Christie’s ed reform scandal: Principals suspended after questioning charter scheme

“Narcissism,” “dictatorial” and “totalitarian” tactics by Christie appointee, Newark councilman charges to Salon
By Josh Eidelson

Five days before the now-notorious lane closures in Fort Lee, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered a characteristically acerbic answer to reporters wondering if he’d reappoint Newark’s lightning rod superintendent, Cami Anderson: “Yes we do, and we’re going to renew [her contract] because she’s done a great job, and I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”

Newark’s school district has been under state control for two decades, and has recently emerged as a top battleground in America’s education reform wars. A $100 million donation from Mark Zuckerberg helped secure the Newark Teachers Union’s assent to a contract that pays teachers based in part on their students’ test scores – after which the union president was nearly ousted last year. Citing an alleged lack of transparency and consultation, the Newark Public Schools Advisory Board voted unanimously in April to re-name itself the Newark Board of Education and to declare no confidence in Superintendent Anderson. Demanding greater funding and local control, Newark students staged an Election Day school boycott and marched to Christie’s office and Anderson’s house.

Last month, four Newark principals were suspended after attending a forum, organized by Anderson critic and mayoral candidate Ras Baraka, about 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 and designating “renew” schools where principals could replace existing staff. While the four principals have been reinstated, one has been reassigned; those four and a fifth suspended principal are now mounting a federal lawsuit against Anderson and the school district, alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (A Christie spokesperson referred Salon’s inquiry to the superintendent’s office, which did not respond to a Friday inquiry.)

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