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

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Christie Appoints VERY Young Former Wall St. Analyst as Camden Superintendent

I am, frankly, stunned:
The city of Camden could soon be getting a new superintendent. Gov. Chris Christie announced his selection of Paymon Rouhanifard as the first State Superintendent of the Camden School District

“Every child in New Jersey, regardless of zip code, deserves access to a high-quality education, and I’m confident Paymon Rouhanifard is the right person to make this goal a reality,” said Christie. “Paymon has a proven track record of improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of students in Newark and New York City, and brings innovative leadership that Camden needs moving forward. He has shown a deep commitment to working with parents and teachers to put students at the center of all decisions. Under his leadership, I know Camden’s schools will improve on the progress of these last few months.” [emphasis mine]
A "proven track record"? Really? Here's Rouhanifard's LinkedIn resume:

Paymon Rouhanifard's Experience

Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer

Newark Public Schools

Educational Institution; 5001-10,000 employees; Primary/Secondary Education industry
November 2012 – Present (10 months) Newark, NJ

Chief Executive Officer, Office of Portfolio Management

NYC Department of Education

Government Agency; 10,001+ employees; Education Management industry
June 2010 – Present (3 years 3 months)

Chief of Staff to Deputy Chancellor

NYC Department of Education

Government Agency; 10,001+ employees; Education Management industry
August 2009 – June 2010 (11 months)


AEA Investors LP

Privately Held; 51-200 employees; Venture Capital & Private Equity industry
July 2007 – August 2009 (2 years 2 months)


Goldman Sachs

Public Company; 10,001+ employees; GS; Investment Banking industry
July 2005 – July 2007 (2 years 1 month)

6th Grade Teacher

Teach for America

Nonprofit; 1001-5000 employees; Education Management industry
July 2003 – July 2005 (2 years 1 month)

Paymon Rouhanifard's Education

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

BAEconomics & Political Science

1999 – 2003
Let's start with this: there are very talented young people in the world who rise up very quickly on the basis of their early accomplishments. Perhaps Mr. Rouhanifard is one of them, but even still: he's only ten years out of college! What does that make him? 32?! And he's going to take over the schools in the "Most Dangerous City in America"? The poorest city which also happens to have the highest crime rate?

Maybe Mr. Rouhanifard has some special qualities that outweigh his youth and inexperience, but it strikes me as more than a little reckless to put this incredibly difficult and important job into the hands of such a young man -- especially when forty percent of his very short career was spent on Wall Street!

Rouhanifard has, at best, six years of experience in the education sector. We'll find out soon where he did his TFA stint, but I'd lay even odds it was at a charter school*. And it looks like his administrative experience was solely in the front office: he hasn't run a school, written curriculum, overseen district-level finance, worked in student services...

Look, a LinkedIn resume sometimes masks important work experience. I'll wait until we know more, but for now: no degrees in education, no experience running a district or even being second- or even third-in-command, no principal experince, very limited teaching experience... and, I'm sorry to say this but it's true, limited life experience.

Don't the beautiful, deserving children of Camden - many living lives with two strikes against them already - don't these kids deserve an experienced leader for their schools? Someone with a real "track record" of success?

More to come - stand by...

Chris Christie: "Paymon has a proven track record..."

UPDATE: Leslie Brody at the Record confirms: Rouhanifard is 32 years old. Again, I am just stunned.

UPDATE 2: New Jersey requires a "School Administrator" certificate for the position of superintendent of a district. There is simply no way Rouhanifard meets those requirements. I am very curious to see how Christie, Cerf, and the NJDOE are going to get away with this one.

* Also, looks like I lose that bet:
He began his career as a 6th grade teacher at PS 192 in West Harlem, New York, as part of Teach For America.
 Not a charter; I stand corrected.

UPDATE 3: Rouhanifard looks like a poster boy for Teacher for America:
As senior class president, with a 3.7 GPA and dual degrees in poli sci and economics, Paymon Rouhanifard '03 had several options available to him at graduation - graduate school, banking, a job with a New York consulting firm. Instead, he committed to two years of grueling work and low pay to teach in Harlem. 
"It's been a very character-building experience," he says, midway through his first year of working with sixth-graders, all of whom are impoverished, and most of whom are working below grade level. "It's been extremely tough," he says with a sigh, but adds quickly, "It's been the most rewarding work I've ever done."
It's the classic TFA story: Rouhanifard did his two-year stint, moved on to Wall Street, then came back into education -- but not as a teacher. Can someone please explain again why we are giving them all this taxpayer money if they aren't creating lifelong educators?

I expect that Rouhanifard's appointment will be considered a big coup for TFA. I also expect the KIPP charter going up right down the street couldn't be more pleased...

UPDATE 4: Gotham Schools on the NYC career of Paymon Rouhanifard.

UPDATE 5: Leonie Haimson (possessor of a mind like a steel trap) reminds me that Rouhanifard was the mouthpiece for the NYCDOE during the charter school co-location wars. We have much history to uncover, folks...

