Newark leaders call Anderson's departure 'long overdue'

By Dan Ivers | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on June 22, 2015

NEWARK - The impending departure of Newark Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson met with satisfaction from local officials, though many said they were still apprehensive about whether new leadership might bring about real change for the embattled district.

News of the departure came after days of speculation that Anderson could be out as the state-appointed school chief, and ended a turbulent four-year tenure largely defined by her implementation of the controversial "One Newark" plan.

Local stakeholders expressed relief at the prospect of a new face atop the district after years of protests and other conflict surrounding the reorganization.

"We've gotten to the point where a change in leadership was something that was desperately needed," said Newark Advisory Board member Rashon Hasan.

Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex), who chairs the state's Education Committee and has been an outspoken critic of Anderson's, called her departure "long overdue."

"It's been a troubling and difficult last several years under Cami Anderson for families, students and faculty," she said in a statement. "I look forward to working with the mayor, the governor and the Newark community to stabilize the district and to create the most optimal learning environment for our children."

Hasan said much of the frustration toward Anderson stemmed from what many perceived as struggles with communication and a lack of engagement with the community.

"You really have to have individuals in leadership positions that can work in the community, and we had just gotten to the point where we couldn't get that here," he said.

Others, such as Newark Teachers Union leaders, who have criticized One Newark as a plan to erode seniority and tenure rules in the district, were less gracious.

"Good riddance," said NTU Director of Organization John Abeigon. "The damage that she's done to Newark's educational system and students and families is going to take years to correct and undo."

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten echoed Abeigon's thoughts, saying her departure presented an opportunity for the state to reverse course on One Newark and "to undo the many mistakes made under her leadership."

"Every child deserves a high-quality public education at a great neighborhood school, and we must ensure such an education is available to all. Unfortunately, and seemingly at every turn, Cami Anderson undercut that aspiration in Newark—ignoring the community, the school board, parents, students, and educators," she said.

Local leaders were also less than enthusiastic about Anderson's apparent replacement, former Department of Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf. Current Commissioner David Hespe announced his intention to nominate Cerf to a three-year term overseeing the district earlier today, though he will need to be confirmed by the state Board of Education.

"If it's Chris Cerf, I think there's going to be a lot of questions, and community outrage," said School Advisory Board member Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson.

Advisory Board Chairwoman Ariagna Perello said the change could be an opportunity for renewed conversations with the district, though she said any appointee would still be charged with carrying out the will of the state, and not the city.

"Until we have a new governor, until we have local control, that's when the conversations will be different," she said.

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