Newark school board's effort to freeze superintendent's pay faces uphill battle

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on September 25, 2014

Superintendent Cami Anderson announced earlier this year she would not longer attend Newark Public Schools Advisory board monthly meetings.

 

NEWARK — It was the kind of vote that should have sent ripples through the Newark Public Schools District.

Newark Public Schools Advisory board passed a motion Tuesday evening to freeze payments of Superintendent Cami Anderson's salary until she attends one of the board's monthly meetings.

But even though Newark Public Schools Advisory board regained fiscal control earlier this year, the proposed motion faces an uphill battle because it requires state support, experts said.

“No way," said city historian Clement Price on the prospects on the school district freezing Anderson's salary.

"I see it as more of a symbolic gesture which in many ways speaks to acrimony that has long marked the relationship between the superintendent and the advisory board."

Newark Public Schools declined to comment.

For starters, the superintendent would have to go along with suspending her pay.

Newark Public Schools have been under state control since 1995, but the New Jersey State Board of Education agreed in June to return fiscal control of the district to the advisory board.

The transition agreement made between the Newark Public Schools Advisory board and the state, includes a clause that Anderson retains her ability to veto any of the board's actions.

If Anderson's vetoes the board's motion, the board could appeal the decision to acting state Education Commissioner David Hespe to engage more with the board and city residents.

Some board members said they will take any steps they can to force the district and state to give the board more influence on policy decisions and Anderson's contract.

“People want to see something done," board member Donald Jackson said.

In February, Anderson announced she would no longer attend the advisory board’s monthly meetings because they were not "focused on achieving educational outcomes for children."

At the prior month's meeting, Anderson walked off stage after she was heckled from the audience and castigated by public speakers.

But board members contend the superintendent should show up and talk with the community regardless of the raucous nature of the meetings.

"She does have an obligation to build a partnership with the community,” said board member Marques-Aquil Lewis, who proposed the motion.

If this motion fails, some board members said they are also looking at legal options to pursue their agenda.

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