NEWARK – Newark Mayor Ras Baraka acknowledged that, following the outburst of opprobrium to Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson and her One Newark school reorganization plan during her recent testimony in Trenton, he now knows for sure that he’s not alone in seeking Anderson’s removal.
“It’s not just the angry guy down at City Hall. It shows that there are many different people in the city, from all neighborhoods, all walks of life and all philosophical viewpoints when it comes to education, who want the superintendent to change and don’t agree with what’s going on with One Newark,” Baraka told PolitickerNJ on Thursday. “What our whole delegation did was admirable. They stood up for Newark residents and for families.”
One by one, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-29), Sen. Ron Rice (D-28), Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-34), Assemblyman Ralph Caputo (D-28) and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin (D-29), all of whom either represent Newark or are from Newark, rhetorically reamed Anderson about her leadership of the state’s largest school district, especially her One Newark plan.
Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to appoint Cami Anderson to head Newark’s public schools in 2011 has created what many see as an educational impasse, especially after Anderson launched the One Newark plan, in September. Meant to improve the city’s public education system by increasing student options, including an open enrollment initiative, the plan has left many parents angry, confused and frustrated. A widespread community backlash included vociferous student, parental and teacher protests.
While Ruiz has opposed Baraka on education issues before, including being generally more supportive of charter schools than Newark’s mayor, Baraka welcomed the comments made by Ruiz when Anderson testified before the state legislative Joint Committee on the Public Schools.
“Good for her,” Baraka said. “I’m glad that Senator Ruiz spoke out. It was an excellent show of unity for Newark and for Essex County.”
Baraka has historically been more closely aligned with politicians such as Rice and Oliver, who backed Baraka during his 2014 mayoral bid, unlike Ruiz, an ally of Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, both of whom supported Baraka’s opponent, Shavar Jeffries.
DiVincenzo often works together with South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross III and Republican Gov. Chris Christie as a power troika in New Jersey politics. Norcross and DiVincenzo played key behind-the-scenes roles in ousting Oliver from her former position as Assembly Speaker in 2014, largely because she opposed the expansion of charter schools and failed to support the controversial Opportunity Scholarship Act as an alternative to public schools.
In light of the policy and public relations turmoil surrounding Anderson and the One Newark plan, PolitickerNJ asked if those behind Oliver’s ouster should apologize.
“I really don’t know the in and outs of what happened between Sheila and the rest of them,” Baraka said. “The whole fight against the superintendent is crossing all kinds of lines. I think that everybody is beginning to realize, political bosses aside, that we need a new [schools] superintendent in the city of Newark. If we don’t agree on anything else, we all agree on that.
“Hopefully, we’ll get a glimpse of her at a [Newark school] board meeting one day,” Baraka added. “I think she should do us all a favor and find another district.”