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, September 28, 2013

As Perth Amboy Turns

And the soap opera continues in New Jersey's Reformiest District™:   
The Board of Education will decide whether to put Superintendent Janine Caffrey on administrative leave for a fourth time at a special Oct. 2 meeting, Caffrey said.
Although Caffrey decided she will not reapply for her position and will finish out her contract which expires June 30, she was still the recipient of a Rice notice today informing her that her employment will be the topic of discussion.
Her attorney informed her it is the intention of the board to put her on administrative leave, Caffrey said. She has not decided whether to hold the hearing publicly or in executive session.
Board President Mark Carvajal refused comment.
If the board votes to remove Caffrey, it wouldn't be the first time.
Prior to that, on April 2012 and again May 2012, the board voted to remove Caffrey from her $175,000-a-year post, but each time state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf overturned those decisions. [emphasis mine]
Yes, and look at how well that's worked out...

As I said early on in this mess: I don't know who is in the right here. But when Chris Cerf unilaterally decided to step in and save Caffrey, he was overstepping his bounds and exercising way too much power for a man who was never elected to office. Cerf had more than enough time to investigate this situation, but he was clearly running out the clock, hoping a new school board would be elected to save Caffrey.

Well, that never happened, despite the unbelievable amount of money that was poured into the local school board race from West Coast billionaires. So now this city has a board at war with its superintendent -- a war that could have been avoided if the school board was allowed to run the schools without Cerf's interference.

Yes, it's possible that Caffrey was wronged and the board was going to fire her and pay her severance, wasting the taxpayers' money. You know how you solve that? At the ballot box: you let the locals vote out the school board members who hired her in the first place.

What you don't do is usurp local control on flimsy evidence, then ignore your duty to resolve the situation quickly. Which is why the blame for all of this ultimately doesn't rest with Caffrey or the board: it lies squarely on the shoulders of the Commissioner of Education.

Chris Cerf's conduct in this entire matter has been unfair to Caffrey, to the Board of Education, to the staff of the schools, and -- most importantly -- to the students of Perth Amboy. Cerf's inability to resolve this situation in a timely matter has kept this school district in a perpetual circus-like atmosphere:
Caffrey said she believes the Board is holding this hearing for a myriad of reasons, including her comments on NJ.com, campaign promises from certain officials running for re-election, and the ongoing ethic cases of several board members, including Obdulia Gonzalez, Israel Varela, and Milady Tejeda.
That case, which is scheduled for hearing Oct. 16, involves allegations of paying a media representative to write false and slanderous stories against Caffrey, organizing a union rally calling for her removal, as well as accepting political contributions from the union in exchange for collusion to remove Caffrey.
Is this true? Did any of this really happen? Lord knows Caffrey's made charges before against her board that the state later ruled had no basis in the evidence. And she was awfully prickly when the board questioned her handling of an investigation of liquor sales on school grounds. Is she making charges out of spite? Or are these members of the board really guilty?

Who knows? Certainly not Commissioner Cerf, who has let this nonsense continue unabated. Certainly not Tom Moran of the Star-Ledger, who turned Caffrey into an anti-tenure celebrity, ignoring any journalistic obligations to present both sides of the story. Certainly not B4K, the corporate reform outfit that paid for a public relations campaign in Caffrey's defense when she first got into trouble with her board. Certainly not those West Coast billionaires, who've never had to answer the question of why they would pour so much money into a race 3000 miles away.

Perhaps that's why Cerf has let this go on for so long: many influential people have had a vested interest in the outcome. Too bad their needs seem to come before the needs of the children who actually live in Perth Amboy.

The Reformiest District in New Jersey!™

1 comment:

Mrs. King's music students said...

I'm not convinced that the ballot box is the right impetus for change here - too much like old wine in new jars - whats to prevent $$$ self- promoters from making the ballot go their way?

It's more likely that a dramatic shift in the way educators and even the field of education is organized will provide the answer. Just as wartime drafting made a better Army - not because the quality of soldiers was better but because high performers that just said no to mickey mouse organization still performed once they were in.

Change the platform. The right people are out there.