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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

OUTRAGE: Cami Anderson to Newark: "Who Cares What You Think?"

I just received this press release about 10 minutes ago from the Newark Public Schools. Apparently, State Superintendent Cami Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie and unaccountable to the elected Newark Advisory School Board, can't be bothered with criticism from the public or tough questions from their elected officials [emphasis mine]:.

So, at the last possible minute -- I got the official email at 4:15 PM -- she's chickening out of tonight's highly-anticipated school board meeting:
February 25, 2014


An Open Letter to Newark Families,

The goal of our district is to work with families every day to provide students with a great education. From the daily conversations we have with families as they drop their children off at school, to regular parent/teacher conferences to discuss a child’s progress, and to community meetings to discuss Universal Enrollment options, we greatly value our interactions with parents and community members each and every day.  Newark Public Schools (NPS) is totally committed to your children and their education – it’s why we’re moving aggressively to increase equity, transparency and accountability throughout the system.

We have come to realize that one particular venue—the monthly meetings chaired by NPS’ School Advisory Board (SAB)—are no longer focused on achieving educational outcomes for children. The dysfunction displayed within this forum sets a bad example for our children, and it’s no longer a place where meaningful interaction and dialogue occurs between NPS and the public.  As a result, Superintendent Anderson and the NPS Leadership team will no longer attend these meetings until the SAB can commit to ensuring a space conducive to open dialogue with the community.

In light of this decision, NPS will redouble its efforts to ensure the community is informed about One Newark plans and other key initiatives.  NPS will continue to create community events and discussions throughout the city and publish the agendas and minutes of these events online and in schools.  We will also continue to meet with parent advisory groups and attend student leadership forums to garner feedback in order to ensure that your concerns are effectively debated and addressed.

Finally, NPS will videotape its monthly update, traditionally presented at the SAB meeting, and distribute it directly on our website - http://www.nps.k12.nj.us/ - and on Channel 77, the Newark community cable network. 

Dialogue with you is more important than ever before.  We look forward to continuing to implement our ongoing efforts and adding new options to facilitate greater access to information. 

Sincerely, 
Newark Public Schools
What this means, of course, is that Cami Anderson will now only appear in forums similar to the phony "town halls" her boss, Chris Christie, leads (paid for with our tax dollars).

No more questions from the public she supposedly works for; no more defending her policies to the parents she supposedly serves.

No more justifying her outrageous attempts to skirt the tenure law and the NPS teachers contract -- both negotiated in good faith by the unions representing NPS teachers, who, for their good efforts, will now be screwed over royally.

No more questions on the racially biased One Newark plan, which faces legislative investigation for, among other things, allegedly engaging in brazen backroom dealing.

Chris Christie and Cami Anderson are, as far as the people of Newark are concerned, one and the same. Neither gives a damn that democracy, free speech, and accountability is now only available to suburban parents, and not to working-class urban parents of color.





Fellow suburban parents and teachers, I will say it to you once again: if Christie and Anderson and the rest of the reformy types can take away their rights, what makes you think they can't take away yours?



Here's the rest of the press release:
Statements from NPS Leadership regarding recent decision to create alternative engagement venue:

“I am an educator who believes that we must all serve as models for our students.  No one wins when personal attacks are allowed to seep into discussion.  There must be a way where we can have rigorous debates and disagreement -- even vociferously -- but remain respectful and focused on business," stated Superintendent Cami Anderson.  
As a veteran educator with two masters degrees -- one in the subject I teach, another in how to teach it -- I am more than a little cheesed that anyone with two years teaching experience, no degrees in education, no building-level administrative experience, and no standard certifications issued from the State of New Jersey would call herself "an educator."
“We witnessed a series of concerning actions last month at the SAB meeting that simply undermine the definition of a public event. For years, fair and agreeable rules have been followed in SAB meetings to ensure decorum and the strongest possible voice for the public. In my judgment, we have now reached a serious threshold of disorganization. We simply cannot continue to have dysfunctional meetings.  It is vital to remember that the true purpose of this meeting is to both inform and provide an opportunity for community input. In this environment we have lost the ability to advise the public, and we must look for ways to keep them informed,” stated Valerie Wilson, NPS’ School Business Administrator.
Ms. Wilson, with all due respect: that is not your "judgement" to make. If you don't like the way the SAB runs the meetings, resign your position. I'm sure there are many districts that could use your skills. You serve them, not vice versa.
"Since late fall, NPS has hosted over 100 community meetings with families, community members, clergy, and elected leaders. Last week alone, NPS had 10 family meetings focused on universal enrollment options for students.  On a monthly basis, we meet with students, advocates, families, and faculty," stated Ruben Roberts, NPS’ Executive Director for Community Affairs and Engagement. "Debate has occurred in these meetings and ideas have been challenged, but there has always been a sense of community and a focus on our students.  Our top priority must be to ensure that information is shared and questions are addressed and my team will continue these efforts -- and the Superintendent, who is particularly focused on these conversations -- will continue to attend."
Mr. Roberts, with all due respect: your "top priority" should be to serve the children and parents of Newark. If things get a little too hot for you at SBA meetings, maybe it's time to ask yourself if, perhaps, the good people of Newark don't think as highly of your efforts as you seem to.

