Schools Chief in Newark Says Debate Lost Its Focus

Ms. Anderson had, in her tenure and her resignation, become a symbol of the raging national argument about how best to improve public education.

In an interview on Tuesday, she lamented that the fight had become “personalized,” but said she did not want to dwell on the insults or “inside baseball.”

“It’s not about me,” she said. “I don’t think that some of the tactics were O.K. But I don’t want to be defined by that, and I don’t think Newark deserves to be defined by that.”

But the fight over Newark schools had become about her, particularly over the last 18 months, after Cory A. Booker, the mayor and a longtime friend who had helped encourage Gov. Chris Christie to appoint her to the state-run district, left the city to become a United States senator.

Ms. Anderson was pushing the reorganization, setting up a single lottery for both traditional and public school enrollment. Parents complained she had not given them enough information even as she closed their local schools. And the new mayor, Ras Baraka, had come into office calling for her resignation.

“There’s no question the politics changed,” she said. “We had a campaign where folks focused on me, and I think it’s really unfortunate because the same hard questions face Newark now as they did when I got here.”

Chief among those questions is how to manage the balance between traditional public schools and charter schools, which educated about 5 percent of the city’s students when she arrived, and by next year will educate 40 percent. Ms. Anderson and her critics agreed that the city needed to lift up traditional public schools to make sure all students had an equitable education, but argued fiercely over how to do so.

“It’s easy to demonize a person,” Ms. Anderson said. “But those are tough questions.”

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