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, February 3, 2014

State-Run Newark Schools Blow Snow Closings Again

Just received this via email from a teacher in the Newark Public Schools:
We got texts from our dcs saying that school was closed at 7:39.

This means that she [State Superintendent Cami Anderson] waited until 7 or later to make the call. 

Kids and teachers were already in schools when they got the message. 

This is either incompetence or payback for our resistance to her. Either way, it's disrespectful and potentially harmful. 
Yes, it is. Here in North/Central New Jersey, we've been under a Winter Storm Watch since 5 PM last night. The forecasts said 5 to 8 inches; everyone knew this was coming.

Newark's Central High has its homeroom bell at 8:00 AM; you can be sure that plenty of teachers and students were on their way to school, or already there, at 7:39. Now they have to go back home in conditions that are dangerous enough to merit closing the schools.

Experienced administrators do make mistakes -- but not the same ones repeatedly. Anderson kept Newark's schools open in the last snow emergency -- in spite of the fact that the charter schools were closed -- but, according to Bob Braun, attendance was extremely low. You would have thought Anderson would have learned to make the call early and err on the side of caution; apparently not.

It's worth pointing out that, under a new system devised by NJDOE Commissioner Chris Cerf, funding is now based on enrollment rates as determined by average daily attendance, not fall enrollment as was done in the past. This disadvantages districts with higher rates of poverty*, like Newark. Paterson, another state-run, high-poverty district, has already lost millions of dollars in funding because of the change.

You would think this would be reason enough for Anderson not to open school on a day when attendance will inevitably be low. You would think.

If Anderson had to answer to bosses who were elected by the people, she'd think long and hard before letting children go to school on a day like today. School board members would be getting lots of furious calls from parents; subsequently, Anderson would be getting lots of calls from furious school board members. This is how the system works in almost every other school district in the state.

But not Newark: Anderson answers to Chris Christie alone, who is just a bit distracted at the moment. Obviously, neither wants to put a child in danger. But when you're removed from your constituents by virtue of state control, you're not under the same pressure to make the call in favor of prudence.

In other words: the last two snow days in Newark are yet another example of why the district, and all New Jersey districts, must move toward a system of local control with appropriate and vigilant state oversight. I have little doubt Newark's students and teachers who made it into school today only to turn right around and go home would agree with me.

This is the number of snow days I should have called, or called much earlier, so far this year.

ADDING: A Facebook reader adds this:
Once again, the charters were closed, but not the public schools --until the 11th hour--creating hellish conditions for families, kids, and staff. I've seen people posting "that's it! I'm pulling my kids out of NPS!." Maybe it's just part of the plan.

ADDING MORE: Peggy McGlone of the S-L picks up the story:
Many teachers and parents were angry they weren’t notified that the state's largest district was closed for a snow day until minutes before 8 this morning, after many had already arrived at school.
“It's ridiculous. It makes no sense. How do you put everyone in jeopardy like that?” said Grace Sergio, the mother of an eighth grader at Hawthorne Avenue School. Sergio said the call came at 7:51, just minutes before her son was supposed to leave.
Hawthorne is one of the schools scheduled for charter takeover under One Newark. The charters reportedly all made their calls to cancel school earlier. Keep that in mind, then reread my first update.

Funny how that all worked out, isn't it?

EVEN MORE: Bob Braun goes there:
Cami Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie three years ago to run the Newark schools, should resign immediately because she represents a danger to the children and employees of New Jersey’s largest city. More than a week ago, she kept the schools open in Newark when all the schools in Essex and neighboring counties were closed–including Newark charter schools. Today, she did not order the schools closed until many children and employees were on their way or already in school. Charter schools were closed by 7 a.m.
I can’t read her mind or her heart. I can’t know what her motivation is. But mounting external evidence points to this: She is trying to destroy Newark’s public school system in favor of creating a  free-trade zone for charter schools.
For myself: I don't think she needs to resign. I only think the NPS Advisory Board should immediately have the same rights as almost every other elected board in the state, and make the decision whether or not to continue her contract.

Again: why do elected officials in Millburn or Basking Ridge or Irvington or Union City have these rights while elected officials in Newark and Paterson and Camden do not?

* Note: I'm going to start adding this footnote when I link to or quote Bruce Baker: he is my advisor in the PhD program at Rutgers GSE, and we have published policy briefs together. Just want to keep everything on the up-and-up.


Anonymous said...

"You would think this would be reason enough for Anderson not to open school on a day when attendance will inevitably be low. You would think."

It depends on her purpose. If she is trying to destroy the Publics and starve them of funds (as Cerf is with his new attendance formula) then keeping the schools open on bad days is fitting!

Unknown said...

Attendance is only counted if you actually take attendance. On that day all schools registered 100 percent. So once again Cami came out looking good.

plumwalk2 said...

Englewood is not State controlled, but our children were in school also. Compassion for children and parents should be a prerequisite when hiring Chief School Administrators.