Umm...Jersey City’s prospective new schools superintendent yesterday met with the public for the first time since the Board of Education voted to select her to succeed former schools chief Charles T. Epps Jr.Marcia V. Lyles gave a speech at School 7 yesterday outlining her vision for Jersey City’s public schools and addressing the controversy that has surrounded her appointment.Lyles, who declined to give her age, denied that state Acting Education Commissioner Chris Cerf who, like Lyles, is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy had anything to do with her appointment.Those accusations are “really wild,” she said to a crowd of about 20 inside School 7. [emphasis mine]
Story #2 (12/28/11):Look, Lyles has had a long career in education; she may well turn out to be terrific. I wish her all the best, if only for the sake of the kids of Jersey City.Some 40 people were stuck on the outside looking in for more than an hour on Dec. 22 when acting state education commissioner Christopher Cerf met with the school board in a closed session to discuss the ongoing superintendent search.Cerf and board members conferred at a special meeting in the board’s central office on Claremont Avenue. The closed session received mostly negative reviews from the citizens present, a group made up of primarily parents and community activists. Some criticized the board for not allowing residents the chance to address the commissioner — the public-comment portion of the meeting was scheduled for after Cerf’s appearance.
But it would be better for everyone if both she and ACTING Commissioner Cerf were straight with the good people of JC and NJ. You don't meet in a closed-door session to discuss a superintendent search and then turn around and say you "weren't involved"; that's ridiculous. Of course Cerf was involved. Of course it mattered that they both went to the Broad "Academy." (I'm going to start putting "Academy" in quotes: I don't think reading some books and meeting a few weekends is an "academy.") It's silly to pretend otherwise.
The larger issue here is that the people of Jersey City and Paterson and Newark - and, yes, Camden and arguably Trenton and Perth Amboy and many other cities - are not in charge of their own schools. The state, under ACTING Commissioner Cerf, has moved away from its role of providing oversight and regulation to actually running the districts.
And there is no apparent mechanism for a district to regain its autonomy from the NJDOE. In a bizarre Catch-22, the state runs the district buts also judges whether the district should revert back to local control. If the state does a lousy job, the district stays under the state's control. There is no incentive for the state to give a community its schools back. As a member of the "advisory board" of Paterson's schools explains:
Gone is any consideration of the state DOE's responsibility to build the capacity within the districts to free them from state control and allow them to effectively govern themselves. Indeed, as the state is both the one in charge of the school district and the group that determines the scores that the school district receives toward release from state control, after twenty years, in Paterson's case, of state control, it is hard to articulate what value the districts derive from this arrangement. [emphasis mine]I'd say there is no value at all to removing democracy from our school systems. We are long past the time where every citizen should have a say in the governance of their schools, and that includes choosing who they want to run them. ACTING Commissioner Cerf needs to be ordered to come up with a plan to quickly cede the control he has accrued to himself.
It's good to pick all the superintendents!