We believe that the people of Newark should be able to democratically govern their public schools.
Fortunately, Mark Biedron, President of NJ’s State Board of Education, seems to agree. Mr. Biedron recently told the Star Ledger that “the people of Newark having local control over the school district…is a good thing.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Biedron will have an opportunity to act on this belief when the State Board votes on whether Chris Cerf should become Newark’s next Superintendent.
If the State Board approves Mr. Cerf, it will be continuing a 20 year history of disenfranchisement for Newark’s nearly 300,000 residents, who have had no say in this decision.
If the Board rejects Mr. Cerf and instead approves a candidate selected by Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education, it will be putting Mr. Biedron’s admirable philosophy into practice.
There is plenty of precedent for allowing Newark to select its own superintendent.
Newark, Jersey City, and Paterson are all state-controlled school districts. Yet Jersey City’s popularly-elected Board of Education selected its Superintendent, Marcia Lyles. Paterson’s Superintendent, Dr. Donnie Evans, was selected by a committee that included members of Paterson’s popularly-elected Board of Education, along with other community leaders. In contrast, Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education has had no voice in selecting Mr. Cerf, who was nominated for this position by Governor Christie.
Approving Mr. Cerf is also difficult to justify because Mr. Cerf lacks the qualifications necessary to run New Jersey’s largest school district. Unlike Jersey City’s and Paterson’s leaders, Mr. Cerf has no prior experience as a superintendent.
Nor is there a record of success in related public-education positions on which to base Mr. Cerf’s nomination. In fact, Mr. Cerf’s tenure as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education was marked by numerous poor decisions regarding Newark, including:
- Appointing and continuing to support Newark’s prior Superintendent, Cami Anderson, whose policies and behaviors generated broad-based rejection and rebellion from Newark residents;
- Improperly giving in to a demand from Ms. Anderson “to allow her to retain full control over 28 low-performing schools, which resulted in New Jersey failing to comply with federal requirements; and
- Forcibly maintaining State control of Newark’s schools by dramatically lowering the district’s scores on the State’s monitoring system (QSAC) from the scores that Mr. Cerf had given the district less than a year earlier.
The people of Newark deserve the right to select their next Superintendent. They also deserve an experienced public education leader with a proven record of success. Mr. Cerf’s candidacy fails on all these counts.
We encourage Mr. Biedron and the other State Board of Education members to vote no on Mr. Cerf’s nomination and to allow Newark’s popularly-elected Board of Education to nominate the district’s next Superintendent.
Newark’s residents have been deprived of their right to democratically control their public schools for 20 years. It is long past time to correct this wrong!
Rosie Grant, Piscataway, NJ–Parent and nonprofit leader
Michelle Fine, Montclair, NJ–Parent and professor
Judy DeHaven, Red Bank, NJ–Parent and writer
Valerie Trujillo, Jersey City, NJ–Parent and public education advocate
Jacklyn Brown, Manalapan, NJ–Parent and educator
Julia Sass Rubin, Princeton, NJ–Parent and professor
Linda Reid, Paterson, NJ–Parent and nonprofit leader
Melissa Katz, South Brunswick, NJ–Future educator
Bobbie Theivakumaran, Metuchen, NJ–Parent and investment banker
Lisa Winter, Basking Ridge, NJ–Parent, technology manager and former Board of Education member
Marcella Simadiris, Montclair, NJ–Parent and educator
Michelle McFadden-DiNicola, Highland Park, NJ–Parent and public education advocate
Bill Michaelson, Lawrence Township, NJ–Parent and computer scientist
Marie Hughes Corfield, Flemington, NJ–Parent and educator
Rita McClellan, Cherry Hill, NJ–Parent and administrator
Sarah Blaine, Montclair, NJ–Parent, attorney, and blogger
Susan Cauldwell, Spring Lake, NJ–Parent and nonprofit leader
Heidi Maria Brown, Pitman, NJ–Parent and educator
Julie Borst, Allendale, NJ–Parent and special education advocate
Susan Berkey, Howell, NJ–Parent and educator
Darcie Cimarusti, Highland Park, NJ–Parent and Board of Education member
Amnet Ramos, North Plainfield, NJ–Parent and educator
Elana Halberstadt, Montclair, NJ–Parent and writer/artist
Ani McHugh, Delran, NJ–Parent and educator
Jill DeMaio, Monroe, NJ–Parent
Tamar Wyschogrod, Morristown, NJ–Parent and journalist
Lauren Freedman, Maplewood, NJ–Parent and public education advocate
Lisa Rodgers, South Brunswick, NJ–Parent and business owner
Laurie Orosz, Montclair, NJ–Parent and public education advocate
Michael Kaminski, Mount Laurel, NJ–Parent and educator
Ronen Kauffman, Union City, NJ–Parent and educator
Frankie Adao, Newark, NJ–Parent and social media specialist
Kathleen Nolan, Princeton, NJ–Parent, researcher and lecturer
Sue Altman, Camden, NJ–Educator
Jennifer Cohan, Princeton, NJ–Parent and publicist
Daniel Anderson, Bloomfield, NJ–Parent and Board of Education member
Debbie Baer, Robbinsville, NJ–Parent and educator
Dan Masi, Roxbury Township, NJ–Parent and engineer
Susan Schutt, Ridgewood, NJ–Assistant principal and public education advocate
Karin Szotak, Madison NJ–Parent and business owner
Tiombe Gibson, Deptford, NJ–Parent and educator
Lisa Marcus Levine, Princeton, NJ–Parent and architect
Kristen Carr Jandoli, Haddon, NJ–Parent and public education advocate
Jean Schutt McTavish, Ridgewood, NJ–Parent and high school principal
Virginia Manzari, West Windsor, NJ–Parent and businesswoman
Stephanie LeGrand, Haddonfield, NJ–Parent and public education advocate
Melanie McDermott, Highland Park, NJ–Parent and sustainability researcher
Nora Hyland, Asbury Park, NJ–Parent and professor
Beth O’Donnell-Fischer, Verona, NJ–Parent
Susie Welkovits, Highland Park, NJ–Parent and Borough Council President
Gregory M. Stankiewicz, Princeton, NJ–Parent and nonprofit leader
Margot Embree Fisher, Teaneck, NJ–Parent and former Board of Education member
Stephanie Petriello, Dumont, NJ–Parent, educator and business owner
Laura Begg, Bernards Township, NJ–Parent and public education advocate
Gary C. Frazier, Camden, NJ–Parent and community activist
Debbie Reyes, Florence Township, NJ–Parent
Christine McGoey, Montclair, NJ–Parent
Regan Kaiden, Collingswood, NJ–Parent and educator
Moneke Singleton-Ragsdale, Camden, NJ–Parent and administrator
Liz Mulholland, Westfield, NJ–Parent
Toby Sanders, Trenton, NJ–Parent, pastor and educator