Outgoing Jersey City Board of Education member Sean Connors continues to raise questions about an e-mail sent earlier this month to Board President Sterling Waterman by the state's Acting Commissioner of Education, Chris Cerf.Cerf is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which trains folks outside of education in reformy, business-influenced school leadership practices. Broad Academy graduates include disasters like Jean-Claude Brizzard of Rochester and Maria Goodloe-Johnson of Seattle.
In an e-mail dated Dec. 2, Cerf wrote: "It is now abundantly clear to me that this board is not interested in pursuing an agenda of transformational change for the children of Jersey City. You are presented with a unique moment in time in which courageous leadership would make an extraordinary difference. Parochial concerns, interest group influence, and personal political ambitions need to give way to boldness and willingness to accept the inevitably challenging [consequences] of real reform."
Cerf encouraged Waterman to share his e-mail with the other members of the board, which Waterman did.
The Jersey City school board is currently conducting a national search to replace School Superintendent Charles Epps, who will leave his position on Dec. 31.
Cerf has maintained strong ties with Broad, and grants fellow graduates favors. Recently, for example, he gave a consulting contract to fellow Broadie William Cox, who appears less than qualified for the job. Broad returns the favors in kind: he just gave a $500,000 contract to push charter schools in Newark to Cerf's old firm, Global Education Advisors, which may (or may not) employ Cerf's brother.
You think maybe Cerf has someone in mind for the JC super's job? Someone from his old "school"?
But here's what really struck me:
Second, as first reported by the Jersey City Independent, Waterman circulated two versions of Cerf's e-mail to the remaining eight members of the board, one version of which was apparently altered. One version of the e-mail included the sentence, "Feel free to pass this on to your board and to Mr. Fulop," referring to Ward E City Councilman and 2013 mayoral candidate Steven Fulop, who is allied with the new board majority. The other circulated version of Cerf's e-mail appears to have had the Fulop reference removed.Fulop ran for the Jersey City council in 2009. His campaign manager was none other than Shelley Skinner.
At the Dec. 15 school board meeting Waterman said he didn't know what Cerf was referring to in his e-mail and did not know how the Fulop reference was removed from some versions of the correspondence.
All of which has parents and board members scratching their heads.
In a Dec. 18 letter addressed to Waterman and circulated to the BOE, School Trustee Connors wrote: "It has become evident that you are clearly not the person who came to the public Board of Education expounding the needs of the children in Jersey City as a parent representative. You spoke transparency, yet you are the most secretive school board president in the history of our Jersey City Public School System. I still do not know what Acting Commissioner Cerf is talking about, but obviously you and he know exactly what he has communicated in an e-mail. It seems the commissioner is speaking in code to you, President Waterman."
Connor adds that several attempts by board members to get clarification on Cerf's e-mail have not been fruitful. [emphasis]
Yes, regular readers, that Shelley Skinner. The charter cheerleader who now works with Derrell Bradford at B4K, the reformiest lobbying shop in Trenton. A member, along with Bradford, of the double-secret charter school review panel; a panel whose members were only revealed after Senator Nia Gill filed an OPRA request. A panel that then-DOE charter chief Carly Bolger said she would "go to the mat" to keep secret, according to Darcie Cimarusti.
Put it all together, and it's all pretty obvious. Acting Commissioner Cerf wants a Broadie installed in Jersey City. Through Skinner, Cerf has ties to Fulop, who backs the majority on the BOE which ousted the old superintendent. So now that the position is open, Cerf, Fulop, and Waterman can install the Broadie of their choice.
And - just like the charter panel - no one need worry their pretty little heads about the details.
I guess I need to update this:
More players, more connections, more power, more money. 'Cause it's all about the kids...
ADDING: If you think Cerf doesn't get involved in appointing folks from his circles to superintendent positions, remember this: Cami Anderson, new super of Newark and former Cerf collegaue in NYC, came with the blessing of Cerf's former NYC boss (and current Murdoch consiglieri) Joel Klein.
It ain't what you know, it's who you know.