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Newark's Board Votes No Confidence in Superintendent, Renames Itself

Last week, Newark's superstar superintendent, Cami Anderson, was the subject of a no-confidence vote from Newark's school board, The Star-Ledger reports. And on Wednesday, the city's council voted for a moratorium on new public school initiatives, arguing that some of the changes that have taken place in the school system don't have a basis in research.

The Newark school district is under state control, so the school board does not have the authority to fire Anderson. The city council also has no direct authority over the schools. But the votes are evidence of a growing rift between Superintendent Anderson and the state officials who are responsible for Newark's schools and city officials who are frustrated by the lack of local control.

At the same meeting, the board voted to reclaim the name "Newark Board of Education" for itself. Its official title, per the state board of education, is the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board, and that will remain its name, according to the state.

Anderson has garnered national attention for her work in Newark—she was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2012. The Newark school system received a $100 million donation from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. One of the initiatives that money is set to fund is a new contract that involves performance pay for teachers.

NewarkSupt_Blog.jpgBut the Star-Ledger reports that the board is not pleased with what members perceive as Anderson's unwillingness to compromise: "The vote is intended to send a message to the superintendent that we're not satisfied with her work," said Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, the board's chairwoman. "When we request important information from her, we don't get it, and she refuses to compromise on her version of reform."

The school board is also unhappy that Anderson has not attended many of its meetings.

The city council's moratorium, meanwhile, calls for a halt to new reductions in staff, budget cuts, new charter and public schools, and the closings of schools until there has been more analysis about how these changes will actually affect students.

Earlier last month, the board did not approve a $1 billion dollar budget proposed by New Jersey governor Chris Christie for the district. Students in Newark also gathered to protest the budget last month. The lack of board approval does not nullify the budget proposal.

Anderson explained in an editorial that the budget, while difficult, is necessary in order to "right-size" the district, which has seen a drop in enrollment and declining revenues. She said that the process might involve some layoffs, particularly at the central office level. She also says the district needs to standardize its enrollment procedures and reduce the number of needy students concentrated in certain schools and reduce punitive discipline policies, among other changes.

Newark's board of education has been petitioning the state to return the district to local control.

New Jersey also recently took over the school district in Camden. The state also has some authority over school districts in Jersey City and Paterson, two other districts previously taken over by the state. A new leader for the Camden school district has not yet been appointed.

Cami Anderson, chief of the Newark Public School system, during a news conference in 2011 at Science High School in Newark.
--Julio Cortez/AP

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