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

Friday, January 17, 2014

Newark State Superintendent Cami Anderson: "First Amendment? What's That?"

I guess we now know why Chris Christie lauded Newark's state-appointed superintendent,  Cami Anderson, at his distraction from Bridgegate State of the State address: they are kindred spirits. Both love to bully underlings, and neither brooks dissent:
Councilman Baraka asks for immediate firing of Cami Anderson
(For Release Wednesday, August 14, 2013)

Councilman Ras Baraka Asks for Immediate Removal of State Appointed Superintendent, Cami Anderson. Calls today's suspension of four principals "the last straw in a chain of inept and horribly destructive decisions."

Councilman Ras Baraka today called on Governor Christie to immediately fire Cami Anderson, the State-Appointed Schools Superintendent of the Newark Public Schools.

Statement by Ras Baraka:

"Today Cami Anderson indefinitely suspended four Newark principals: Tony Motley of Bragraw Avenue School, Grady James of Hawthorne Avenue School, Dorothy Handfield of Belmont-Runyon, and Deneen Washington of Maple Avenue. She suspended the four principals because they spoke at a public forum on Wednesday in opposition to Ms. Anderson's widely criticized "One Newark" reorganization plan which includes closing or "repurposing" nearly one third of Newark's public schools.

Ms. Anderson's action in suspending the four principals is the last straw in a chain of inept, and horribly out-of-touch decisions. The people of Newark need to hear the views of those within the school system who disagree with Ms. Anderson. The four principals have a constitutional right to speak out. The Newark school district is not a military dictatorship, and Ms. Anderson is neither an army general nor a police chief. Her behavior must be governed by the principles of our democracy.

Whatever one thinks of Ms. Anderson's political and educational ideology, she has proven time and again that she holds in contempt the opinions of the people of Newark. From the beginning, she has not consulted with Newark's parents, community and political leaders, or professional educators on any significant decision. Most recently, she announced and began implementing her " One Newark" reorganization plan on the people of Newark with no consultation and no advance notice. In doing this, she ignited a firestorm of opposition from outraged citizens.

The suspensions are the final outrage. Ms. Anderson's tenure has outlived whatever usefulness it had. I call on Governor Christie to remove her immediately before she can do any more damage." [emphasis mine]
Look, I understand that there are consequences for speaking ill of your boss. But NPS is a public institution. These are public schools. Have we decided that dissent on policy - not personal attacks, not invective, not slander, but having disagreements on public policy - is now a fireable offense?

I can't embed the video of the principals speaking on Wednesday's forum; it's on Facebook, so check it out there (hope Zuck doesn't remove it...). I think you'll find what I found: none of these dedicated educators said anything that should lead to their removal.

Cami Anderson is a public servant; she is in her position to serve the students, the parents, the citizens... and yes, the teachers and principals of Newark. They are the ones who are in the schools every day, working and striving to overcome the disgusting segregation and racism and sexism and classism that afflicts their students. They are the ones who know how hard it is for the beautiful, deserving children of Newark to learn in crumbling, dangerous schools that have been neglected by the state for years. They are the ones who have to tell the parents of Newark that, unlike the parents of Millburn, they can't rely on having a clean, well-maintained, well-staffed, well-resourced school in their neighborhood with teachers and principals who are respected and supported.

State Superintendent Anderson, despite her inexperience, ought to at least understand that she is in Newark to serve the people of the Brick City, and not to impose her will. What does it say about her plans - like One Newark - when her own people aren't on board? What does it say about her "leadership" that she is fomenting a rebellion within her own buildings? What does it say about the culture that she has created when the parents are filing lawsuits, the teachers are demanding an audit of the district, the students are out protesting in the streets, and the principals have no choice but to demand the resources they need for their students in a public forum?

One Newark is a wet dream for the Andy Smaricks and RiShawn Biddles of the world: choice, choice, choice! But it never occurred to these fine reformy folks, or Anderson, or NJDOE Commissioner Cerf, or Governor Christie, that maybe the families of Newark don't want to be treated differently than the families of Basking Ridge. Maybe the system that the families of Hunterdon and Sussex Counties demand for their children should be the same system used in Newark. Maybe Newark's parents ought not to be told to "vote with your feet"; maybe, like middle-class white people all over this state, they just want to vote with their vote.

