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

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Cerf Nomination Hearing: 2/16/12

I've been alerted that ACTING NJ Education Commissioner Cerf will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee this coming Thursday, February 16th. Although Cerf has been acting with the full authority of his office for over a year, his formal nomination has been blocked through senatorial courtesy by Senator Ron Rice, who wants him to appear before Rice's Joint Committee on Public Schools.

Cerf is getting around this by claiming he now has two residences. Whatever.

I have to say, I'm actually looking forward to hearing what Cerf has to say as he goes through the process. Because the man has a hell of a lot to answer for. Don't get me wrong; I know the odds are overwhelming that he's going to be nominated. But the plain truth is that this guy has been up to some... stuff over the years, and it's long past time for him to be held to account.

For some background, start with my history of the man's career before the came to New Jersey: The Chris Cerf Story, in four parts:
  • Part I: His disastrous reign as CEO of Edison Education, a charter school management company, and his subsequent sweetheart stock deal funded by the Florida teachers' pension funds (no, really, it's true).
  • Part II: His controversial tenure under Joel Klein at the NYC Public Schools, including the investigation which determined he had violated conflict of interest laws; an investigation that was highly redacted when released to the public.
  • Part III: More on his time in NYC, including his "truth squad," which monitored critics (hi, guys!); and his love affair with charter schools.
  • Summary: Where I put it all together.
Understand this this is only a look at Cerf's career before he came to New Jersey. Since then, we've had the following debacles:
And, recapping from yesterday, there's
Looking at all this, I'd suggest the Judiciary Committee schedule a week of hearings - there's quite a bit to cover.

And cover it they must. New Jersey's schools are some of the best in the world, but Cerf wants to radically upend how all of them are run; not some of them, all of them. Before he's allowed free reign to do so, he has to be held accountable for his actions up to this point.

I hope the ACTING Commissioner is forthcoming in all of his answers. But if he isn't, he needs to be pressed, and he should not be confirmed until he addresses the many controversies swirling around him.


rob g said...

You probably know more about him than the state does!

My Child attend a "good school" said...

This is a chance for politicians to identify themselves. Do they support the privitization of our schools? If the "failing schools" are the main impetus for "reform" why do the reforms usurp local control? How naive do you have to be to think Trenton can mangae schools better than towns?
Great job jazzman, ALL POLITICIANS can not claim they did not know about Cerf. His record at Edisons schools should reason enough to vote no but it gets worse after that! Amazing!

Well done!

Anonymous said...

some answers as to why Phillipsburg High School construction was really halted!They need to come visit the existing High School and see what the kids and staff deal with on a daily basis and answer questions from the community!!!

Anonymous said...

Jazzman, Did you see this?

Cerf has a problem with honest exchange.

Lisa said...

Duke, rob g is right; you probably know more about Cerf than the senate. I hope you're planning on sending your research to Ron Rice and the subcommittee. And how 'bout the Ledger as well? Seriously. Are you? Aside from your teaching, it may be the best thing you could do for NJ public schools.

Dr Phrogg said...

If Cerf has two residences, then either Senator should have the privilege of a Courtesy block.
Are we sure NJ schools are broken? It has been Christie's mantra for some time now, but how do NJ students compare to other student both American and abroad? If the basis is standardized tests, how does this compare to success in life. Who has validated the tests as a valid measure of learning? Most standardized tests evaluate minimal skills, but schools have to prepare students for so much more. Here is a question I have asked for a long time, but no one seems to want the answer. If 85% of our HS students go to post secondary education, how many of them actually complete the program? I have seen numbers that say only 14% of Americans, age 25-35, have competed a bachelors degree or above. The numbers have not changed much of many years. If this has been the norm for a long time, what is the basis of claiming that our schools are broken? Anything can be made better, and we should always try for improvement, but does the current system deserve the attacks from Christie, or is this just a political ploy to get headlines?

Anonymous said...

Jazz...Here is the committee who will give Cerf his NON-ACTING title.

Judiciary (Group4)

Scutari, Nicholas P. - Chair
Gill, Nia H. - Vice-Chair
Bateman, Christopher
Cardinale, Gerald
Doherty, Michael J.
Kyrillos, Joseph M.
Lesniak, Raymond J.
O'Toole, Kevin J.
Pou, Nellie
Sarlo, Paul A.
Smith, Bob
Stack, Brian P.
Weinberg, Loretta

I have already written to most of the committee, but I haven't received any responses back. I am sure the Republicans will back him to the hilt...they expect to make a profit on his education plans, especially Kyrillos. Lesniak will probably vote yes as a payoff on his support of the HIB law and Marriage Equality Bill. I wonder if dear Lorretta will reprise her Brett Schundler quote after she throws her support to Cerf..."I Look Forward To working With You".

Duke said...

Great stuff, everyone. Yes, I do intend to get this to the committee somehow. As to the press... well, I'm always here and happy to share.

I'll be thinking more today about the key questions that should be asked at the hearing - add you own below.

Lisa said...

I think we should also get out the word calling for a write-in campaign to key committee people before the hearing calling for a proper vetting and telling our ELECTED REPS to vote NO on his confirmation.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, question one should be to see Cerf' driver license. Also maybe Ron Rice can spend a night at the Ramada I. Somerville and claim residence and squash the hearing.
Amazing how Cerf and full, honest answers seem to be oxymoronic.
Last, I guess Steve Sweeney has lost another battle with the Govenor. Senatorial Coutesy is now gone. I hate to admit it but Christe plans well and has outfoxed Sweeney at every turn. is Ron Rice the only courageous Democrat left?

GoJazzman Go, time will prove you correct about Cerf, Christie, and the future of public education in NJ

Lisa said...

Duke, you asked for some key questions that should be asked at the hearing. If I got all the facts right, I have a few suggestions:

1. (From your summary on Cerf) Given your career-long ties with corporate education providers, how can you justify your continuing championing of charter schools, especially since you yourself acknowledge that those schools have less challenging students in their classrooms,...?

...and (an important follow-up)...

2. and that even while educating less challenging students than public schools, numerous studies have shown that charters produce similar or worse results than public schools, including those established by your former company, Edison Education, while Edison Education claimed otherwise.
[from your Cerf Story Pt 1]
"Edison claims that its established schools produce yearly test-score gains several times better than in public schools...'Last year our gains actually improved across the entire system.' But several independent studies question those claims. 'With a rigorous curriculum, a longer day and a longer year, you don't need to be an education professor to know that should produce better results, but to my surprise, it didn't,' said Western Michigan University education professor Gary Miron. 'They were doing similarly or slightly worse.'"

3. If NJ charters or charter companies fails, will you advocate that, or assist, the NJ teachers pension fund bail them out, as the Florida teachers pension fund bailed out Edison Education under your watch?

Duke said...

"If NJ charters or charter companies fails, will you advocate that, or assist, the NJ teachers pension fund bail them out, as the Florida teachers pension fund bailed out Edison Education under your watch?"

I LOVE this question!