Last June, Governor Christie and Education Commissioner David Hespe renewed Newark Public Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson’s contract for three years, but added a clause that her contract was to be renewed annually.
In my opinion, the yearly renewals were an expedient political move to pacify and mislead the public into thinking Anderson could possibly be cut loose after one year.
But in their blatant effort to hoodwink the public, Christie and Hespe overlooked the fact that annual renewals have no basis in law. State law mandates that contracts for school superintendents cannot be less than three years or more than five years. (N.J.S.A. 18A: 17-15).
At the time Anderson’s contract came up for renewal last year, many voices in the community, including parents, students, teachers and elected leaders, were calling on the governor not to reappoint her. In many ways, the 2014 election for Mayor of Newark was a referendum on the leadership of its school district.
Although Newark’s mayor has very little direct impact on its school district, he or she can be very influential as the overall leader of government.
‘One Newark,’ a controversial plan developed by Anderson for the integration of more than 35,000 children enrolled in Newark schools, the state’s largest school district, consumed the debate of the community and its candidates for mayor.
The plan was meant to improve the school district by providing parents with a choice of schools. Parents would list their favored school choices in descending order. Obviously, the most popular school choices would fill up quickly, pushing students to their lesser desirable schools across the city.
When Ras Baraka was elected Mayor of Newark on May 13, 2014, the opposition to Anderson’s reappointment escalated. Instead of respecting the voices of the community, Christie and Hespe hatched their plan to placate and quell any dissent to their chosen leader.
In his best impersonation of President George W. Bush, Christie told Newark’s parents and elected leaders in a huff that “I’m the decider.” And on June 30, 2014, just six weeks after the mayoral election, the Governor’s response was signing a three-year contract with yearly renewals for Newark’s Superintendent.
The governor really should do the right thing and rework this contract as a legitimate straight three-year deal and give up on the ‘hoodwink.’
The answers always seem to be political for our “three-card-Monte” governor.
Edward Edwards is a guest columnist writing under condition of anonymity.