Controversial Leader Of New Jersey City Schools Is Stepping Down From Post

FILE - In this May 4, 2011 file photo, Cami Anderson gestures while talking to the media after being named chief of the state
FILE - In this May 4, 2011 file photo, Cami Anderson gestures while talking to the media after being named chief of the state-run Newark Public School system in Newark, N.J. More than three years after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg committed $100 million toward remaking Newark’s struggling schools, the district is engulfed in a dispute over proposed large-scale teacher layoffs that is threatening to derail wider reform efforts. Nearly half the money has been invested in a 2012 teacher contract that was hailed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie and the nation’s top teacher’s union official as an example of adversaries joining forces to rebuild a struggling urban school district. But the implementation of the contract, including a dispute over emphasizing teacher performance in determining layoffs, has devolved into a bitter fight between Anderson and teachers unions over the future of New Jersey’s largest school district. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Cami Anderson, superintendent of Newark Public Schools, announced Monday that she is stepping down from her post after a four-year tenure during which she faced numerous controversies and substantial community opposition.

Anderson plans to leave her position at the end of the academic year, according to her emailed statement. New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe said in a press release that he will recommend Chris Cerf, a former state education commissioner, as her replacement. Newark Public Schools are state-controlled, and as such, its superintendents are state-appointed.

Anderson's tenure as superintendent has been riddled with controversy.

Since December 2013, when Anderson announced the One Newark plan to reorganize the district, she has weathered numerous protests and sit-ins from students, opposition from local clergy members and the election of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who has been deeply critical of the superintendent's performance.

The One Newark plan, which went into effect the beginning of this academic year, increased the influence of charter schools in the district and expanded school choice by giving kids the option of attending schools besides the one in their neighborhood. It also repurposed a number of existing schools and created a new transportation system for the district. Critics have derided the plan as an effort to privatize the district, and have said it lacked community input -- criticisms Anderson repeatedly disputed.

Hespe praised Anderson's initiatives and leadership in a press release from the New Jersey Department of Education.

"Superintendent Anderson has worked tirelessly over the last four years to implement a bold educational vision for the students and parents of Newark," he said. "We know that these positive educational reforms will continue to benefit the students and parents of Newark for years to come."

Anderson touted her accomplishments as superintendent in a statement.

"We achieved a substantial increase in graduation rates -- from 56 percent to 70 percent. We created a merit based teacher compensation program, implemented a restorative justice program that has decreased suspensions by 37 percent, and we improved access to schools through universal enrollment. I am very grateful to everyone who has supported us in these efforts," she said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was an ally of Anderson during her tenure, repeatedly defending the superintendent. The state renewed her contract in February.

New Jersey Communities United, a progressive grassroots group that previously channeled efforts to oust Anderson, reacted to the announcement with cautious optimism.

"The community of students, parents, teachers and concerned residents has never been about the narrow goal of Cami’s resignation," Trina Scordo, the organization's executive director, said in a press release. "The movement in Newark to reclaim our public schools has been about local democratic control, increasing the resources and funding needed to strengthen Newark’s public schools, developing community schools and ensuring a strong future for our children."

"Unless her permanent replacement is selected by the Newark community, and until Newark’s schools are properly funded, the movement to reclaim our public schools will continue," Scordo added.

Christie and Baraka will issue a statement outlining future plans for the district in coming days, says the press release from the New Jersey Department of Education.



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