Anderson, Cerf, and Christie have overreached, and now their actions coming back to bite them in their rear ends. Newark simply isn't going to stand for this any more. When you've lost your principals, it's a sign you've lost your principles.

Two peas in a pod.

ADDING: Again, I don't know Ras Baraka from Adam. But he is pissing off all the right people, and that is a good thing.


Unknown said...

I personally know Mr. James and I've met Ms. Hansfield on a couple of occasions, my cousin also teaches at her school and they are both great educators. Since none of the rules and respect apply anymore maybe our next step should be a strike. They claim we aren't teaching the kids anyway right?

Tamar Wyschogrod said...

Is the Wednesday, August 14, 2013 release date on that press release an error? This is brand new, right?

Unknown said...

Here is the link of the principals speaking out! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTOM5WvhSVA#t=352

Harriet Knevals said...

WTF...and I don't usually use that word nor am I generally a supporter of Newark principals (except John Moses, Kathy Duke-Jackson, and Ras Baraka), but this action smacks of the atmosphere of retribution that taints anyone appointed or supported by Christie. I know it's not your thing, but as a teacher who went on strike "back in the day", it's time for the entire city of Newark to pull together and stage a massive walkout. I mean everyone should demand that Anderson and all her cronies leave immediately. How dare she?
Ras Baraka is a fantastic administrator who truly understands his personal and his students. Working with him was a pleasure. He demanded results in constructive ways that resulted in success for all evolved.
Oh, and I am a product of the Millburn Schools. The changes Cami proposes would never "fly" in Millburn. Using their methods would because that is the way I taught and my students did well.

Unknown said...

Hope your readers will check out my comprehensive story at http://bobbraunsledger.com/newark-school-boss-anderson-cracks-down-on-critics-suspends-five-principals-in-one-day/

Regan said...

This feels so surreal! How can this be happening? How can she get away with this?! I am more worried than ever for the students and staff of NPS.

Giuseppe said...

I'm assuming they were suspended with pay. I probably missed it, but did Cami Anderson say publically why she suspended the principals. I guess she is restrained from making comments about personnel matters because of privacy considerations and the future court cases that are sure to arise from this massacre. The laws suits will be flying all over the place. This is a huge story, the main stream media have not really gotten into it yet or did I miss it?

Unknown said...

We can't have haters interfering with the 1%ers Master Plan!

Tom Forbes said...

Cami Anderson did this kind of nonsense while superintendent of Dist. 79 in NYC. Ask Mark Ryan who lost his principal position by speaking up against her in a meeting.

G. Gales said...

Unless I missed it, the Star Ledger has yet to cover this story.

Giuseppe said...

Not a word about bridgegate from any of Steve Adubato's shows on NJTV. Just the usual non controversial fluff pieces or approved "controversial" issues.

Giuseppe said...

Whoops, meant to say nothing about the firing of the Newark principals on NJTV, so far.

Unknown said...

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Candy Brown said...

People in Newark, Camden, Trenton and all urban cities should and need to stand up and realize these take overs, and closing public schools and turning them into charter schools are happening in the cities. The state took over the Camden Schools, overlooked two highly qualified men and selected the hand picked man that I think worked in Newark school district to help bring in charter schools. Christie, Cerf and all of their friends know they can do all of this because urban parents are letting them do whatever they want to. Not a parent in Camden protested about the takeover or the questionable lack of qualifications of the new superintendent. Are they closing schools in Cherry Hill, no because the parents would be out on the streets protesting, writing letters to their congressmen thus protecting their public schools. Instead of helping your public schools urban parents are falling for their tricks by putting their kids in these charter schools who are being allowed to make money off of their kids, discriminate against certain people by hand picking whoever they want to for their schools. People in Newark, Camden, Trenton and all cities are letting these people make money off of their children because they are always need to depending on people to do for them. Christie and Cerf knows us better than we know ourselves, they know all they have to do is open a new school, or offer you something and you would put your child where they want you to. You don't know if the school will be good, you don't know if the teachers are even qualified, you just throw your kids in the school because they told you too. The principals in Newark shouldn't have been the ones standing up it should have been the parents in Newark, Camden, Trenton, New Orleans, Philadelphia and all cities, remember they are not closing suburban public schools down only urban public schools because you are allowing them.