Another Year, Another Round of Calls for Newark Superintendent's Removal
The American Federation of Teachers is joining the Newark school board in asking New Jersey officials to immediately remove Cami Anderson, Newark's state-appointed superintendent, from her post.
The AFT's June 10 letter follows a petition by Newark's advisory school board to New Jersey's state board of education to remove Anderson from her post as a result of "inefficiency, incapacity, and conduct unbecoming a superintendent."
The local school board's petition, which was signed by all nine members, highlights 10 alleged offenses "against the children of Newark." (As a district under state control, the Newark school board cannot choose its superintendent, though a loosening of state control last year gave the district the ability to vote on financial matters. Those decisions, however, are still subjected to veto by the state education commissioner or his/her designee.)
Among the allegations:
- Placement of special education children in schools without adequate services to support those students' Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs;
- Lagging performance in some of the district's Renew Schools (turnaround schools);
- Turnover of highly paid, high-level staff without communicating with the board; and
- Anderson's failure to attend school board meetings since January 2014.
The petition also states that the local board wants Anderson gone because she had "betrayed the public trust" and does not show the "level of organizational skills, management skills, communications skills, sensitivity, or commitment necessary to lead the Newark Public Schools."
The AFT's letter, signed by President Randi Weingarten, piled on to the harsh criticism of Anderson, characterizing her record as one of "failure, arrogance and lack of accountability." You can read the AFT's letter here.
Anderson has been under fire for much of the last year—from the city's newly elected mayor Ras Baraka, Essex County politicians, the local teachers' union, student activists, and parents.
Once heralded for collaborating with the teachers' union on a groundbreaking labor contract that was upheld as a model, Anderson has spent much of the last year pushing back against those criticisms—some of them unfair—of her One Newark single-enrollment plan and other school reforms.
The board, for example, cites her failure to attend school board meetings as one of the superintendent's shortcomings, but Anderson stopped attending after facing personal attacks. And she has met with critics, including students who staged a sit-in earlier this year, to go over their opposition.
Anderson has always insisted that she is committed to the city's children and dedicated to improving the city's schools. And she has maintained a high profile in the education reform community for her efforts in Newark.
Mark Biedron, the president of the state board of education, told NJ.com that the state panel would review the Newark school board's petition, but said he was unsure whether the state entity could intervene.
Anderson's contract is with New Jersey's department of education, and when her contract was renewed in February, it was accompanied with a glowing review of her work from Education Commissioner David Hespe.
A spokesman for the New Jersey department of education declined to comment on the Newark school board's petition, saying that it was the department's policy not to comment on local personnel matters.
A district spokeswoman told NJ.com that Anderson remained committed to implementing real reforms in the school system, which has been under state control for the past 20 years. (NJ.com had an in-depth 20th anniversary package in April.)
"Change is hard, but we remain hopeful that together we can build and support a first class educational system in Newark that prepares our students for college and beyond," the spokeswoman, Brittany Chord Parmley, is quoted as saying.