Newark group headed to D.C. to lobby against school leader, controversial reforms

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 03, 2015

Elected officials said today they plan to lobby for federal intervention in Newark schools.

 

NEWARK — In an attempt to up the ante in the fight against Newark Public Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson's controversial reforms, elected officials said today they plan to lobby for federal intervention.

State Sen. Ron Rice along with a coalition of other Essex County legislators and activists said they plan to head to Washington D.C. tomorrow to meet with Congressman Donald Payne Jr. and officials from the education department.

It is unclear which officials the delegation will be meeting with.

Their trip will be the first public demonstration against Anderson since the New Jersey Department of Education announced last month that it had renewed her contract.

"This has gone on for too long," Rice said a press conference at City Hall. Because "the Christie administration and the commissioner of education refuse to intervene, we have been forced to turn to the federal government."

Rice said students have been suffering under the state-appointed superintendent because of the One Newark reorganization plan, which expands space for charter schools, implements a district-wide lottery system for school enrollment, and relocates school communities.

"It's no longer the state helping us; it's state occupation," he said.

Newark Public Schools Spokeswoman Brittany Chord Parmley said in a statement that the district was working with families and stakeholders to improve schools for all students.

"We will continue the important work that's being done here in Newark to increase graduation rates, promote school choice, and celebrate teacher and administrator quality while others are in Washington," she said.

U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said the department was invited by Payne to attend a meeting at his office. A handful of staffers representing various offices in the department will attend the meeting, Nolt said.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who has been a vocal critic of Anderson, said he supported the delegation going to Washington to seek federal intervention. The city's chief education officer, Lauren Wells, will be accompanying them. But the mayor also took aim at media coverage of Newark Public Schools, arguing journalists have not given the same scrutiny to the school system as they give to his administration

"The kind of fair analysis that happens here at City Hall seems to bypass 2 Cedar Street," he said, referring to the district's central office location.

Activists waged a high-profile campaign in recent weeks urging the state not to renew Anderson's contract. Demonstrations included a four-day sit-in of the district's administrative offices by the Newark Student Union.

But state officials announced last week that the superintendent would be returning for another year.

Under the terms of her contract, Anderson will receive a salary of about $255,016, which includes a 1.6 percent increase to account for inflation.

Under her contract for the 2013-2014 school year, she was eligible for a 20 percent bonus based on her then $247,500 base salary if she met certain criteria. The state education department said Thursday it awarded the superintendent a bonus of a little less than 15 percent.

Despite the superintendent's renewal, activists and elected officials vowed last week to keep up the fight.

"We must be united," board vice chair Ariagna Perello said today.

Payne and officials with the education department could not immediately be reached for comment.

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