Cami Anderson, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie three years ago to run the Newark schools, should resign immediately because she represents a danger to the children and employees of New Jersey’s largest city. More than a week ago, she kept the schools open in Newark when all the schools in Essex and neighboring counties were closed–including Newark charter schools. Today, she did not order the schools closed until many children and employees were on their way or already in school. Charter schools were closed by 7 a.m.
I can’t read her mind or her heart. I can’t know what her motivation is. But mounting external evidence points to this: She is trying to destroy Newark’s public school system in favor of creating a free-trade zone for charter schools.
There can be debate about how best to operate a public school system. There can be debate how good charter schools are compared to conventional public schools. There can be a debate about bringing in administrators from New York and New Orleans to replace veteran local educators. There can be a debate about the value of Teach for America dilettantes versus well-trained teachers.
There can even be a debate about closing, selling off, or otherwise repurposing a third to a half of all Newark public schools. Or about whether the exercise of free speech represents insubordination.
And maybe, just maybe, there even be a debate about whether a school superintendent can schools employee and their unions so much she can treat them like 12th Century serfs. But….
But there can be no debate about the safety of Newark’s children.
I have asked employees and parents to send me notes about their experiences today. I will not use their names because Anderson takes revenge against critics, suspending principals and banning parent leaders from the schools their children attend (another reason she should resign).
Here is the account of a parents who also is a teacher:
I am a parent of students in NPS, but am also a teacher in NPS. I woke up my three sons to get ready to go to school. Two of them attend school and one is left home with a baby sitter. My middle child noticed that it was snowing and asked if we had school. I contacted both their schools and they said they were open. All three of my children are asthmatic and cold weather triggers their asthma. Currently one child is receiving treatment every four hours to control his asthma. Even with all this in mind, I prepared them for
school, as I know that attendance is important. Driving to my middle child’s school, the roads were very slippery and the ABS in my car was not working properly and I began questioning why schools were open. When I arrived to my middle son’s school, I was alerted that school was closed by a teacher. I turned the car around and went home. As I was going home, I almost got into a car accident, because my brakes did not work. My car was literally inches from being struck by oncoming traffic. As I was getting home, at 7:54 I was finally contacted that school was closed. At 8:02 I finally received a call from my son’s school that schools were closed. It was really inconvenient and dangerous. What was Cami thinking? Guess this is payback for the meeting last Tuesday.
Here’s the account of one teacher:
“I got up and checked NPS website, the news and my voicemail to see if there was a delayed opening or cancellation of school. No message. I left my house at 7:15 am and arrived at school by 7:45. I don’t live very far, but there were white out conditions and very slippery roads. When I got to work I was met by my Vice Principal who informed me that school had just been called closed. She was texting as many people as she had numbers for. There were several teachers already there, one who had left her house at 5:30 and driven up the Turnpike. The climate of fear at NPS keeps people from calling out, even on dangerous snowy days. Students were sitting outside in the snow and parents were calling the office frantically trying to figure out where their kids were. My vice principal stayed and manned the phones as there was no one else in the office. I left with four other teachers at about 8:30. When I got home, I saw there was a voice mail on my land line that there was no school. That voice mail came at 7:55. Many of the teachers who were already en route got the text message from my vp to turn around and go home. Teachers had already been in their cars for over an hour braving the terrible conditions. Other teacher friends of mine from different NPS schools reported the same conditions. Teacher and students who were already in the building told to turn around and go home. Disgraceful.”
From a vice principal:
My husband, a VP at —– and I cleaned off our cars and left with enough time for a longer commute. As our house is on a high elevation, about 45 minutes from my school, my car became stuck on the road near our house. My husband managed to back it down the hill and safely into our driveway. I called the school, and one of our secretaries was already there. She said that quite a few staff members had already called out. I was worried that children would be in the school without supervision and begged my husband, owner of a lightweight Honda Civic, to drive me to my school. I was determined to keep my babies safe. Though the wheels were spinning and the car was emitting gas fumes, we finally made it up the hill. We navigated 202 to 287 to 80 and were finally on 280, headed into Newark, when the phone rang at 7:45 with the snow day announcement. I called the school. The secretary told me that at least 20 staff members had already made it into the building as well as quite a few children. Our parents view our school as a safe haven, and we often have children dropped off early. Our parents are mostly hourly workers and don’t get paid when they don’t show up. As it was too late to arrange for childcare, many were quite upset that they had to return to school to pick up their children. What’s more, the special ed buses were already on the roads picking up our disabled children. The late announcement of a snow closure put our children and staff at risk.
From a school employee who also is a charter school parent:
I work at a charter school and I got the call at 630. My daughter attends Newark public schools and the call came in at 755!!!! Outrageous !!!