Monthly Archives: November 2013

Cami Anderson: NJEA Convention drives Newark children to crime

November 7th and 8th marked the 159th NJEA Convention, an annual event that offers New Jersey teachers what is arguably the most comprehensive, concentrated series of professional development opportunities in the country.  This year, educators from all over the state had the opportunity to choose from over 300 workshops and seminars; attend a State Board of Education meeting, which was moved to Atlantic City to coincide with the Convention; hear Commissioner Chris Cerf speak; attend a workshop given by Charlotte Danielson, whose teacher-evaluation model is being used by a majority of schools in the state as part of the ACHIEVE NJ initiative; and study the various components of the new (unproven, untested) teacher evaluation system and mandates that accompany it.

Because the NJEA Convention is so well-attended (the union is reporting attendance of 30,000 this year) and offers career development opportunities for educators of all levels and disciplines at no cost to school districts or taxpayers, many public school districts across the state close for two days each November so their teachers can participate in the event.

This year, though, Newark State District Superintendent Cami Anderson decided–despite concerns of the Newark Teachers Union leadership and despite the fact that NPS have traditionally been closed for the NJEA Convention–that the city’s schools would remain open on November 7th and 8th.  But when she realized that approximately 1,000 NPS teachers planned to attend the events in Atlantic City, Anderson had no choice but to close schools at the “last minute”: on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 6th.

After the Convention, Anderson wrote a purposefully divisive letter (see image below) to the families of NPS students explaining her decision to close schools–and effectively blaming the NTU for the confusion that accompanies such a last-minute announcement.  In the letter, which differs from an edited version that appears on the NPS website, Anderson claims that in the past when the district closed schools so teachers could attend the NJEA Convention, “crime went up”–because on days off from school “idle” children engaged in criminal activity–and that the November 7th and 8th closures made the city of Newark “less safe.”photo.PNG

The implications of these statements are supremely insulting to Newark students and parents alike, and it’s equally shameful that Anderson has chosen to suggest a correlation between school closures and crime in Newark to use as leverage in her anti-union message.  It apparently wasn’t enough for Chris Christie to blame teachers and their unions for creating “failure factories”; Anderson now sees fit to also blame the unions for crime in Newark.

Further, Anderson suggests to families that because Newark’s teachers aren’t represented by the NJEA, the convention would have no value for them (state law dictates that the convention is open to all New Jersey teachers, and Newark educators have been attending for years)–an assertion that is completely untrue and glaringly manipulative–and insinuates that NTU leaders urged teachers to attend the Convention out of spite.

One would think that if Anderson truly supported Newark’s teachers, she’d be thrilled to learn that over 1,000 of them chose to attend the NJEA convention. If she had any doubt about whether or not the event would be a worthwhile use of teachers’ time, a glance at NJEA’s 88-page Convention program would have made clear why the country’s largest state convention is so valuable to New Jersey’s teachers.

But it seems that Cami Anderson is more concerned with disparaging the Newark community and supporting Chris Christie’s union-busting agenda than she is with ensuring Newark’s teachers have access to career development opportunities that will help them improve their instruction, since she claims in her letter that allowing teachers to attend the Convention “doesn’t make sense” for the students or city of Newark. And instead of celebrating the professionalism of Newark’s teachers, Anderson makes the outrageous claim to the families of Newark that teachers’ attendance at the NJEA Convention has made Newark “less safe.”

This type of rhetoric will most certainly not help promote a culture of academics–or a culture of respect–in Newark.

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When a pufferfish explodes: Chris Christie’s very bad day

Pufferfish

Image from animals.nationalgeographic.com

As if it weren’t enough that the image of Chris Christie screaming at a New Jersey public school teacher went viral within hours of the November 2nd exchange, Time.com posted an excerpt from a new book (to be published November 5th) by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann–called Double Down: Game Change 2012that reveals some very damaging information about the controversial NJ governor.

The book, which chronicles the “circuslike Republican nomination fight” and the “rise and fall of Mitt Romney,” details Romney’s search for a running mate in advance of the 2012 Presidential election. This excerpt, which focuses the Romney team’s vetting of Chris Christie, notes that Romney charged his team with finding people who had “nothing in their background that could become a distraction for the campaign.”

And that left Chris Christie, whom the team affectionately named “Pufferfish” (I know), out of the race for lots of reasons:

  • Christie initially banned Romney from fundraising in New Jersey, insisting that Romney needed Christie’s permission to raise funds in the Garden State
  • Romney was annoyed by Christie’s chronic lateness, which Romney considered to be a sign of arrogance
  • Romney disliked Christie’s disregard for health and fitness, things that Romney himself valued
  • Christie repeatedly refused to answer questions from the vetting committee, leading Romney advisors to assume Christie was hiding information because it was “bad”
  • In 2010, Department of Justice inspectors labeled Christie as “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and said he offered “‘insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification’ for stays at swank hotels like the Four Seasons.”
  • Christie worked for the Securities Industry Association during Bernie Madoff’s tenure there, and Christie “sought an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act”
  • Christie was the subject of a congressional hearing because of his habit of awarding contracts to friends and political allies
  • Christie was the defendant in a 1994 defamation lawsuit in New Jersey
  • After an SEC investigation, Christie’s brother, Todd, agreed to a settlement because he admitted to consistently overcharging clients; the Romney team was also concerned about Todd’s motives for and management of a family foundation
  • The wealth of pesky YouTube clips showing Chris Christie on the attack were also concerning to the vetting team.
  • Governor Christie’s health records indicated that he had medical problems he didn’t initially disclose

Romney’s vetting team concluded that if Romney were to choose Christie as a running-mate, much more digging into Christie’s past would be necessary.  And ultimately, as we all know, the team didn’t like what they saw.

If Christie’s history was too sordid for Romney’s standards, Christie has good reason to be concerned about Halperin’s and Heilemann’s new book and the implications it will have for Christie’s presidential aspirations.

And while Christie’s hostile, adversarial relationship with New Jersey’s teachers is well-documented, I can’t help but wonder whether his knowledge that the Double Down excerpt was about to be published caused him to let loose on NJ public school teacher Melissa Tomlinson (here is her response to the governor) just three days before the state’s gubernatorial election.

Either way, now the world knows what it looks like when a pufferfish explodes.

CCSD

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