governor Christopher J. Christie (doesn’t that sound more gubernatorial than “Chris Christie”?) has chosen education expert Cami Anderson to be the superintendent of Newark schools. Her appointment, as
, is accompanied by the usual chimerical, pumped-up hopes—which are pumped up further by a $200 million donation from the billionaire founder of Facebook—about how
school superintendents and is going to turn a school system filled with failing pupils into a school system filled with successful pupils.
Though Anderson is white, and many in the frankly racialist black city of Newark object to this, Anderson’s supporters say that she is able to transcend race because of her personal background:
Isn’t that nice? Unfortunately, what it really means is that Anderson, since her own (born out of wedlock) son is half black, will be even more averse to the truth about black intelligence than she would otherwise be. Remember how David Horowitz, by his own testimony, couldn’t stand the idea of racial differences in intelligence because he has a partly black grandson? Over and over we have seen how the whites who are most fanatically committed to denying or eliminating racial differences are those who have nonwhite relatives.
That Anderson lives with her black male “partner” who has fathered an illegitimate son with her not only means that she will be absolutely blind to the most important factor in blacks’ low academic performance, which is their low average intelligence; it also means that she will be absolutely blind to the second most important factor in blacks’ low academic performance, which is the widespread occurrence (about 70 percent) of out of wedlock “families” among the black population and the total social and moral disorder that obtains in communities that consist of such families. And that, of course, is something that school superintendents, no matter how much they may identify with the problems of poor blacks, have absolutely no power to change even if they wanted to.
Fine, Miss Anderson. Let’s talk in five years and see how you’re doing.
For Next Chief of Newark Schools, Hard Choices
By WINNIE HU and NATE SCHWEBER
As the new superintendent of the Newark schools, Cami Anderson faces the monumental task of rescuing an urban school system that has long been mired in low achievement, high turnover and a culture of failure, despite decades of state intervention.
But Ms. Anderson, a tough-minded New York City school administrator, will have up to $200 million from the chief executive of Facebook and other prominent donors to help her confront the challenge.
It is the ultimate high-risk opportunity. In one of the most closely watched experiments in urban education, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who has built a national reputation on his criticism of teachers’ unions, and Mayor Cory A. Booker of Newark, a leading champion of school choice, have pledged to turn around the 40,000-student system. On Wednesday, they announced their choice of Ms. Anderson to do the hard work.
“She knows that this change will not happen overnight,” Mr. Christie said as he introduced Ms. Anderson at Science Park High School. “It took us a long time to get to where we are now, and no leader, no matter how good, is going to be able to turn this around overnight.”
If her appointment is approved, as expected, by the state school board, Ms. Anderson, 39, will be paid $240,000 a year. She plans to start work in a few weeks.
She said Wednesday that she believed in teamwork, “not lonely heroes,” and intended to start by overhauling elementary schools. Citing her upbringing as one of a dozen siblings, some of them adopted from disadvantaged families, she said she saw in Newark’s students “the faces of my brothers and sisters who have overcome great challenges.”
“Judge me by my actions,” Ms. Anderson said. “Let me roll up my sleeves and dive in. Then we’ll talk.”
But as word spread that Ms. Anderson was in line for the job, many parents and others who have watched the school system struggle questioned whether she was the right choice. Derrell Bradford, executive director of E3 (Excellent Education for Everyone), an advocacy group that supports school choice, said she would face opposition because she was white, was appointed by the state and did not have roots in Newark. (She said Wednesday that she would start house-hunting there soon.)
“Newark, like Baltimore and Detroit, is highly insular and extraordinarily distrustful of outsiders,” Mr. Bradford said. “There is a very tight cultural and political narrative that exists in these cities, and if you did not spend your life reading and writing that narrative, you have to prove that you understand its significance.”
Success, he said, would depend on Ms. Anderson’s ability to win over people who had been repeatedly disappointed by the state’s efforts to improve the schools and critical of the initiatives prompted by the Facebook money.
