Newark school board members express mixed reactions to meeting with superintendent

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 11, 2015

State legislators on the joint committee on public schools questioned Newark schools superintendent Cami Anderson on the district's controversial reorganization plan on Jan. 6, 2104

 

NEWARK — Newark public schools advisory board members expressed mixed reactions to last week's contentious meeting between state legislators and city superintendent Cami Anderson over the school district's controversial reorganization plan.

State legislators on the joint committee on public schools unleashed fierce criticism on Tuesday about several changes taking placing in the district from the new student enrollment system to the level of compensation to outside consultants to the sale of the 18th avenue school building.

Board member Marques-Aquil Lewis said the meeting showed the wide-swath of local leaders who oppose the school district's reforms.

"It shows it's not just us,” he said. “It’s not just the city of Newark. It’s a statewide issue.”

Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson said Anderson failed to answer many of the questions the legislators asked.

“She tap dances. She skirted around questions," Baskerville-Richardson said. "She feigned ignorance...on information that she obviously did know.”

But on Tuesday Anderson cast the meeting as an important step in her continuing conversation with local lawmakers.

"We all share the same passion for helping our kids succeed and I look forward to having additional conversations ‎in the future that will strengthen our schools and our communities," she said in a statement.

Most of the school board and many state legislators in Newark have been at odds with Anderson for more than a year.

She sparked wide-spread criticism in December 2013 when she announced 'One Newark', a restructuring plan that includes expanding charter schools into district buildings, relocating some school communities and changes to hiring decisions.

By last February the Superintendent had announced that she would no longer attending the public board meetings following a meeting during which she was heckled from the audience and castigated by speakers until she walked off the stage with her staff.

At that February meeting more than 400 people turned up to oppose a plan by the school district to bypass seniority rules when laying off teachers.

Tensions rose again in September when the school board voted — largely symbolically because the district is controlled by the state — to freeze Anderson's salary.

But school board president Rashon Hassan said Anderson's meeting before the joint committee on public schools was a step in the right direction. He said now it's time to focus on finding solutions to fix an ailing school system.

"The issues we face as a school district, I don’t think they are Cami Anderson specific,” he said.

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