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

Monday, April 29, 2013

EXCLUSIVE: Newark Memo Shows Another Cerf Crony Enriched

Last week, I blogged about how the state-appointed administration of the Newark Public Schools (NPS) had lost credibility with students, teachers, and even its own "advisory board." Superintendent Cami Anderson, hand picked by Governor Chris Christie and Education Commissioner Cerf, has been taking a lot of knocks over budgeting and a lack of transparency.

After this post, I'm afraid things are bound to get worse: I've just come into possession of an internal memo from Anderson that outlines a deal that pays Cerf's former employee, Patrick Flynn, to run the district's "peer validation" system.

The memo, co-written with Vanessa Rodriguez, NPS's Chief Talent Officer, is addressed to Anderson's five Assistant Superintendents, and cc'd to Joseph Del Grosso, head of the Newark Teachers Union (NTU). I've posted images of the memo below.

The memo outlines the new "peer validation process" for NPS. This process is critical for teachers, as it is a component of the new contract, signed this past winter, that calls for high-stakes decision making based on teacher evaluations. Peer validation, according to both Anderson and the NTU, is a way to guarantee that teachers will not be subject to the whims of vindictive administrators: it provides a way for a teacher to challenge a bad evaluation that might lead to termination.

I'll say more about the "peer validation process" later. For right now, let's focus on who is doing the validating:
We aim to create a quality process that aligns with the above principles - but we also acknowledge that this year is simply the beginning of the design and implementation process. This spring, after a competitive bid process, the district has contracted with an outside organization - the ReVision Learning Partnership - comprised of former teachers and administrators who specialize in peer observations in an urban school district setting. NPS and NTU felt it was important to select an experienced provider who has operated successfully in the context of a collective bargaining environment to the satisfaction of management and labor. (For more information on ReVision Learning, please visit their website: www.revisionlearning.com.) [emphasis mine]
It's not really clear from the memo what role ReVision will be playing; will, for example, they be providing their "former teachers and administrators" as the peer validators? Or will they merely be facilitators for the process?

To see if we can pick up some clues, let's look at their website:
ReVision’s Founder

Patrick W. Flynn, Founder and Executive Director of 
ReVision Learning Partnership
During his 17 years of educational service, Patrick Flynn has worked as a teacher, teacher leader, curriculum director and executive program director in K-12 settings in over ten different states.  As the Executive Director of High Schools for Edison Schools and the Chief Academic Officer for Great Schools Workshop in Sacramento, CA, Patrick worked with building and district administrations in nine states to implement systemic high school reform.   Patrick currently leads ReVision Learning Partnership, LLC, providing professional development and support to districts and educational organizations in CT, NY, and LA and has consulted on school improvement initiatives internationally in the United Arab Emirates with the Abu Dhabi Education Council.  As the Executive Director of ReVision Learning Partnership, Patrick has been working with New Haven Public Schools on the implementation of its nationally recognized Teacher Evaluation system.  In this role he has trained district’s administrators in calibration and implementation of their teaching framework and rubric and continues to manage the independent team of validators charged with providing inter-rater reliability on all classroom observations for Needs Improvement and Exemplary teachers within the system.  Patrick also works extensively with school districts in the formation of frameworks for teaching and learning and provides on-going support to administrators in supervision and evaluation techniques through one-one coaching and system wide professional development.  He also serves as Executive Director for the Connecticut Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (CASCD). [underline emphasis mine]
Edison Schools? You mean the same Edison Schools that Education Commissioner Chris Cerf joined in 1997 and ran from 2001 to 2005?

Yes, that Edison Schools. According to Flynn's bio, he was there from 2000 to 2007, working right along side or under Cerf for most of his tenure.

Cerf's former associates have a history of getting contracts from Newark's schools. Those associates include his former company, Global Education Advisors, and Bradley Tusk, who worked with Cerf on Michael Bloomberg's last reelection campaign for mayor of New York City. Neither of those contracts, however, involved the evaluation of teachers.

The memo says this contract was put out to bid. OK, sure - let's set aside our skepticism and say that Flynn didn't get the contract because he worked for Cerf for years. There's still a problem:

Do Chris Cerf and Cami Anderson really think Newark teachers can trust an evaluation validation system that is being run by Cerf's former underling?

Again, we don't know exactly what Flynn's firm is going to be doing, but we do know the "peer validation" system is supposed to protect teachers from capricious or vindictive evaluations. But how can ReVision be an impartial party when Flynn has such close ties to Cerf?

NPS needs to open this process up and answer some questions: what are the terms of the contract, who will do the evaluating, and what other firms - firms without ties to the Commissioner - were considered?

Again, I'll have more to say about the rest of the memo later this week.

ADDING: Mother Crusader reported back in March that OPRA'd emails show another of Cerf's former Edison underlings, Steve Wilson, was invited to come into New Jersey by Cerf and start opening charter schools.

It's good to be Chris Cerf's friend, isn't it?


Unknown said...

Professional Development is part & parcel of RttT's reformy edu-biddness. Anyone with the right connections can get a contract to 'retrain' teachers.

