Read Richard Lee Colvin’s profile of Chris Cerf in EdNext. Cerf replaced Cami Anderson two years ago to take the helm of New Jersey’s largest and most politically-contentious school district. From the piece:
From the start, Cerf understood that as superintendent he had to take a different approach from Anderson’s, and do all he could to smooth the political waters. That was evident in his first appearance at an advisory board meeting, in August 2015.
“I pledge to you a dialogue based on civility and respect and availability and facts and information,” he told the audience and board. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, he said, but “they’re not entitled to their own facts.”
“Our children are watching how we conduct ourselves,” he said. “We are providing a model for how civil civic discourse takes place, and how we do that even when we disagree is so critically important.”
Cerf, an appointee of a pro-charter governor, is often labeled as a charter school advocate. He says he is less interested in how schools are governed than he is in making sure there are good schools in every neighborhood. “The point is that this is a part of a coherent change theory that is starting to bear fruit,” he says. “It’s not that we’re going to support charter schools and not traditional schools, we’re not ‘all in’ on charters, like in New Orleans. But, rather, we want to holistically manage a system of all different types of school
Colvin notes that many parents “perceive [Newark’s] charter schools as superior” — the largest operators are the highly-regarded KIPP and Uncommon — and that 42% of parents listed charters as their first choice during Newark’s most recent universal enrollment cycle.
Also this: Colvin discusses Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize, which depicts a district torn apart by efforts to improve student outcomes:
The premise of The Prize, Cerf says, was that if he, Anderson, and [former Newark Mayor, now U.S. Congressman Cory] Booker had moved more slowly and worked harder to build local support for their ideas, they would have gotten a warmer reception. But, he says, that analysis is flawed.
“For Dale to criticize Cory and Cami for failing to have overcome political saboteurs, but give a complete pass to the saboteurs themselves, tells only part of the story. There was a vicious campaign of misinformation that was designed to thwart any changes.”