The state of New Jersey schools continues to make headlines this month. Newark public schools have been under state control since 1995. Now, the Newark community is exploding with concern over proposed education reform.
At a recent public hearing called by Newark Councilman and mayoral candidate Ras Baraka to discuss school closings, four Newark principals were suspended after criticizing Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson’s “One Newark” reform plan. “One Newark” would bring changes to over a third of the city’s schools, including bringing charter schools into district-owned facilities. The plan would also implement policies where principals could replace existing staff.
Many say that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie handed Newark to Anderson on a silver platter with an annual salary of almost $250,000. Despite an outcry from the community to remove Anderson from her position, Christie is standing behind her.
“She’s done a great job, and I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them,” he said in a recent statement.
Newark’s elected officials and advocates for better education say that the reform plan appears to be moving forward without any input from the community.
“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,” said Baraka. He said that Anderson has not consulted with Newark’s parents, community leaders, 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,” Baracka said. “In doing this, she ignited a firestorm of opposition from outraged citizens.”
While the four principals have been reinstated, one has been reassigned. Those principals, along with a fifth suspended principal, have initiated a federal lawsuit against Anderson and the school district.