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Cami Anderson Gets Another Year at Newark Helm -- Plus a Performance Bonus

State senator assails 'terrible decision' while student leader vows more protests aimed at ousting superintendent

cami anderson
Newark Superintendent of Schools Cami Anderson

Despite all of the tumult and local protests surrounding her tenure, Newark schools Superintendent Cami Anderson has been given another year on the job -- and a tidy performance bonus.

As widely expected, Gov. Chris Christie announced yesterday that he would renew Anderson for her fifth year on the job, the second year in a three-year contract that will pay her $255,000 for the year, including a 1.6 percent cost-of-living raise.

In addition, the Christie administration yesterday said that it would give Anderson an additional 15 percent bonus off her base salary for meeting roughly three-quarters of the targets set for her to meet in the 2013-14 school year.

Exact figures were unavailable, but that amounts to roughly $37,000. She was eligible for up to a 20 percent bonus, but fell short on achieving two of seven goals, state officials said, including her public campaign last year to try to improve student attendance.

Following are the seven criteria on which possible bonuses are passed, and the state’s ruling on whether each goal was achieved:

  • Decrease the number of students who are chronically absent by 5 percent (not achieved)

  • Increase the High School Proficiency Assessment graduation rate by 3 percent (achieved)

  • Increase the percentage of 11th-graders meeting English language arts and/or math college-ready benchmarks on the ACT by 3 percent (partially achieved)

  • “Family Snapshots” for all schools that provide data on performance, as well as families reporting high satisfaction with fairness/utility of the measures. (achieved)

  • Policy manual with decisions informed by advisory group of charter and community leaders (achieved)

  • Master request of “fewer, better” schools to schools development authority (achieved)

  • 3-year portfolio plan with focus on equity (achieved)

Halfway through this school year, the development of the criteria for Anderson's performance bonuses for 2014-15 is “ongoing,” according to a state spokesman.

The decision was widely expected from a governor who has consistently stood behind Anderson. Christie’s office said in announcing the contract renewal that Anderson had shown progress in implementing key reforms, with no mention of the community protests that have marked her tenure, including a four-day sit-in at her office last week by a small group of students.

“Cami has worked tirelessly to implement positive education reforms that have benefited Newark students and parents,” said state Education Commissioner David Hespe in making the announcement about her job status. “We look forward to continuing to support the progress that has taken place in the district.”

The announcement credited Anderson for gains in graduation rates, expanded preschool, and a dozen other indicators.

Anderson has trumpeted the success of her "One Newark" school reorganization plan, which she says give families more choices in deciding what school they children attend -- and which has been attacked by critics in Newark who call the initiative unworkable and inequitable.

Anderson released a statement saying she was pleased at the renewal offer and would accept it. She had until March 15th to decide.

“I am proud of the progress that my administration has made over the past three years in increasing graduation rates, teacher and administrator quality, and school choice,” Anderson said in the statement.

“But know that there is more work to be done on behalf of our students in the year ahead. I look forward to continuing this progress with my team.”

That hardly quelled the criticism of Anderson -- including from the Newark Teachers Union, which will soon be facing an expired contract, and from many of the city's political leaders.

Along with Mayor Ras Baraka, state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) has also become among Anderson's most vocal critics. Yesterday, Ruiz called the contract renewal “deeply disappointing” and a “terrible decision.”

“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,” Ruiz said.

“The superintendent has not proven herself to be a leader," Ruiz added. "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.”

One of the leaders of last week's student sit-in indicated there will be more protests were to come.

“She has shown time and time again that she is incapable of engaging with the community,” said Thais Marques, founder of the Newark Student Union and now a community organizer with NJ Communities United, a union-led coalition.

“It is time that Chris Christie is held accountable for allowing her to remain in office,” he said last night. “We will continue pressuring her to resign before the March 15th deadline.”

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