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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Weekend Cerf Report

We'll start with the big story on Cerf in today's Star Ledger:
TRENTON — In February 2007, Christopher Cerf was a newly hired deputy chancellor in the New York City school system when he was asked at a public forum to describe his financial interest in Edison Schools Inc., a for-profit education company he once headed.
"I’d be delighted to do that," Cerf replied, according to a published account of the meeting. "I have no financial interest in Edison of any kind. Zero."
Asked by the president of a parents group when he had relinquished the shares, Cerf said he would be "delighted" to provide his financial disclosure form.
Then he clammed up.
What Cerf declined to volunteer is that he had given up the shares just the day before.
It's a good article, all things considered; certainly, it's the first real vetting of Cerf that's taken place in the press since Christie nominated him. I do think that we need to know a lot more about his tenure with Edison: a lot of money flowed to the company when it was under Cerf's direction, and its results were less than stellar.

The article also fails to mention Cerf's deal with Liberty Partners, a deal that bought out Edison to Cerf's benefit using money from the Florida teachers' pension funds. It was very shady and the Florida press had a lot of questions at the time that don't seem to have been fully answered.

That said, I was glad to see this article in print. And I hasten to point out that this humble blogger had already brought up many of these issues more than two months ago in an extensive report.

Do the reporters at the S-L check in here now and again? If it leads to stories like this, I hope so.

The S-L is also light on describing what exactly took place during Cerf's tenure in NYC. Fortunately, the estimable Leonie Haimson at NY Public School Parents fills in the details today:
Cerf was in charge of commissioning the teacher data reports, and promised that these reports would not be used for teacher evaluations and that the DOE would fight against any effort to disclose them publicly. 
In an October 1, 2008 letter to Randi Weingarten, Cerf wrote, “It is the DOE’s firm position and expectation that Teacher Data reports will not and should not be disclosed or shared outside of the school community.” 
Both promises have been broken, with the DOE basing tenure on these highly flawed reports, as recounted in a recentMichael Winerip column in the New York Times, and pushing for the release of these reports in the press. 
Clearly, the man cannot be trusted; and Cerf’s persistent proclivity towards prevarication, political smear campaigns, and the privatization of public schools shows that he is not fit run New Jersey’s education system.
This is the man whom Christie is putting in charge of a new system of teacher evaluation. He needs a thorough vetting. Today's report in the S-L is a good first step, but it's only a first step.

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