“If selling reform is like selling a car, you can’t get people to buy it by showing them a list of features,” he said. “They have to get in the car and drive it. And right now, reform for many people in Newark is still a car on the lot with the doors closed.”
Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, said that while he was not opposed to Ms. Anderson’s selection, he would fight hard against layoffs and a plan to put charter schools in district school buildings. Similar efforts in New York City have drawn opposition.
“There’s going to be no honeymoon,” Mr. Del Grosso said. “She’s walking into a hornet’s nest, because the issues that face us have to be decided immediately.”
Ms. Anderson, who holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard University, is well known among educators nationally for her previous work as executive director of Teach for America and as chief program officer for New Leaders for New Schools, a group that trains principals.
In a statement, the federal education secretary, Arne Duncan, said, “I believe she can provide the kind of bold vision that will help Newark continue its crucial work toward providing all children the opportunity at a high-quality public education.”
Since 2006, Ms. Anderson has overseen a network of more than 300 alternative programs serving about 40,000 of New York City’s most troubled students. A year into her job, she closed several failing programs, including one for pregnant teenagers, as part of a reorganization effort that resulted in a citywide system that has since led to an increase in students seeking high school equivalency diplomas through General Educational Development programs.
“I don’t think there’s anyone more committed to public education,” said Joel I. Klein, the former New York schools chancellor who hired Ms. Anderson. “If you work with Cami, you’ll find that she knows how to work with people and bring them in and get their support.”
Friends and colleagues also described Ms. Anderson as a dogged and persuasive educator committed to providing opportunities for children who may have been overlooked or underserved by the system. For instance, she has been leading a campaign in the past year to start a charter school for youths who have served prison time.
They also point out that Ms. Anderson’s partner, Robert, is black, and that they live with their young son in Harlem.
“She is able to transcend race,” said Nitzan Pelman, who worked for Ms. Anderson at Teach for America and is now executive director of Citizen Schools New York, a nonprofit organization that promotes longer school days. “She’s comfortable living and breathing in diverse communities, given her family composition and her values.”
Pedro Noguera, a New York University education professor who has worked closely with Newark schools, said that even with the district’s $200 million windfall—about one-fifth of its overall budget—at her disposal, Ms. Anderson needed to win over local politicians and a cynical public.
“One of the problems in Newark is that there have been too many reforms, too many programs, and a lack of coherence,” Dr. Noguera said. “I think if she gets support from the mayor, the governor and the community, she will be in a position to make something happen here. My major worry for her is the politics will become so toxic that it will prevent good constructive work from moving forward.”
In recent months, plans to close failing schools and open more charter schools and decisions over how to use the Facebook money have divided Newark. Some residents have complained that they have been excluded from decision-making, in spite of a much-promoted community outreach campaign financed with nearly $1 million in donations.
“When outside investors in a system appear to have more control than local stakeholders, there is always tension,” said Jerome C. Harris, chairman of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention, a coalition of 35 African-American organizations with members across the state, including in Newark.
“As this process has evolved, it doesn’t appear that people’s concerns about local input have been given appropriate weight. Now with the selection of the superintendent, it’s like, ‘There you go again.’ “
Governor Christie, at the news conference, emphasized his personal commitment to Newark, noting that he was born there but that his parents moved when he was 5 because they felt the schools were not up to par.
“I don’t think I’d be governor if I went to school here in Newark,” he said. “How many students are sitting in classrooms with God-given gifts to be whatever they want to be, but won’t because of the status quo? As governor, I can’t live with that.”
Before the news conference, Mr. Christie, Mr. Booker and Ms. Anderson visited a Science Park classroom, where a senior, Adedayo Jobi-Odeneye, 17, advised Ms. Anderson not to “believe the stigma.”
“Be ready to be surprised and amazed at the kind of talent we have in this school and in this district,” Adedayo suggested.
“That,” Ms. Anderson responded, “is a top-notch idea.”
Jim C. writes: