Let's stop right here and acknowledge a few things:Congratulations to the Perth Amboy school board for the double-whammy last night when it voted to place Superintendent Janine Caffrey on administrative leave.This move will waste money and hurt kids. Nice going.Caffrey did nothing to deserve this. The charge against her was led by the board president, Samuel Lebreault, who is under investigation for trying to get free lunch for his kids even though he acknowledges he doesn't qualify. Caffrey has been cooperating with that investigation, which may be the reason Lebreault is aiming at her.On the other hand, maybe that's not it. Maybe it's because Caffrey wouldn't hire any of the cronies Lebreault has tried to force on her since she arrived in Perth Amboy less than a year ago. Lebreault won't comment on that one. But let's just say that his credibility is not exactly inspiring after the school lunch bit. If you have to pick the more credible source, Caffrey wins this one with a slam-dunk.
- The only indication we have that Caffrey did anything wrong are the charges brought by the PA school board. They did not need to substantiate their charges with evidence in order to dismiss her. It may well be that the board is railroading her and she is in the right, but the fact is, we only have her word and theirs. We just don't know yet.
- The only indication we have that Lebreault did anything wrong is that he is under investigation by the state Attorney General's office. Maybe he did find a way to illegally remove a copy of his free lunch application; maybe he didn't. He claims his kids don't even get free lunches; if that's true, this is a different case than Elizabeth. But we just don't know yet.
- The only indication we have that Lebreault pressured Caffrey into hiring his friends is her word. She admits she didn't hire them, so there's no actual cronyism that happened. This is a classic case of he said-she said. We just don't know yet.
And yet, in spite of all of these unknowns, Moran is prepared to pass judgment in the Star-Ledger, the largest paper in the state. Why? Well, continuing directly:
Now, Tom could conjecture that's why the teachers cheered... or he could ask them, like a real journalist. Just like Tom Haydon, a reporter at Moran's own paper, did:The 22-point complaint against Caffrey is filled with pure nonsense. One of her offenses was that she spoke to the media. That's not usually considered a firing offense in a democracy. But whatCaffrey did in an interview with The Star-Ledger is frankly discuss how insane the state's tenure rules are. That probably explains why the audience last night, packed with union teachers, erupted in applause when the board voted to chop off her head.
According to Moran, Chiera just isn't being honest here: she's really upset about Caffrey speaking out on tenure. How he is able to read minds, I have no idea.The vote was met with a roar of cheers and applause from the audience. Of about 400 people at meeting, about half were district employees, said Donna Chiera, president of the local teachers union.Chiera said Caffrey had lost the "trust and confidence" of the staff."The issue has always been that decisions have been made in what is to be done to the staff, and not with the staff," Chiera said. [emphasis mine]
Of course, Moran neglects to mention that Chiera was appointed by Chris Christie to his Educator Effectiveness Task Force. This group provided a report which is the backbone of the TEACHNJ bill - a bill that will gut tenure as we know it in New Jersey. I don't know if Chiera supports TEACHNJ or not; I do know she's hardly against "reform."
But even if she weren't: Moran is way out of line assuming that Chiera is not being straight in describing her problems with Caffrey. Just like he is way out of line to take Caffrey's word over Lebreault's. Just like he is way out of line in making this prediction:
First of all, if Caffrey's firing results in stopping a bad technology-based curriculum from getting a toehold in Perth Amboy, I'd say the kids will be the ultimate winners. That aside: again, Tom, how do you know that the board doesn't have legitimate greivances? And are you saying all 200 of those employees (your count) who showed up to wave goodbye to Caffrey don't have the best interests of Perth Amboy's kids at heart?Caffrey will probably sue over this and surely win. That will cost taxpayers money. But for now, the loss can be counted in the kneecapping of her attempts to improve performance in the district, moves that impressed acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf and Mayor Wilda Diaz, both of whom think it's nuts to fire Caffrey.Any way you look at this one, the kids in Perth Amboy are the big losers. And for that, this board deserves all the credit.
In fact, Tom, I'd say you're leaving out one very important person who has a vested interest in all of this: yourself. You tried to turn Caffrey into a folk hero, lauding her for her stance on tenure. Caffrey knows how to play the media, having promoted herself as an author and speaker for years; I'm sure she made a very alluring pitch to you.
Unfortunately, Tom, you didn't do your homework; if you had, you would have discovered that Caffrey did not have any experience as a
Tom, you promoted her; now you're stuck with her. Unlike me: I have said all along I don't know who's right here. Caffrey may well be exonerated, but we just don't know yet. It's probably best to wait until we get the actual facts before we rush to judgment.
Of course, that hasn't stopped Tom before, has it? Don't worry, buddy: just keep reading here, and I'll get you up to speed on real education reform soon enough...
* That isn't correct according to Caffrey's website: she did work as a public school teacher, but not a principal or superintendent. I apologize for the error.