Baraka
Mayor Ras Baraka

With a one-to-one, in-your-face letter, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka told state-appointed schools superintendent Cami Anderson to get out of town. Although Baraka has publicly called for Anderson’s resignation before, he’s done it only in conversations, and this letter, written like a criminal indictment, openly pitted his prestige and power against Gov. Chris Christie’s handmaiden in the city. He may not be anymore successful than he was with his gentler pushes in the past, but  he’s ratcheting up the pressure. The letter–see it at BARAKALETTER.JPG–didn’t even start with a polite “Dear Ms. Anderson” or even “Yo, Cami!” It just went right into a list of the laws she’s broken and the policies she’s used to disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of Newark residents and employees.
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The Empire Strikes Back: Anderson wants to fire a principal

Motley speaks last year to a community forum on "One Newark"--a dismissable offense?
Motley speaks last year to a community forum on “One Newark”–a dismissable offense?

The filing of tenure charges against a Newark school principal within 48 hours of his unwitting participation in Cami Anderson’s self-destructive behavior before a legislative committee in Trenton is probably the most chilling act of bureaucratic retaliation witnessed in Newark in decades. Through the simple act of responding to a legislator by standing up and raising his hand, Tony Motley showed Anderson was lying—and she knew it. After helplessly sputtering about her “integrity” and hinting darkly about some sort of “investigation,” Anderson clearly showed how angry and embarrassed she was—and how Motley was certain to pay a price.
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The war against critics of charter schools

Julia Sass Rubin
Julia Sass Rubin

Julia Sass Rubin, a tenured faculty member and researcher at Rutgers University’s Edward Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Mark Weber, a university graduate student who blogs under the title “Jersey Jazzman,” are publishing a series of monographs that analyze publicly available data about New Jersey’s privately-operated, publicly-funded charter schools. In response to the first installment of the series, a lobbying group, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association (NJCSA),  filed state ethics charges against Rubin and sent press releases about the charges to main-stream media outlets.
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Pink hula hoop. Yellow Star-Ledger

The front archway over the 18th Avenue School
The front archway over the 18th Avenue School’s main entrance

Exactly one year ago today, this site published an article entitled “Pink Hula Hoop Part 1: Is This the Future of Public Education?” While widely read for a blog piece, the story was ignored by the main-stream media–and that was no surprise. It was a complicated account of personal, political and business relationships that may have resulted in a sweetheart deal on the sale of the public 18th Avenue school to a charter school operator in Newark. Finally, yesterday, other media–PolitickerNJ and NJ Spotlight–picked up the story. They had to, because it was a major topic of a four-hour grilling of Newark superintendent Cami Anderson by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Schools (JCPS). To ignore it would have been a lapse of journalistic practice.
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Did Cami Anderson plead the fifth? Has she lost touch with reality?

Anderson and Hespe at Tuesday's hearing
Anderson and Hespe at Tuesday’s hearing

Not a great day for Cami Anderson. The chairman of the legislative committee that oversees state-operated  school districts Tuesday accused the state-appointed Newark superintendent  of “taking the fifth” because she repeatedly refused to discuss her personal and business ties to a Newark charter school leader to whose organization she sold a Newark public school at less than fair market value. Anderson also was openly caught in a lie when she insisted before the Joint Committee on Public Schools (JCPS) that no school principals were in so-called “rubber rooms,” getting paid to do nothing–apparently unaware one of the principals was attending the hearing. She also was openly laughed at by committee members when she talked about a “legislative liaison” aide whom none  had ever met.
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Ready for the whitewash?

Take the exit, please
Take the exit, please

Cami Anderson’s appearance before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Schools (JCPS)  is likely to be a public relations victory for the woman who, with the blessing of Gov. Chris Christie, has disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of Newark residents and employees, wasted money on cronies and inept underlings, violated laws governing special education, teacher licensing, and tenure, failed to improve academic achievement among students, and even endangered the lives of children.
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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).
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For Newark’s children at Christmas–more promises and lies?

Arne Duncan
Arne Duncan

The federal government will investigate whether New Jersey is following the law in operating the Newark schools. Or, at least, that’s what Monica Chism of the U.S. Department of Education says will happen–her office, the Office of State Support (OSS), will try to determine whether the state education department is keeping the promises it made in order to  keep federal funds flowing to the state. Some people believe Gov. Christie’s flunkies in Trenton and Newark have been lying and not keeping their promises.
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In Newark, Anderson threatens to arrest teacher union leader

Mice droppings at Lafayette--evidence of vermin infestation
Mice droppings–evidence of vermin infestation

The state administration of the Newark public schools has banned the top staff officer of the Newark Teachers Union from a school notorious both for its poor physical condition and the efforts of its principal to fire tenured teachers.  The district’s leaders also have threatened to arrest the union chief, John Abeigon, who took pictures of vermin infestation, loose paint chips, and possible fire hazards.
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GUEST: Mayor Baraka, do something!

Mayor Ras Baraka
Mayor Ras Baraka

By Becca Fields

I admire and respect Mayor Ras Baraka.  From the first time I spoke with him, I heard a leader, a man of deep thought and action.  Then a high school principal, Baraka demonstrated  commitment, intelligence, and  a depth of understanding of the challenges facing not just Newark public schools, but the entire city.  And he clearly demonstrated his willingness to look for solutions “outside the box” and beyond the expected as he demonstrated by meeting with gang leaders as part of his  strategy to curb violence.
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