FURTHER UPDATE: I have confirmation that there was NOT a threat of a written reprimand to teachers if they attended the Morning Joe program in Fort Lee on Friday.
I have neither the time nor the stomach to take on all the mendacity and stupidity that spewed forth from MSNBC's Morning Joe during their education "town hall" on Friday. But I will point out a few low lights. Let's start with this:
There were two New Jersey superintendents on the show: Interim Superintendent Steven Engravalle of Fort Lee, and Cami Anderson of Newark. Engravalle was appointed just this last November: he's been on the job four months, but the show ran a piece about how he's changed the "culture" of the schools, and test scores are up. Yes, that's right: four months, when there hasn't been even one administration of the NJASK. That's even faster than Michele Rhee claimed success.
Engravalle replaced outgoing super Raymond Bandlow, who left for a gig in New York, which doesn't have a cap on superintendent pay - a cap that was put in place by Chris Christie and has led to a brain-drain in school leadership across the state. Christie loves the new guy though, because he toes the company line; in this clip, he bad mouths the union:
So, the NJEA should return some dues money to teachers, because first year teachers don't make enough. Of course, the reason they don't is that Chris Christie is cutting their benefits and pensions while telling taxpayers to vote down school budgets if teachers don't open their contracts and take pay
Cami Anderson has been the super in Newark since last May. In that time, she's managed to enrage entire neighborhoods with an ill-conceived school closing plan that looks like it was hatched on the backs of cocktail napkins. She loves to talk about "leadership," yet she appeared to be completely clueless when discussing the student populations of her district's schools and how they affect test scores. Maybe that's because, when other school leaders were actually leading districts, she was spending her days running Teach For America.
Look, I don't want to bust too hard on either of them. Engravalle is a young guy - 33 - and this is probably his first time on national TV. He may well grow into the job, and I wish him the best (for the sake of the children and teachers of Fort Lee). I've said before that Anderson may well turn out to be the best super Newark ever had; I wish her the best as well.
But dear lord: they barely have a year's worth of superintendent's experience between them. There are dozens of superintendents with decades of knowledge in New Jersey; did no one think to call them up? Why is it that the media seems to love superintendents who haven't accumulated track records of success - like Janine Walker Caffrey in Perth Amboy, darling of the Star-Ledger, and on the job less than a year herself?
Note to the media: Michelle Rhee didn't stay in Washington, DC long enough to get anything serious done. She is not a good role model for picking superintendents to speak about education, because she never put in the time, as a superintendent or as a teacher. Stop talking to neophytes like her, and start taking to the veterans.
Its clear that Chris Christie got to pick the supers he wanted for the show. I guess that's how the "news" is run these days. But if the folks at MSNBC really wanted to inform their viewers, maybe they could have interviewed this guy:
Nearly a decade leading New Jersey schools... but he actually bothers to think about this stuff and challenge reformy orthodoxy. Guess he doesn't quite fit
A friend of mine who works at Fort Lee told me that when they found out that their school had been chosen for the TV show, they were warned to stay away...any employee who showed up at the gym was going to receive a WRITTEN REPRIMAND!!
I have heard from a teacher in Fort Lee that there was no threat of a reprimand if teachers attended the Morning Joe broadcast on Friday. Glad to hear that.
ADDING MORE: Oh, my:
Sporting his now trademark Superman socks, which he proudly showed off when asked to do so, Engravalle talked about how Fort Lee schools have improved in the past couple of years.Well...
ADDING EVEN MORE: Well, looks like there was a reason the local union for Fort Lee wasn't allowed to have their president appear on the show. Turns out the president of the local, Gary Novosielski, doesn't drink the Christie Kool-Aid:
If Chris Christie was really the blunt-talkin', straight-shootin', man's man that Joe Scarborough seems to think he is, he would have gladly met this courageous teacher and union leader and debated him in an open forum. But he never, ever engages his critics unless he controls the mic.
Mr. Novosielski, you are a man of principle and a true educational leader. Every teacher deserves a representative like you.