I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, September 24, 2012

Howdy Commissioner Cerf!

NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf was in Jersey City tonight. Big thanks to the invaluable stopthefreezeNJ and Deb Cornavaca of SOSNJ, who reported that the event did not go well for the man who rules the JC schools:
DEFEND NJ PUBLIC ED! ‏@stopthefreezeNJ
Resident rips Cerf for lacking openness, fairness. Crowd erupts against Cerf. He is sharing an uncomfortable laugh.

Deborah ‏@decornavaca
@jerseyjazzman Newark bringing it home. 7 Newark schools made AYP but he still replaced staff. Ms. Jackson rocks.

DEFEND NJ PUBLIC ED! ‏@stopthefreezeNJCerf getting ripped for not reaching out to the community. Wearing an uncomfortable smile. 
DEFEND NJ PUBLIC ED! ‏@stopthefreezeNJ
Cerf is asked asked to visit JC 2-4 times per year as long as DOE is intervening. He says no. 
Deborah ‏@decornavaca
@stopthefreezeNJ Cerf is really thin skinned.

Deborah ‏@decornavaca
@jerseyjazzman Cerf says top-down will not solve problems in schools. What are the RACs?
The RACs are Regional Achievement Centers, funded by Eli Broad, the California billionaire and Cerf's patron. They are the NJDOE's attempt to monitor local districts for compliance with the new reforminess.

And isn't it just super that Cerf - who is the ultimate authority for the Jersey City schools thanks to state-control of the district - can't even commit to coming to the district twice a year? He certainly made time for clandestine meetings before.

But here's my favorite tweet:
Cerf: "I make a point of never reading the blogs." We know THAT is a lie, don't we   ?

Well, if Cerf isn't reading me and Blue Jersey and Mother Crusader and Defend NJ's Public Schools and SOSNJ and SchoolFinance101 and Teachers Don't Suck! and New Jersey Farmer Blog and deciminyan and Politics of Decline and ELC and NJEA's blog and all the other great NJ blogs out there (and I haven't even mentioned the national edubloggers like Diane and Katie and Fred and Gary and Matt and Susan and so many more)...

He's making a point of shutting out voices that don't agree with him. I'd say that's a little close minded, wouldn't you?

It would also be a radical departure from Cerf's previous m.o. As Leonie Haimson (put her on the list!) tells the story:

None of this is particularly surprising, but what did surprise me is what I learned during a forum a few months ago, in April, on “Grading NY’s public schools.” During the question period, I asked Cerf a question. I began by introducing myself, but he quickly interrupted me to say, “I know who you are; I read your stuff every day.”

Every dayNot in my wildest dreams had I imagined that Cerf or anyone at that high a level at Tweed had the inclination or the time to do this. Sometimes I don’t even read myself every day – I’m too busy. I know my husband almost never does. I doubt most of the people on the list serv do.

But I was happy to hear this, if a bit surprised that Cerf had admitted this, for if I and others on our list can cause him one tenth the headaches that Tweed causes us every day, not to mention the other one million plus NYC public school parents -- that does give me a small sense of satisfaction.

After looking at the historical record, I now conclude that what probably started as a pure monitoring exercise, instigated by Cerf in Feb. of 2007 eventually turned into a rather lame attempt to beat the critics at their own game nearly a year later.

It was in October 2007, after all, that it emerged that Diane Ravitch had been taped by the DOE at various speaking events, and a file compiled of her remarks. [emphasis mine]

So the man who was in charge of trailing Diane Ravitch with a tape recorder and ran the "Truth Squad" at the NYCDOE comes to NJ, and stops reading blogs?

Sure... Tell it to the guys in the Newark office, Commissioner.


Deb said...

Too kind Duke. I had to tweet to keep me distracted from screaming.

Cerf seems to live in a bubble of his own creation and got very uncomfortable when people came up with pins threatening to pop it.

What struck me those, after spending Saturday in Newark with local activists and yesterday in JC, and working in Camden these days - the message is the same. The parents, teachers and administrators feel completely disenfranchised from changes to their schools, and they are angry about it. They are being Cerf-handled and they know it. But he just denies it - does not even acknowledge the anger and frustration. He says ridiculous things like they are promoting community engagement and participation. Really? How? Even if there was some weak attempt to do so, he needs to realize what a failure it has been.

But then again, this is the same guy who denies that there are attempts to privatize public Ed and flat out said he does not support privatization of public Ed. Since he is honest with himself how can we expect him to be honest with others?

Deb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deb said...

Since he is NOT honest with himself. Sorry for the typos.

Duke said...

You never need to apologize to me, Deb. You are doing the work of the angels. Thx for all you do for NJ's kids!