Group to Monitor Anderson Still to Coalesce, While ‘One Newark’ Moves Ahead

John Mooney, Founding Editor | September 9, 2014 | Education
Two months after it was announced, working group members still haven’t been named, although Hespe says meeting planned

Acting Commissioner of Education David Hespe.
When Newark superintendent Cami Anderson was reappointed by Gov. Chris Christie in late June, one of the major caveats was that she would be under the eye of a local working group monitoring her progress and her hallmark reorganization for the district.

Two months later, the working group has yet to be named, at least publicly, while the city stirs over the full-steam launch of the “One Newark “reorganization plan.

Acting state education commissioner David Hespe said last week that group members have been picked, but he would not disclose them beyond the three that were in the initial announcement: Hespe, Anderson, and state higher education secretary Rochelle Hendricks. He also said that Hal Wirths, the state’s labor commissioner, would serve on the group.

Other names have been floated, but few confirmed. One that has been is DeNiqua Matias, a member of the local advisory board, according to board president Rashon Hasan.

Hasan had asked for board representation and even two members, although he said last week that he has since had second thoughts, and that Matias would be representing herself as a parent and not necessarily acting in her capacity as a board member. Efforts to reach Matias yesterday were unsuccessful.

Other names have been hard to come by, with calls to several of those rumored to be in the pipeline either not confirmed or not yet returned.

Hespe said the naming of the group was more a matter of timing than delay, saying that a conference call has been held among prospective members and an organizational meeting is planned for later this month, when the membership will be announced.

“We’re waiting for back to school to get off the ground,” Hespe said.

The board would likely consist of nine or 10 members in all, he said, half from the state and half from the community.

“For now, the goal is for the members to at least have a chance to meet before announcing details of the group’s roster,” read an email statement yesterday from Michael Yaple, the department’s chief spokesman.

Whatever the reasons, the group’s slow start comes as community unrest continues to stir around the One Newark plan, with various parent and other groups mounting a boycott for school opening last week and more protests planned for today and later this week.

And the activists haven’t put much credence in the new group, anyway, with even a couple saying they wouldn’t serve on it if even asked.

Nevertheless, the group was meant to be the local buffer to address Anderson’s inability to win over the community in her three years, not to mention the outright hostility to her plans from some quarters.

It is not the only state-appointed group still waiting a membership. As part of a compromise over the use of new school testing statewide, Christie this summer announced that he would appoint a nine-member task force to review the state’s use of assessments — both past and present.

The executive order called for the new “Study Commission on the Use
of Student Assessments in New Jersey” to have its first recommendations to the governor completed by the end of December.

But while names have apparently been submitted to Christie’s office for vetting from a variety of organizations and other sources, none have yet been announced. The governor’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.