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Chris Cerf Appointed New Superintendent of Newark Public Schools

Former New Jersey Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf was appointed July 8 as the new superintendent of Newark Public Schools, taking over from the beleaguered Cami Anderson.

Cerf, who was approved by a narrow 6-4 vote, according to NJ.com, would be responsible for laying the groundwork to allow the district to return to local school governance by the end of the next academic school year.

"The focus is to return Newark to local control," the state board president Mark Biedron said, according to the news website. "I believe that Chris Cerf is the best man to do that."

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The four members who voted against Cerf's appointment were not appointed by Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican state governor who recommended Cerf  for the job and is also running for president.

One, Edithe Fulton, told the paper that she thought Cerf's appointment was "a blow to the people of Newark who expect to have somebody who really cares about them."

Another, Dorothy Strickland, is quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying that the appointment was a "major mistake."

Cerf, who served as education commissioner from 2011 to 2014, is expected to serve as superintendent for three years. He is hardly getting a warm welcome from some parents, the teachers' union, and others who had loudly called for Anderson to leave.

John Abeigon, the new president of the Newark Teachers Union, was escorted from the meeting for shouting after the vote was taken, according to NJ.com. He was elected in June after longtime leader Joseph Del Grosso stepped down.

Cerf is seen as possessing an education philosophy similar to Anderson's. Anderson, whose last day on the job was today, was appointed during Cerf's tenure as the state education commissioner. 

On Tuesday, nearly 100 of protesters appeared on the steps of Newark City Hall to voice their displeasure at Cerf's pending appointment, NJ.com reported.

Among those who made an appearance was Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who two weeks ago released a joint statement with Gov. Christie announcing the creation of a nine-member committee that will work on a plan to return the district to local governance. The state has run the school district since 1995.

Baraka, a former high school principal, has called for a return to local control, which was a central theme of his mayoral campaign last year.

Cerf told The Wall Street Journal that he would listen to residents and work with the mayor and community to restore local school governance. He also said he planned to attend the advisory school board meetings, which Anderson had stopped attending after she was subjected to personal attacks.

Cerf resigned from his job last month as chief executive officer of Amplify Insight. He also worked as a deputy chancellor in New York City schools under former chancellor Joel Klein, now the chief executive officer of Amplify. 

Photo Caption: Then New Jersey's acting Education Commissioner, Christopher Cerf addresses the media in a 2011 news conference in Cherry Hill, N.J. /Mel Evans/AP-File

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