Waivers: Newark’s Unusual Route to Performance-Based Layoffs

By John Mooney

With potentially hundreds of positions on the line, Anderson’s request faces challenge from unions and prominent state senator

It’s a process invoked by school districts across New Jersey only a few times each year, a request for a waiver from state regulations that gets into the minutia of school operations.

A district might want to hire a registered nurse instead of a certified school nurse as required by the rules, for example. Last year, a district wanted to put a school psychologist in as a guidance counselor.

Yet Newark’s School Superintendent Cami Anderson has upped the ante in the little-used waiver process by requesting that the Christie administration let her lay off potentially hundreds of teachers over the next three years based on performance first, and seniority second.

The waiver request, filed on Friday, maintains that there is leeway in the state statute that requires dismissals be based on seniority alone, a policy known as “last in, first out,” and that the state’s education commissioner has the discretion to allow what Anderson termed a “performance-based” system to be used when making dismissals.

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The formal request from Anderson, reported in NJ Spotlight on Monday, instantly drew heated rebuke from the district’s teachers union, the head of the school advisory board, and others in the city. Already the scene of intense protests against Anderson, a school advisory board meeting tonight is sure to bring still more protest.
“We’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen,” Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, said last night. “If it does, our first step is to seek an injunction.”

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