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, October 4, 2012

Perth Amboy Insanity

I didn't think the madness in Perth Amboy could get worse. I was wrong:
State education officials today ordered Perth Amboy Schools Superintendent Janine Caffrey reinstated, overturning a city school board decision to place her on administrative leave, and marking the third time Caffrey was removed and then returned to office.
Assistant Commissioner Barrier Erlichson ordered the superintendent be returned to work, saying the board's latest vote to oust Caffrey was premature because a state decision is still pending on an earlier board vote.
On Sept. 23, in a special Saturday meeting, city school board members voted 5-0 to place Caffrey on leave with the intent of negotiating a settlement of the remaining two years of her contract.
Three days later, four board members issued a joint statement calling Caffrey incapable of leading the district. The board has previously accused Caffrey of insubordination and damaging staff morale, charges Caffrey called baseless.
On April 25 and again May 7, the board voted to remove Caffrey from her $175,000-a-year post, but each time state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf overturned those decisions. The May 7 vote was upheld on Sept. 12 by an state Administrative Law judge, but Cerf has 45 days to adopt, modify or reject that ruling.
Erlichson today said the school acted prematurely while because Cerf has not yet acted on the judge's recommendation. [emphasis mine]
What is he waiting for?! This has been going on since last year; he hasn't had time to make a ruling? What else is he busy with? What's more important than this?

I've said again and again: I don't know who is in the right here. Whatever problems anyone may have with The Queen of Tenure, the sad truth is that this board hired her and gave her a contract. They had better have a good explanation for why they are trying to fire a superintendent they just hired, at the cost of two remaining years of her salary.

And that is one of the most important functions of a state superintendent: to oversee local boards. Cerf has had more than enough time to oversee an investigation of Caffrey's and the board's charges against each other; he should have resolved this before the beginning of the school year.

Instead, this sorry affair drags on. Thankfully, Perth Amboy has great teachers - including this year's Teacher Of the Year (congratulations!). They will serve the children of their town, while the board, Caffrey, and Cerf wage their interminable little war.

ADDING: The adults in the room speak:
Donna Chiera, president of Perth Amboy Federation/AFT said the superintendent’s revolving door creates chaos. Assistant Superintendent Vivian Rodriguez was named acting superintendent while Caffrey was on leave. Chiera said Rodriguez had started to set up staff relations meetings to bring people together.
“No one is thinking of the kids,” said Chiera, who criticized Caffrey for the double standard she created by putting others facing charges or disciplinary actions on leave until those issues are resolved, while she gets to return to work.
“I don’t know how we move forward or how she (Caffrey) rebuilds the trust,” Chiera said.
You can be sure that the teachers of Perth Amboy will, once again, step in and clean up everyone else's mess. It's what they do.

ADDING MORE: Caffrey goes on Gearhart, insults her teachers' union, and tries to drive a wedge between the local leadership and the teacher-members.

The union would rather throw... I should say the union leadership. I think it's really important that we say "union leadership," because the great majority of teachers are amazing wonderful people who don't agree with their own union leadership.  The union leadership in this community would rather suspend children and throw them out of school then provide them with the services they need to be successful. 

Yeah, this is the sort of talk that's really what's called for now. And on state-wide radio, no less. Classy.

I'd like to point out that if the teachers of Perth Amboy have a problem with their union leaders, they can vote them out. If the people of Perth Amboy have a problem with their board, they can also vote them out.

But if anyone has a problem with the way Chris Cerf has handled this, they can go jump in the Raritan. Ain't democracy grand?

LAST THOUGHT: The very least Cerf can do right now is impose a press blackout on the board and Caffrey. This public warring has to stop.


Deb said...

As soon as I read the latest reinstatement, I knew you would chime in and glad that you did. I cannot believe the shenanigans that continue there, the hypocrisy of Caffrey's use of due process while she would deny that for teachers (and that is not meant to pass judgement on who is to blame here, for there must be enough for all to share), and Cerf's inability to resolve anything by his interference. Can we list that which Cerf has not done lately - adequacy report, charter report, announcing new policies that he let slip during the nomination hearing, oversight of charters running rouge, etc. But boy, his office will keep sticking up for Caffrey....while he, while he, what exactly is he doing?

giuseppe said...

Caffrey said: "The union leadership in this community would rather suspend children and throw them out of school then provide them with the services they need to be successful." That's a ludicrous ridiculous statement that does not pass the smell test. Suspending kids is up to the principal and the administration. A teacher has no power to suspend a kid, the union does not have that power either.