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, August 4, 2012

NJDOE Is Run Like the CIA

Remember when the NJDOE got caught making secret plans to overturn local control throughout the state? They must be nervous about getting found out again, because they are shutting down access to information any way they can:
The plan was for the city’s [Camden's] board of education to begin weighing three proposals for Hope Act schools Wednesday night. But the process was halted when legal and procedural questions were raised. 
Meeting without their lawyer present, the board balked at going into the first of two planned closed sessions. 
One advocacy organization, the Education Law Center, had asked the state to halt the review process because the Department of Education has not completed creating governing regulations for Hope Act schools. 
And former board member Jose Delgado questioned the board and pressed for a precise answer regarding under what exception to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act they planned to review proposals in private.
Board member Raymond Lamboy complained about having no guidance, as did member Sara Davis.
She also complained about the plan to read the proposals only on school property proposed by state fiscal monitor Michael Azzara.
Azzara repeatedly referred to the proposals as “confidential” — despite the fact that one applicant had handed out CD copies of its proposal during a press conference and another applicant has said they too will provide a copy of their application to the Courier-Post.
Azzara, who seemed unaware of the applicant’s actions, even threatened an ethics investigation of board members if copies of the proposals were given to the media.
Davis said she was insulted by Azzara’s comments. Eventually, several board members took the applications — they are more than 10 inches tall — home. [emphasis mine]
Azzara's been keeping tabs on Camden for a good while. He predates the Broadie infestation at NJDOE, but it looks like he's figured out you need to go along to get along, and has embraced Omerta code that now pervades the place.

NJ Spotlight published part of KIPP's application to run one of the Hope Act schools. Remember, KIPP has already failed at running a charter in Camden, so you'd think Azzara would welcome a thorough vetting of their application, especially by community members and groups like the ELC.

For example, Bruce Baker has presented some compelling evidence that KIPP's TEAM Academy in Newark has engaged in some significant student attrition to inflate their test scores. But in their application, KIPP says their attrition rate is 8%; the evidence, however, isn't included in the partial file NJ Spotlight published. Shouldn't we all get a chance to see that?

Why is Azzara so hellbent on keeping these applications from the public? As Chris Christie says, "It's our money!" We should have the right to see how these people propose to spend it. Why the secrecy?

David Azzara, NJDOE (artist's conception)

ADDING: Looks like the ongoing coup d'etat the NJDOE is executing is drawing national attention.

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