If you happen to be one of Arne's preferred contractors you'll be positioned for highly lucrative education"Teacher Incentive Fund Grants". Check out the $40 million sweet deal the financial fraudsters Milkens foundation NIET received from DoEd to "align teacher & principal evaluation with meaningful professional support". Evaluators get online support from NIET- that ought to keep them up to speed. Can someone explain what it means for NIET to serve as "fiscal agent in partnership with rural school districts"? I mean, why wouldn't taxpayers want a convicted Wall St. felon managing school district finances? Whatever could go wrong?

From Milken's website:
"NIET will serve as fiscal agent in partnership with the primarily rural Central Decatur and Saydel Community School Districts in Iowa; the Emily O. Goodridge-Grey Accelerated Charter School, Sojourner Truth Academy, Hmong College Prep Academy and the Partnership Academy in Minnesota; and Athens City Schools and Morgan County Schools in Tennessee, both rural districts."

PRRHale said...

Teachers rated exemplary have to be validated by a charter school vendor?

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of what NYS did! In NYS they remind the Administration that the Teachers evaluation should correlate with the test scores or they can be reviewed by the State. In other words the Teachers evaluation must reflect the test scores.

In this memo they emphasis that the Principal will decide the evaluation BUT the Principal's evaluation should agree with the "peer" evaluation or ELSE!

So in NYS the Teachers are evaluated by Test score. In Newark the Teachers are evaluated by this "peer" group which could eliminate Teachers at their whim and replace them with beginning Teachers.

alm said...

From the memo, it sounds like this was a joint choice by NTU and the district. Do you know if that was the case or not>

Anonymous said...

The process has already begun. Anyone who has received an ineffective or highly effective rating must be "re+ evaluated" by peer evaluation . It is an insult and disrespectful to teachers and administrators. NPS is supposed to pay a bonus to anyone who earns Highly effective on their evaluation. What better way to stall or prevent such bonuses than by forcing staff to endure such ridiculous demands. The peer evaluator will come to selected schools that have staff members that meet the aforementioned rating . They will not announce when they are coming. They will enter the classroom allegedly accompanied with the assistant superintendent for that region. If the peer evaluator and the assistant superintendent don't agree on the rating, the peer evaluator will be excused and replaced with a New evaluator. The teacher will then be required to endure this again until the evaluator agrees with assistant superintendent. How is NPS requiring schools to close, essential services/ programs to end yet they mysteriously have enough money to pay a plethora of consultants??? Can't pay staff correctly but consultants can be paid. insulting is an understatement.
Newark is blatantly disrespecting staff and it is unfortunately obvious that they do NOT care about staff students or the community. Consistent payroll errors. Staff not being paid on the correct contract level. Not being properly compensated for advanced degrees . It is absurd. These payroll errors have been happening since January. A substitute teacher was given a14,000 check and a veteran teacher was given a check for 11.49!!! Staff missing hundreds from their check. Its absurd!! Yet we still come to work!! WHO DOES THIS TO THEIR WORKERS AND THEY STILL COME???
NPS has already implemented the New evaluation system eventhough it isn't supposed to be implemented yet because its not a finished document.
They are laying off All department chairs, supervisors, attendance counselors and allegedly librarians. They are closing several more schools including one that contains severe behavioral disorder/ violent students!!!
In 18 years of teaching I have never seen such a travesty that currently exists within NPS .
Assistant Superintendents hired from NY to oversee Elementary schools when their previous concentration was high school . They come into the schools DON'T. know the curriculum. DON'T know best practices for Early Childhood and have the audacity to make dumb comments that demonstrate they are idiots . Yet Newark hires them. There are people still sitting in a pool with no placement because their school was closed yet they are hiring. I know for a fact that they hired a teacher from Teaneck as a Vp a month ago! How is that legal??? If the public really knew what was happening they would be sickened . There is no transparency there is no support. Teachers and administrators are on the front lines and under serious relentless attack. Yet NONE of this is on the front page or the news!!

Anonymous said...

The district and NTU are definitely working way too close for comfort in this regard . Unfortunately most members are EXTREMELY dissatisfied with the way The NTU has seemed to roll us under the bus. Its insulting and absurd. Its not supposed to be implemented until next year however in typical NPS fashion it is already being implemented. Really sad

Anonymous said...

Exactly !!! They are purposely harassing or making work conditions so extreme that people are quitting retiring going on FMLA !! The Superintendent and many of those hired since her arrival are TFA!! Teach for America teachers!! So yes They want younger teachers they can manipulate and control. This coupled with her support and agreement to the absurd rise in Charter schools is sick!!

Unknown said...


"Can't pay staff correctly but consultants can be paid." Exactly- This is a Race to the Top model sans NJ "winning" RttT grants .

RttT doles out million$$$$ to outside consultants for teacher retraining, inservices, hours & hours of teacher evaluation training, school restructuring, data bases, technology contracts, merit pay, and standardized tests. (see my previous comment thread on the Milkens edu-bidness in TN).

This is one step in the corporate dumbing down the teaching profession.

Unknown said...

More BS on this blog than any other I have seen. Thank you NJEA for selling out ALL teachers in NJ on tenure reform, health benefits, and pensions.

Now you're throwing Trenton and Camden under the bus.