With all due respect to Dr. McCartney and the other fine public servants at this convention who serve New Jersey's children, this is the wrong attitude to take at this critical juncture.When it came time yesterday for the question-and-answer session at state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf’s now-annual convocation with school superintendents, there was an awkward moment: nobody stepped to the microphone.“Oh, I know you have questions,” Cerf said wryly, aware of the challenges facing school leaders and their districts in a momentous year of change.And while a few school superintendents did ultimately wander forward, the hesitation spoke to a different tenor – some would call it calm, others resignation -- that is coming over this group in the fourth year of Gov. Chris Christie’s tenure and the third year for his education commissioner.Compared with previous convocations at which tensions were high and questions were plentiful, the more than 300 school leaders gathered yesterday at Jackson Liberty High School appeared to be getting used to the new world order under Cerf and his boss.Gary McCartney, the South Brunswick superintendent and president of the state’s superintendents group, which hosted the event, said he saw the three years of convocations with Cerf as a period of evolution.“I think people are beginning to assimilate,” he said. “In the first year, it was kicking and screaming, hoping (the initiatives) would go away. The second was wringing your hands and whining, thinking they would go away. Now you say, I don’t have any more tantrums, I think we’re going to do this.” [emphasis mine]
Dr. McCartney has a long and distinguished career as an educator and school leader. He, and the vast majority of New Jersey's superintendents, have forgotten more about public education than Chris Cerf and his Broad-paid
The primary function of this blog over the past three years has been to catalog the many sins Christie and Cerf have committed against New Jersey's public schools, including:
- A failure of state control in Newark, Paterson, Jersey City, and now Camden.
- Cerf's insistence on bringing unqualified, poorly-trained staff into the NJDOE and the large urban districts.
- A despicable retreat from funding equity in our schools.
- The imposition of an innumerate teacher evaluation system that has never been properly field tested.
- The imposition of bizarre schemes that have never worked, like merit pay.
- The imposition of curricular and testing changes that have never been properly vetted.
- A rampant expansion of privatization that both undermines democratic control of our schools and rewards poor educational and fiscal practices.
- The lowest morale of the NJ teaching corps seen in a generation, precipitated by Christie's blatant lies to educators about their compensation, his truly reprehensible behavior in public appearances, and his personal hypocrisy regarding his own children's education.
I've known several superintendents in New Jersey over the years, and I've worked for some exceptional ones. In the main, these are good people who truly care about the students and staff in their charge. I certainly appreciate that they might feel they are in an impossible position, and that they should just calm the waters, try to get along, and wait out the end of the Christie regime when, hopefully, some sanity will return to our state.
But our school leaders have got to understand that they are not powerless -- far from it. New Jersey's superintendents know Christie and Cerf have been bad for their schools, bad for their staffs, and bad for their students. They ought to stand up and say so -- politely, respectfully, but loudly and clearly.
People will listen.
Accountability begins at home.