UPDATE 6: Speaking of Leonie, here she is confronting Rouhanifard over the co-location of a charter school (Success Academy) at a beloved public school in Brooklyn.

Go to 1:30 to see a stone-faced Paymon Rouhanifard, then in charge of the Office of Portfolio Management for NYCDOE, refuse to react to Haimson's speech or the crowd's cheers. Haimson blogged later:
I berate the two DOE officials presiding over the hearings, Gregg Betheil and Paymon Rouhanifard.  I say they should be ashamed of themselves and ask if they went into education to provoke the kind of division, anger and resentment seen tonight; I urge them to tell whoever who is making this decision to say no to this charter school; as there has to be someone in the city with the balls or guts to say no to Eva.  I add that if there was one thing good that came out of this evening, it is that it is clear that NYC parents love their public schools and want them protected and supported, no matter how hard the DOE has tried to destroy them  through budget cuts, test prep and rising class sizes.  Lastly, I recount how at the recent City Council hearings on college readiness, the only thing the Council and the DOE agreed upon was that El Puente is a great school and should be replicated; with DOE officials repeating this several times.  So why don’t they replicate El Puente here and create a great 6-12 school, instead of bringing in a charter school that no one in the community wants or needs? [emphasis mine]
Read the whole thing. It helps explain why there was so much talking over Haimson: the Success people bussed in parents from Manhattan to create a false impression South Williamsburg parents were in favor of the co-location. Won't that be great when it happens in Camden?

Remember, this is what Chris Christie said about this young man:
He has shown a deep commitment to working with parents and teachers to put students at the center of all decisions.
Do you see that here? Get used to this, Camden: it's your future, whether you like it or not.

UPDATE 7: Say what now?
“I firmly believe we can not only decrease the achievement gap, but reverse it,” he said.
Reverse the achievement gap? What in the world does that mean?


urban madness said...

Maryland likes to give waivers when a superintendent lacks the requirements for certification, so NJ may do the same.

Sadly, this is another example of how professional educators are not valued.

urban madness said...

Here's a link to an article about Maryland's fondness for waivers.


Leonie Haimson said...

Paymon was deaf to the howls of parents and teachers and student in the co-location battles when he was at Portfolio -- pushing kids out of the classrooms and other spaces they need for an adequate education.

I suppose this is what Cerf means when he says "He has shown a deep commitment to working with parents and teachers to put students at the center of all decisions."

He certainly has a proven track record in undermining the " the lives of hundreds of thousands of students in...New York City"

Mrs. King's music students said...

To be fair, the number of Camden principals that know anything about curriculum can be counted on one hand.

On your other point, prerequites for principals - don't get me started. While Curriculum Supervisors are going deep into guaranteed and viable, NJ principals master busses, buildings and free lunch. Yet many districts fill curriculum positions w/admins to keep schools compliant with state law. And to heck with kids that have only one chance to get a good education.

In Camden, there's also the matter of 'hurry up' certifications for top positions, compliments of Jon C. I think, about 10 years ago. Kids are still paying the price for that lot too.

Unknown said...

I don't know what's more unbelievable, this farce or the fact that I had to scroll past a Cory Booker ad to make this comment!

Rip Van Wonkle said...

In response to update #2, a few years back, Cerf (or maybe it was Schundler) pushed through regulations that allowed "failing school districts" to hire someone as a superintendent even if that person does not satisfy the requirements for a school administrator certification. I suppose Rouhanifard will be the first one appointed under those regulations.

Cliff H said...

Superintendents throughout the state need to step up and object to this move. Otherwise, the DOE may be coming for their jobs next.

Duke said...

Rip, thx for that - I had forgotten.

Thx for comments everyone. More to come...

alm said...

"There are very talented young people in the world who rise up very quickly on the basis of their early accomplishments..."

Nail on the head here (maybe not intentionally?) - that's exactly what you're seeing here. From what I've heard, he was VERY highly regarded internally at NYC DOE (rising star, etc.) They check references for this kind of thing, you know.

Look, having read you for a bit, you take the least favorable view of any news out of Cerf's office. I think everyone on both sides of this agrees that it's a pretty bold move - not the kind of move you would make if you weren't head-over-heels impressed with the candidate. You're entitled to speculate to your hearts content about the motivations of Cerf's office, but the Occam's razor explanation for 'young reformer appointed' is exactly what you said above -- he's a supremely talented rising star in the eyes of Christie and Cerf. You might not agree with the reform agenda for Camden, but in terms of parsing motivation it's not much more complicated than that.

Duke said...


Stand by, because I think the evidence will suggest something entirely different that what you propose.

Occam indeed...

ad77 said...

From this resume it looks as if he was working for both Newark Public Schools and the NYC Department of Ed at the same time. How did he do that?

But wait, there's more! It appears he also did some work for the Louisiana Department of Education!

How did he find all the time to do so much?