Anderson to Remain Newark Schools Superintendent

Friday, 06 March 2015 17:42 Walter Elliott

Local Talk News

 

Cami Anderson, to perhaps no one's surprise, will be Newark Public Schools' appointed superintendent for the 2015-16 school year.

Anderson's immediate supervisor, Acting New Jersey Education Commissioner David C. Hespe, further announced that the State District Superintendent of NPS has met five of seven performance criteria and presented her with a 16.6 percent increase on her $255,016 annual salary.

That Hespe granted the second of what may ultimately be three annual contract extensions through June 30, 2017 was met with an overwhelming response from among most of NPS's constituents and stakeholders - but not overwhelming in the positive sense.

Many public educators, elected officials, community activists, labor union representatives, parents and students have resolved to find ways and means to have the architect of the controversial One Newark universal enrollment and school consolidation plan brought to sign a resignation notice or receive a termination notice from Hespe or Gov. Chris Christie.

"Our schools are the centers of our communities," said State Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark). "The person steering that ship must foster relationships with everyone committed to moving academics forward. She has failed in that effort and, in doing so, lost the confidence of teachers, principals, parents and students."

"She (Anderson) is part of a continuing criminal enterprise that misuses state law and evaluation framework as a weapon against teachers," said Newark Teachers Union Director of Operations John Abeigon. "No other community tolerates this and the Newark community shouldn't either."

Sen. Ron C. Rice (D-Newark), Ruiz and a delegation of 25 Essex County legislators, labor leaders and clergy were braving snowy weather March 3 to meet with U.S. Department of Education officials about Anderson and her controversial One Newark plan. The delegation, at Cong. Donald Payne, Jr.'s office March 4, are to ask for federal intervention.

"Someone has to pay attention," said Rice. "Never has a superintendent of a public school district disrespected and been insubordinate to the requests of the State Legislature. The Christie Administration and education commissioner has refused to intervene."

Mayor Ras Baraka was to have joined the delegation but has sent City Chief Education Officer Dr. Lauren Wells in his stead.

"I have learned that Cami Anderson has received a renewed contract," said Baraka while at a Feb. 19 press conference in support of a four-day sit-in by 10 student-protestors. "This will not end our struggle. We will continue our struggle until Cami is outside of Newark."

Word on Hespe's renewal of Anderson's contract was released on Feb. 25 - three days before his March 1 contractual obligation to hand her either a contract offer or a pink slip. Hespe last announced Anderson's renewal - and the new three-year annual review and bonus plan - June 28, three days before her contract's July 1 prospective expiration date.

Hespe, in his Feb. 25 release, outlined five areas of progress among seven warranting Anderson's retention. Those areas Hespe said Anderson fully met in 2013-14 were:

  • File a master request of "fewer, better" schools to the N.J. School Development Authority construction agency.
  • Increase High School Proficiency Assessment graduation rate by three percent.
  • Present three-year portfolio plan with a focus on equity.
  • Provide school 'Family Snapshots,' providing performance data and of families' reporting high satisfaction with snapshot utility and fairness.
  • Publish a policy manual with decisions informed by an advisory group of charter and community leaders.

Hespe found Anderson having "partially achieved" increasing the percentage of 11th grade students making the ACT exams' language arts and mathematics "college-ready benchmarks" by three percent. Anderson "did not achieve" a five percent reduction in chronically absent students with her "Attend Today, Achieve Tomorrow" program.

Hespe calculated that Anderson therefore earned three-quarters of a maximum possible 20 percent performance bonus. Anderson therefore earned a $38,252.40.

Add $4,080.26 for a 1.6 percent cost of living increase and Anderson is projected to receive $297,348.66 for July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016.

An NJ DOE official told "NJ Spotlight" that criteria to evaluate Anderson's 2014-15 performance was "under development."

"Cami has worked tirelessly to implement positive education reforms that have benefitted Newark's students and parents," said Hespe from his Trenton office. "We look forward to continuing to support the progress that has taken place in the district."

"I'm proud to the progress my administration has made over the past three years in increasing graduation rates, teacher and administrator quality and school choice," said Anderson in a statement upon accepting Hespe's renewal. "But know that there's more work to be done on behalf of our students in the year ahead."

Hespe's press release, however, adds five more areas of progress - including four that will probably arouse debate among those involved with NPS's Renew Schools, school choice, Universal Enrollment and dropout rates.

Hespe's release, for example, cites "75 percent of families received one of their top five (school) choices in the Universal Enrollment process." That percentage may run counter to individual families and students' UE experiences.

"500 fewer students have dropped out because of additional options provided through NPS," reads Hespe's release. Several critics, however, will ask of the "4,000 students out on the streets" who dropped out or were lost in the UE process and/or changes in the special needs schools.

Hespe trumpets NPS being rated third by the Brookings Institute's Brown Center survey, behind New Orleans and New York City, "for the diversity and quality of school choices."

Critics, however, cited Brookings/Brown holding up New Orelans' majority public charter school system, created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's Aug. 30, 2005 destruction, as an ideal. Of the 87 existing NOLA schools, 70, or 76 percent, are charter schools.

"Eight Renew Schools saw gains in reading and math (five saw gains in both) and eight new Renew Schools launched this year," states Hespe's release.

A pair of December and February reports by the Alliance for Newark Public Schools, however, cites that all seven Renew Schools operating in 2013-14 "lagged behind their peer schools statewide" and that none of the Renew Schools met "any of the targets" in the 56 indicators set by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Parents in the 16 Renew Schools have said that they have not received most of the technology or social services promised by Anderson' or her administrators. Smart boards and "wrap-around" after-school services for students and parents were supposed to be offered with the designation.

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