NEWARK – The entire state 29th Legislative District delegation unanimously derided the decision of the administration of Gov. Chris Christie to renew the contract of Newark Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson for another year.
Christie’s decision to appoint Anderson to head Newark’s public schools in 2011 has created what many see as an educational impasse, especially after Ms. Anderson launched her school reorganization scheme, known as the “One Newark” plan, in September. Meant to improve the city’s public education system by increasing student options, the plan has left many parents angry, confused and frustrated. A widespread community backlash included vociferous student, parental and teacher protests. Prominent local politicians also spoke out, including state Senate education committee chair Teresa Ruiz (D-29), who stated that “the trust is gone” in Ms. Anderson’s leadership of the city’s schools. Yet Christie doubled down on his support for Ms. Anderson and her plan, renewing her contract for three more years in June.
The three-year extension of Anderson’s contract included a provision that states she must be renewed on a yearly basis. The Christie administration announced on Thursday that Anderson’s contract was renewed, paying her $255,000 for the year, including a 1.6 percent cost-of-living raise.
State officials also announced that Anderson would receive an additional 15 percent bonus on top of her base salary for meeting approximately 75 percent of the contractually agreed goals during the 2013-14 school year.
The state legislators from LD 29, which includes much of Newark, well-aware of the repeated student protests against Anderson’s leadership and who have offered sharp critiques of her polices on their own, all criticized the state’s decision.
“While we recognize that this is ultimately the Governor’s decision, we are disappointed that community voices and the concerns that have been raised were not heard,” said LD 29 Assemblywomen Eliana Pintor Marin and Grace Spencer in a joint written statement. “Together with the community we believe that it was time for new leadership in the school district.
“The interaction with Superintendent Anderson at the last meeting of the Joint Committee on the Public Schools was demonstrative of the concerns that have gripped the district since she took over,” Pintor Marin and Spencer added. “The community looks to us to represent their needs, which makes it all the more unfortunate that this contract was renewed despite the fact that members of the committee were met with little to no answers on many pressing questions, showing a continued unwillingness on her part to work with parents, elected officials and stakeholders.”
“I am deeply disappointed in the decision to renew the superintendent’s contract and gravely concerned about the continued rollout of the One Newark plan and all of the outstanding issues that families and students continue to express,” said Ruiz in her own written statement. “This is devastating for the Newark Public Schools community. At a time when the district desperately needs to go in a new direction, the state has made this terrible decision. The superintendent has not proven herself to be a leader. Our schools are the centers of our communities, and the person steering that ship must foster relationships with everyone who is committed to moving academics forward. She has failed in that effort, and in doing so has lost the confidence of teachers, principals, parents and students.”