The New Jersey schools chief has extended the contract of embattled Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson despite calls in some quarters of the community for her to step down.
Thursday’s announcement from Education Commissioner David Hespe came three days before the March 1 deadline by which he was required to notify Anderson of an extension, and nearly a week after a group of student protesters camped out in a district office calling alternatively for Anderson’s resignation and greater visibility in the district.
Anderson and the state education department struck a three-year “hybrid” agreement last year that required each party to agree annually to an extension. Under the terms, Anderson will receive a 1.6 percent increase to her $251,500 base salary.
In a district-released statement, Anderson said that she accepted the offer.
“I’m pleased to continue this important work and serve Newark’s students,” she said. “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, 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.”
In the announcement, Hespe lauded Anderson for her work in Newark, highlighting progress during her tenure. Among them: a near 10 percentage point increase in the overall graduation rate; 500 fewer drop-outs; the addition of 1,000 pre-kindergarten seats; the launch of four new high schools and the district’s first International Baccalaureate program; and the implementation of restorative justice programs, which reduced overall suspensions by 37 percent and out-of-school suspensions by 23 percent.
“Cami has worked tirelessly to implement positive education reforms that have benefited Newark students and parents,” Hespe said. “We look forward to continuing to support the progress that has taken place in the district.”
Anderson, who is a state-appointed superintendent, has had a rocky tenure in the district, which has been under state control since 1995. Since her arrival in 2011, many have called for her resignation and for local control of the schools. But she has always maintained strong support from the state education department and retains a high profile among education reformers.
Newark’s new mayor, Ras Baraka, who is a former principal, mounted a successful mayoral campaign last year largely opposing Anderson’s One Newark student enrollment plan and calling for her removal.
Last week, a group of student protesters aligned with the Newark Students Union staged a four-day protest by camping out in a district office. The students called off the protest on Friday after meeting with Anderson and two other district officials.
NJ.com quotes State Sen. Teresa Ruiz as saying that she was disappointed with the renewal of the superintendent’s contract.
“This is devastating for the Newark Public Schools community,” the statement read. " At a time when the district desperately needs to go in a new direction, the state has made this terrible decision.”
“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,” Ruiz said of Anderson. “She has failed in that effort, and in doing so has lost the confidence of teachers, principals, parents and students.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.