Cerf is getting around this by claiming he now has two residences. Whatever.
I have to say, I'm actually looking forward to hearing what Cerf has to say as he goes through the process. Because the man has a hell of a lot to answer for. Don't get me wrong; I know the odds are overwhelming that he's going to be nominated. But the plain truth is that this guy has been up to some... stuff over the years, and it's long past time for him to be held to account.
For some background, start with my history of the man's career before the came to New Jersey: The Chris Cerf Story, in four parts:
- Part I: His disastrous reign as CEO of Edison Education, a charter school management company, and his subsequent sweetheart stock deal funded by the Florida teachers' pension funds (no, really, it's true).
- Part II: His controversial tenure under Joel Klein at the NYC Public Schools, including the investigation which determined he had violated conflict of interest laws; an investigation that was highly redacted when released to the public.
- Part III: More on his time in NYC, including his "truth squad," which monitored critics (hi, guys!); and his love affair with charter schools.
- Summary: Where I put it all together.
Understand this this is only a look at Cerf's career before he came to New Jersey. Since then, we've had the following debacles:
- Paying consultants to reorganize the DOE who have strong ties to the standardized test industry.
- The secret charter school review panel, whose members have strong ties to the Black Ministers Council, which got all five of its charters approved.
- When the Star-Ledger reported Cerf's old firm, Global Education Advisors, was hired to consult on bringing loads of new charter schools into Newark, he asked the paper not to print the story.
- His shifting stories about the connections between Newark Mayor Cory Booker; Cerf's brother, Randy; Global Education Advisors; and Eli Broad, the California billionaire who both funded the GEA report and Cerf's training at the Broad Superintendents Academy.
- Cerf's hacktastick report about charter school performance, and the long-delayed follow-up report (341 days!) which is supposed to take student characteristics into account.
- Deputy Commissioner Smarick's conflict of interest in working at the NJ DOE and serving on the board of the very reformy 50 CAN.
- Mark Zuckerberg gave a $100 million grant money for Newark's schools; one-third of the money spent so far has gone to folks with ties to Booker and Cerf.
And, recapping from yesterday, there's
- The teacher evaluation task force with ONE working teacher.
- The crashing "pilot program" for teacher evaluations.
- The children of Paterson promised the moon but getting mooned.
- The mess in Jersey City.
- The mess in Newark (here's more).
- The mess in Cherry Hill and Voorhees.
- The mess in Highland Park.
- The mess in Teaneck.
- The freeze in school rebuilding and construction.
Looking at all this, I'd suggest the Judiciary Committee schedule a week of hearings - there's quite a bit to cover.
And cover it they must. New Jersey's schools are some of the best in the world, but Cerf wants to radically upend how all of them are run; not some of them, all of them. Before he's allowed free reign to do so, he has to be held accountable for his actions up to this point.
I hope the ACTING Commissioner is forthcoming in all of his answers. But if he isn't, he needs to be pressed, and he should not be confirmed until he addresses the many controversies swirling around him.