On the very eve of the weekend celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Newark’s state-appointed superintendent showed the citizens of Newark that they have no votes and they have no voice when it comes to the fate of their schools.
The Newark public schools have been under state control since 1995.
Cami Anderson, the current Newark Superintendent is a former Teach for America teacher and a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Academy, which is known for advocating the closing of public schools and the handover of public schools to private management.
At a public hearing called by Newark Councilman Ras Baraka to discuss school closings, the principals of several schools spoke against their closing.
Anderson fired them for daring to dissent.
He quotes Councilman Baraka, who said:
“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.
Anthony Cody watched videos of the hearing and has extensive clips from the testimony of each of the principals.
New Jersey is making headlines this month as the bullying tactics of Governor Christie have gone beyond shouting down individual school teachers, which many in the media seemed to find amusing, and into the realm of political scandal as the “Bridgegate” emails came to light.
Now Newark, New Jersey, is exploding, thanks to the attempts at intimidation by Governor Christie’s hand-picked superintendent of schools, Cami Anderson. Anderson came to Newark after working in New York City schools. Before that, she was employed with New Leaders for New Schools and Teach For America. She was trained by the Broad Academy, which literally wrote the book on how to close schools.
Journalist Bob Braun today carries a report on the decision by Anderson to “indefinitely suspend” five of Newark’s principals. Braun explains:
The “incident” was a community meeting at the Hopewell Baptist Church last Wednesday where (H.G. James) spoke, praising the efforts of his students, teachers and parents.
James was one of five principals indefinitely suspended in one day by Cami Anderson, Christie’s agent in Newark. The others were Tony Motley, Bragaw Avenue School; Dorothy Handfield, Belmont-Runyon School; Deneen Washington, Maple Avenue School, and Lisa Brown, Ivy Hill School.
Four of the principals…tried to answer questions from local residents worried about what would happen to their children as Anderson moves toward a wholesale transfer of public school assets to the KIPP Schools, a charter organization that operates TEAM Academy Charter Schools. Questions Anderson wasn’t answering.
The plot thickens when we understand what these community forums were all about. These forums were convened by mayoral candidate Ras Baraka, to give the community a voice in response to planned school closures. A video shows the principals speaking to their community.
It is not clear whether four or five principals were indefinitely suspended. It is clear that Christie, Cerf, and Anderson intend to hand the children of Newark over to charter operators, regardless of the wishes of their parents and the community. And it is clear that any school employee who disagrees will be indefinitely suspended.
This is not the way democracy is supposed to work. Public schools belong to the public, not to state officials to use as their plaything. Public officials are supposed to serve the public, not dictate to them.
The state-controlled districts in New Jersey–all predominantly African-American–are being treated like subjugated territories, in which the residents have no say about the control or disposition of their schools.
I agree with Anthony Cody: The destruction of public education in New Jersey’s state-controlled districts–deliberate and knowing–is far worse than Bridgegate. One involved an abuse of political power, an act of spite on the part of Governor Christie’s closest staff. The other involves the deliberate destruction of democracy and public education. It should be an impeachable offense.