Embattled Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson said she has no intention of resigning, despite protests in the community to her plans to transform the state's largest public school district, and an incoming mayor whose campaign centered largely around opposition to her plan and tenure.
Not only did Anderson say she was staying put, she also said she was committed to returning to the district when her contract expires June 30—if the state renews it.
"I am so passionate about the city - about our young people - I am so hopeful about the progress I see," Anderson said in exclusive interview that aired last week on NJTV. "And I am an optimist because I believe our kids deserve us to keep them at the core of every decision, and I believe so strongly that we can do what we need to do for our kids that I am absolutely committed to staying the course and to keeping kids at the core of every decision." (The full clip is available here).
The plan will relocate, merge, or restructure some schools and allow charter schools to run schools in existing public school buildings.
In response to criticisms about the increase in charter schools, Anderson said the plan does not create any new charter seats. What it does, she said, was take charter operators who were already working in Newark and whose schools had long waiting lists, and place them in neighborhoods.
"We feel as if the district was in a pretty tough spot where you saw a lot of families leaving in droves to go to charters, and I've been very public in saying that I believe the district has to fight back and remain available," she said. " I don't believe in an all-charter system."
One Newark, she said, was about saving the district, "making the district relevant, making sure district schools are incredible, that families are choosing them, and so we have a system of real choice."
Incoming Mayor Ras Baraka, a former high school principal, has released his own plan for the school system's future.
"Newark Promise: Excellent Neighborhood Schools for All," which is supported by the union and some community members, calls for community schools that provide services such as primary medical care and early-childhood education, a new approach to discipline that minimizes expulsion and suspensions, and a curriculum for all students that includes fine arts, sciences, and world languages. It also calls for a return to local control; the district has been state-controlled since 1995.
Anderson's response comes as the system, which enrolls about 38,150 students, has been the subject of national magazine pieces examining reform efforts in the district, primarily looking at the effects of the $100 million donation that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, made in 2010 to help improve the schools.
A New Yorker piece by Dale Russakoff, which was published last month, indicated that all of the money had either been spent or committed. The Nation magazine also added to the conversation last week in a piece looking at school reform in Newark.
More recently, Anderson has been dealing with members of the Newark Students Union, who have been calling for her ouster. They staged a sit-in last month, New Jersey and New York City media reported, and last week met with Anderson and state Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe, according to The Wall Street Journal.