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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's Good To Be Chris Cerf's Friend!

When we last visited Jersey City, mayoral candidate Steve Fulop was setting up secret meetings with members of the JCBOE and Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, even though Cerf denies he had anything to do with the appointment of the new superintendent. Remember: Marcia Lyles and Cerf are both graduates of the Broad Superintendents "Academy," the unaccredited program that brings corporate values to public schools (the last thing they need).

A lot of people in Jersey City are fed up with the state dictating to them how they should run their schools, and they're fed up with Chris Cerf's autocratic attitude toward their district. It now looks like a few of them are willing to stand up and say, "Enough":
Jersey City's incoming new superintendent of schools, Dr. Marcia Lyles, had planned to start her new job on Monday, Aug. 20. But in a somewhat stunning development, the school board failed to adopt Lyles' new contract during a special meeting held Wednesday night. The board rejected the contract by a vote of 4-4.

Board members Sterling Waterman, Angel Valentin, Vidya Gangadin, and Marilyn Roman voted against Lyles' contract, expressing dismay that it was too expensive and too vague and did not include language the board members had tried to get added. Board chairwoman Suzanne Mack voted for the contract, as did Carol Lester, Carol Harrison-Arnold, and Sangeeta Ranade. [emphasis mine]
Too expensive? I thought the whole point of state review was to keep costs under control. What happened?
According to the contract that was rejected, Lyles was set to receive an annual salary of $231,000. The contract also allowed for the possibility of merit pay on top of this base salary. This merit pay would be equal to "up to 14.99 percent of [Lyles'] annual base salary," according to the contract.

Several members of the public and the board members who voted against the contract specifically questioned why the agreement did not include detailed "grounds for termination" and did not spell out goals and objectives the board expected Lyles had to meet. The four board members who supported the contract stated the board plans to hold a retreat next month, at which specific benchmarks for Lyles will be narrowed down.

"That's putting the cart before the horse," said Lorenzo Richardson, a resident who attended the Wednesday meeting.

Some residents and board members also questioned Lyles' benefits package - which includes full-time use of a district-owned car and a $10,000 relocation allowance. They further argued that language typically included in executive contracts that protects the interests of the employer was excluded from the Lyles contract.

The contract was drafted by board attorney Ramon Rivera, who negotiated the contract on behalf of the board with an attorney representing Lyles. The negotiated contract was also approved by the Hudson County Superintendent of Education, as required by law, and was reviewed by the New Jersey Department of Education.

According to Valentin and Roman, provisions that some board members had asked to be included in the contract were ignored, as were many of the board members' concerns.

"If you want to know the truth, the truth is this contract was really written by the county and the state," Valentin said Wednesday. [emphasis mine]
Remember that superintendents cap Chris Christie blusteringly enacted a year or so ago? Remember when he lashed out at Lee Seitz, the super of Parsippany-Troy Hills, calling him, "...the new poster boy for all that’s wrong with a public school system that is being dictated by greed.

Seitz was making $216,240 at the time. Maybe he could have avoided Christie's wrath if he asked for more money, like Lyles in Jersey City.

But these days, the NJDOE has a special group of superintendents it showers with favors. For example, Larrie Reynolds, the super up in Mt. Olive, had a sweetheart deal all set up for himself with a side company using the state's Interdistrict Choice program. Of course, it probably helped that Cerf has known Reynolds for years.

(I'm still trying to find out whether that deal actually went through - there's no listing of next year's IC districts at the NJDOE website. Stand by...)

There's also the $7,000 a day deal for yet another Broad graduate, Mike Miles, who managed to work as a super in Colorado in his spare time. Miles was consulting for the state-controlled Paterson district - click through to see how it was a family affair.

And let's not forget anti-tenure crusader Janine Caffrey, who remains in her job in Perth Amboy solely through the good graces of Cerf. Cerf's old buddy Joel Rose is getting a nice fat contract out of that district to run a virtual math program that has its origins back in the days when both worked at the NYCDOE.

Plus we have Cami Anderson's quarter-million dollar deal in Newark, cemented recently in a bizarre Catch-22 by Cerf's manipulation of Newark's QSAC scores to move the district further away from regaining local control while on Anderson's watch.

Yes, folks, it's good to have Chris Cerf as your friend!

It's good to be the king!


Unknown said...

Jersey Jazzman - First: we love you but today we are disappointed in this particle article! You forgot the illustrious Penny MacCormack as a Cerf friend who has probably financially benefited most from his manipulations and slight of hand. (of course this couldn't be done without the help of his buddies Bill Cox & Dave - the personal garu who knows every in and out.)

Penny didn't like Jersey State salaries as she was making $170,000 in Connecticut. So really, why bother coming to Jersey? But Cerf (probably taking lessons from the Corzine school of financial accounting) front-loaded her salary by hiring her as a per diem of $1,000. Records show the state paid her $52,000 in 2011. Then she was put on the state payroll at around $140,000. Of course, the question becomes how to assure a big salary - as front-loading can't be done again. Money is the bottom line for all Broadies. So the move to Montclair where Cerf can do what he did in JC - suggest some good people! Beating out another candidate with far better credentials but not Broad.

Cerf's hometown - which BTW is the first to get Medical Marihuana -- are we sure it's not already in the water?

Unknown said...

Second - in regard to the Interdistrict School Choice Program...the DOE has already held "Boot Camp" for the newly chosen districts. One in South Jersey in Atlantic County and the other.....(Oh, I would really want you to guess! but space is too short)............Mount Olive. And you are correct, no press release on the decision and nothing on the web site.

Duke said...

Thx, Tiffany. I've written about MacCormick's deal before, but neglected to include it here.

Why hasn't any word of the Interdistrict program been sent out? NJSpotlight would have reported on it for sure.