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Bob Braun: Cami’s Disastrous Appearance at Hearing

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Bob Braun, who worked as an investigative reporter in Néw Jersey for decades until he retired, here describes Cami Anderson’s disastrous appearance before a committee of the Néw Jersey state legislature responsible for state-operated schools.

Anderson was appointed superintendent of the Newark public schools by Governor Chris Christie. The district has not had local control for 20 years but it does have a school board. Anderson refuses to attend the meetings of the powerless board. Anderson imposed a plan called “One Newark,” which caused upheaval and resistance as students were reassigned, and some neighborhood schools were closed and converted to charters.

Braun begins his post like this:

“Not a great day for Cami Anderson.

“The chairman of the legislative committee that oversees state-operated school districts Tuesday accused the state-appointed Newark superintendent of “taking the fifth” because she repeatedly refused to discuss her personal and business ties to a Newark charter school leader to whose organization she sold a Newark public school at less than fair market value. Anderson also was openly caught in a lie when she insisted before the Joint Committee on Public Schools (JCPS) that no school principals were in so-called “rubber rooms,” getting paid to do nothing–apparently unaware one of the principals was attending the hearing. She also was openly laughed at by committee members when she talked about a “legislative liaison” aide whom none had ever met.

“But the oddest thing that happened at the four-hour hearing was Anderson’s insistence that her reforms efforts should not be judged by falling state test scores because such scores were “inaccurate” and “unfair”–this, from a woman who has closed public schools and fired educators because of falling state test scores.

“Anderson, a woman who has shown nothing but smug contempt for critics, was reduced to offering what amounted to personal pleas that the legislators try to “understand my journey”or “my passion”–mawkish and overplayed efforts to depict herself as someone whose past helped her understand the problems of poor people. In the end, she had to be rescued after four hours by state Education Commissioner David Hespe who told the committee Anderson had had enough for one day and should be allowed to leave.

“Hespe wasn’t a witness. He wasn’t even supposed to be there. He was a sort of a minder–or, maybe, big brother– to hold Anderson’s hand (figuratively) while legislators from both parties relentlessly asked questions that demonstrated they failed to understand her genius and couldn’t give a damn about her journey through life and her passion for education. After her ordeal ended, Anderson refused to answer reporters’ questions and all but fled the committee room, chased by television cameras shining bright lights.”

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