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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jersey City's Tangled Reformy Web

So Acting NJ Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is sticking his fingers into the Jersey City schools pie:
Outgoing Jersey City Board of Education member Sean Connors continues to raise questions about an e-mail sent earlier this month to Board President Sterling Waterman by the state's Acting Commissioner of Education, Chris Cerf.

In an e-mail dated Dec. 2, Cerf wrote: "It is now abundantly clear to me that this board is not interested in pursuing an agenda of transformational change for the children of Jersey City. You are presented with a unique moment in time in which courageous leadership would make an extraordinary difference. Parochial concerns, interest group influence, and personal political ambitions need to give way to boldness and willingness to accept the inevitably challenging [consequences] of real reform."

Cerf encouraged Waterman to share his e-mail with the other members of the board, which Waterman did.

The Jersey City school board is currently conducting a national search to replace School Superintendent Charles Epps, who will leave his position on Dec. 31.
Cerf is a graduate of the Broad Superintendents Academy, which trains folks outside of education in reformy, business-influenced school leadership practices. Broad Academy graduates include disasters like Jean-Claude Brizzard of Rochester and Maria Goodloe-Johnson of Seattle.

Cerf has maintained strong ties with Broad, and grants fellow graduates favors. Recently, for example, he gave a consulting contract to fellow Broadie William Cox, who appears less than qualified for the job. Broad returns the favors in kind: he just gave a $500,000 contract to push charter schools in Newark to Cerf's old firm, Global Education Advisors, which may (or may not) employ Cerf's brother.

You think maybe Cerf has someone in mind for the JC super's job? Someone from his old "school"?

But here's what really struck me:
Second, as first reported by the Jersey City Independent, Waterman circulated two versions of Cerf's e-mail to the remaining eight members of the board, one version of which was apparently altered. One version of the e-mail included the sentence, "Feel free to pass this on to your board and to Mr. Fulop," referring to Ward E City Councilman and 2013 mayoral candidate Steven Fulop, who is allied with the new board majority. The other circulated version of Cerf's e-mail appears to have had the Fulop reference removed.

At the Dec. 15 school board meeting Waterman said he didn't know what Cerf was referring to in his e-mail and did not know how the Fulop reference was removed from some versions of the correspondence.

All of which has parents and board members scratching their heads.

In a Dec. 18 letter addressed to Waterman and circulated to the BOE, School Trustee Connors wrote: "It has become evident that you are clearly not the person who came to the public Board of Education expounding the needs of the children in Jersey City as a parent representative. You spoke transparency, yet you are the most secretive school board president in the history of our Jersey City Public School System. I still do not know what Acting Commissioner Cerf is talking about, but obviously you and he know exactly what he has communicated in an e-mail. It seems the commissioner is speaking in code to you, President Waterman."

Connor adds that several attempts by board members to get clarification on Cerf's e-mail have not been fruitful. [emphasis]
Fulop ran for the Jersey City council in 2009. His campaign manager was none other than Shelley Skinner.

Yes, regular readers, that Shelley Skinner. The charter cheerleader who now works with Derrell Bradford at B4K, the reformiest lobbying shop in Trenton. A member, along with Bradford, of the double-secret charter school review panel; a panel whose members were only revealed after Senator Nia Gill filed an OPRA request. A panel that then-DOE charter chief Carly Bolger said she would "go to the mat" to keep secret, according to Darcie Cimarusti.

Put it all together, and it's all pretty obvious. Acting Commissioner Cerf wants a Broadie installed in Jersey City. Through Skinner, Cerf has ties to Fulop, who backs the majority on the BOE which ousted the old superintendent. So now that the position is open, Cerf, Fulop, and Waterman can install the Broadie of their choice.

And - just like the charter panel - no one need worry their pretty little heads about the details.

I guess I need to update this:

More players, more connections, more power, more money. 'Cause it's all about the kids...

ADDING: If you think Cerf doesn't get involved in appointing folks from his circles to superintendent positions, remember this: Cami Anderson, new super of Newark and former Cerf collegaue in NYC, came with the blessing of Cerf's former NYC boss (and current Murdoch consiglieri) Joel Klein.

It ain't what you know, it's who you know.


Unknown said...

Thanks for re-posting my favorite reformy picture chart- just in time for the holiday cheer.
You should make this into a holiday card and send it to a thousand of your closest friends.

Anonymous said...


You need to work one more evil link into your chart -- the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). These are the folks helping the NJ DOE pick new charter schools.

Who is NACSA? You can get a good idea by looking at their funders: Walton Foundation, Gates Foundation, Dell Foundation, Roberts Foundation -- all corporate education deformers.

What is NACSA's primary objective? To force unlimited numbers of charter schools on unwilling communities all over the country by removing any local control over their approval. NACSA's legislation does this by creating a state-level board that approves charters, whether the residents want them or not. This legislation is being promoted for NACSA by the corporate-funded right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council.

That's right. The dictatorial corruption of the NJ charter school approval process is being inflicted on other States by NACSA even as the NJ DOE uses NACSA to decide which charter schools to force on unwilling communities here in NJ.

The model NACSA legislation is available here:http://www.qualitycharters.org/images/stories/Charter_School_Growth_with_Quality_Act.pdf

Proof of NACSA's work with ALEC is here: http//www.qualitycharters.org/policy/statewide-authorizer-legislation

A recent Business Week article "Psst, Wanna Buy a Law?" explores the ALEC model, including our very own Derrell Bradford shilling for ALEC at a recent conference.

Seems like a good addition to your wall of thieves and liars, no?

Teacher Mom said...

Dear Lord help me, that's my district. I was wondering why we weren't a "Pilot school" for all the reformy bull. I thought it was just because we had local control again and people with some brains at least. My absolute biggest fear about getting a new superintendent is ending up like the fiascoes in DC and NYC with some corporate minded non-educator running things. Lord hear my Christmas prayer and give us a real educator. If not for us, than for the children. Jersey City actually doesn't do a horrible job of educating its kids. I'd really hate to see that change.

Duke said...

TM, keep your ears open and let me know what's going on in JC - I'll stay on top of the super search.

Anon, good stuff. I'll be checking it out.

jcg: I'd send one to you. My other friends? Not sure they'd get it... ;-)