I wonder: how long do you think the good people of Millburn would put up with this sort of talk from their school district administration? How do you think they would feel if they their superintendent decided not to attend their school board meetings anymore because his feelings might get hurt?

Cami Anderson: So vociferous!

5 comments:

Deb said...

Just wow......wow.....wow....

Dan Goldman said...

I'm pretty sure that, under the applicable statute, NJSA 18A:7A-47(b), she's obligated to attend these meetings in person:
"At the meetings, the State district superintendent shall report to the board on all actions taken and on pending actions in a timely fashion, and provide an opportunity for a full discussion by the board and by the public of those actions."

Jon said...

I think Montclair might be a good barometer for what a town like Millburn would do. I've been surprised at the LACK of parent backlash to the same types of treatment in Montclair. Investigations into critics, attempts to silence dissent at BOE meetings, etc.

All the while, there have been small, local groups like Montclair Cares About Schools, and some citizens who are consistently outspoken, yet intense, heated demand for accountability of the BOE and Superintendent has not come, nor has the backlash to the wasteful spending Montclair has exhibited since Superintendent MacCormack has taken over (outside consultants, talent supervisors, scantron machines, illegal surveys, test-writing termed "curriculum writing", etc.). I've been disappointed that Montclair citizens have not been up in arms at this, considering they were up in arms over teacher salaries 3+ years ago…so much so that teachers agreed to a freeze (a big mistake), and the BOE threatened to close schools (manufactured crises).

I can only surmise that those who feel they have no accountability are backed by huge donors that want what they want, at all costs, legality be damned, community opposition be damned, democracy be damned. If communities don't fight back, then shame on them.

Jon said...

I think Montclair might be a good barometer for what a town like Millburn would do. I've been surprised at the LACK of parent backlash to the same types of treatment in Montclair. Investigations into critics, attempts to silence dissent at BOE meetings, etc.

All the while, there have been small, local groups like Montclair Cares About Schools, and some citizens who are consistently outspoken, yet intense, heated demand for accountability of the BOE and Superintendent has not come, nor has the backlash to the wasteful spending Montclair has exhibited since Superintendent MacCormack has taken over (outside consultants, talent supervisors, scantron machines, illegal surveys, test-writing termed "curriculum writing", etc.). I've been disappointed that Montclair citizens have not been up in arms at this, considering they were up in arms over teacher salaries 3+ years ago…so much so that teachers agreed to a freeze (a big mistake), and the BOE threatened to close schools (manufactured crises).

I can only surmise that those who feel they have no accountability are backed by huge donors that want what they want, at all costs, legality be damned, community opposition be damned, democracy be damned. If communities don't fight back, then shame on them.

parentingthecore said...

Jon,

Your comments raise a lot of thoughts for me. I'd love to talk further. I am a Montclair parent and homeowner. I have two children: one is currently in the public schools, the other will enter K this fall. I have a lot of concerns about what is happening with our school system, but I was also willing to give a new Superintendent in a very politically charged and active community some time to feel her way. So I eagerly monitored the news reports, listened to and participated in discussions with the parents in my circles, talked with my child's teachers, monitored my child's homework, used my background as a former educator to research some of the areas I found of particular concern, and tried to keep an open mind. But leaving aside all of the insanity of the assessment leak mess, my concern has been whether the Strategic Plan and the associated implementation of CCSS in Montclair are happening in ways that I think appropriately reflect Montclair's (and my) progressive values.

And now that more than half a school year has gone by, I've seen some good, but I've also seen a lot that concerns me. I started a blog, in part to process some of my concerns about parenting in the age of the Common Core. So last night I went to my first Montclair BOE meeting, and observed. I saw some things that heartened me, but others that disturbed and disappointed me. Unfortunately, Dr. MacCormack's comments throughout the meeting did not increase my confidence in her (quite the opposite), and it does concern me that our Board seems somewhat out of touch with what's happening in schools and classrooms in our district.

My goal is to listen, to form my thoughts, and not to jump to knee-jerk conclusions. Montclair and Millburn are very different communities (I know -- I was raised in Millburn, and Montclair has been my home now for 7 years). And in Millburn, the only time I saw the community go really nuts was when decisions were getting made about closing elementary schools in the early to mid 1980's). But now, here in Montclair, I'm starting to speak out about (and write about) my concerns. The buzz I've heard around Montclair about the Superintendent has not been positive (indeed, quite the opposite), and I think the community's patience is wearing thin.

So we will see what the future holds, but I think the reason that many Montclair citizens have not been up in arms about this is that they were willing to give a newcomer to our community time to feel her way. But with no course correction in sight, my patience is wearing thin.

Best regards,
Sarah
http://parentingthecore.wordpress.com