When I saw the title “Cami Anderson takes a hit in Newark’s school wars: Editorial,” I thought for a second that the Star-Ledger’s days as premier Anderson apologists might be coming to an end.
And then I actually read the editorial.
Referencing Newark’s religious leaders’ “scathing rebuke” of the State Superintendent, the Star-Ledger Editorial Board concluded that “the politics around [Anderson’s] school reform effort have become untenable.”
The politics around her reform effort have become untenable? Not her reforms themselves? (Does that even make sense?)
The immediate problem with this editorial is that its authors label Anderson’s
Two Newarks One Newark plan as a “community relations effort.” Given that Anderson’s goals include firing veteran teachers, importing Teach for America corps members, closing neighborhood schools, and turning Newark’s children over to private management companies, I’d say the “community relations effort” label is a ridiculous misnomer.
As for the “worthwhile” reforms the Star-Ledger insists should be celebrated:
- “She negotiated a teachers contract that’s innovative.” Is the S-L referencing the Zuckerberg/merit pay part of the contract? You know, the one about which Jersey Jazzman has written extensively–and labeled as a “big fat scam” that betrays the contract to which the NTU agreed in good faith?
- “She’s giving principals more autonomy.” The S-L must be talking about principals other than the ones who were suspended for standing alongside parents to voice their opposition to school closures.
- She’s “removing ineffective teachers aggressively, within tenure restraints.” Is the S-L talking about the massive layoffs–which will essentially rid the district of teachers who have devoted their careers to the children of Newark–Anderson announced in February? Has the S-L forgotten Anderson’s quest for a “waiver of equivalency” to circumvent state law and ignore years of service? (And, while we’re on the subject, when will the S-L evaluate Anderson’s method of teacher evaluation?)
- Anderson promotes “hugely popular” charters while at the same time “making sure they take their fair share of low-performers.” Please tell us, S-L Board: who are the “low performers”? I assume they’re not the students who require a self-contained setting, since none of those students will go to charters–they’ll all be funneled to district schools.
- “She’s recruited the best charters to take over the management of some failing schools.” Best charters? By whose measure? And are these “best charters” the ones who bought (public) property in Newark for well below market value? The ones that can opt out of the
Two NewarksOne Newark plan?
So ultimately, the S-L says, Anderson’s failures in Newark are actually the fault of her critics(!):
Something does need to change, though, about the lack of “meaningful and credible” public engagement, as the clergy put it. To be sure, Anderson’s opposition deserves a lot of the blame for this, too: The head of Newark’s school advisory board allows meetings to turn into raucous shouting matches — even encourages it. That’s inexcusable. Newark has a deeply rooted hostility toward outsiders, and Gov. Chris Christie, who appointed Anderson, is unpopular in the state-controlled district. It’s not clear that any politician could handle this gracefully.
It seems that the S-L finds community dissent to be offensive. Instead of engaging in “raucous shouting matches,” the parents and students in Newark should just shut up and deal with the school closures that will disrupt their lives, I suppose. They should just shut up and deal with the rift the
Two Newarks One Newark plan is causing in the community. And they should just shut up and deal with outsiders buying up taxpayer property and barging in to schools during instructional days to plot their takeovers.
Astonishingly, the S-L does assign some blame to Anderson herself:
Yet Anderson needs to do better. She’s failing at the politics. She has given up on attending meetings in Newark and in Trenton, a tacit acknowledgement that she has lost effectiveness in the public debate. This means she is unable to make her case when controversy arises, as it has with the recent suspension of several principals.
At times she seems politically tone-deaf, awarding her leadership team pay raises this year, even during layoffs. She didn’t distribute a detailed budget to the school board in time for a public hearing, and has alienated too many of her natural allies. She needs to recognize this failure, engage more and change the way she does business.
But, says the S-L, she’s only failing at the “politics” and the “way she does business.” She’s not failing because
Two Newarks One Newark is discriminatory, both for students and teachers. Or because it fails to address the underlying societal problems that cause so many of Newark’s students’ struggles. No: it’s because those pesky “opposition” people have made it hard for Cami to do the job that Cory Booker and Chris Christie recruited her to do: dismantle the public school system in Newark.
The S-L would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks Newark’s schools can’t be improved, yet they end their editorial by saying that by avoiding city meetings, Anderson is “playing right into the hands of people who don’t want to change a thing about Newark’s failing schools.”
Perhaps the S-L Editorial Board should revisit mayoral candidate Ras Baraka’s Education Blueprint, which is a thoughtful, comprehensive plan to improve Newark’s schools. Maybe then the Board would (finally) understand just how damaging Anderson’s reforms are–and how a Baraka win in May will improve the education of all of Newark’s students.