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Garden State Coalition of Schools
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10-5-12 Education Issues in the News

  • NJ Spotlight - DOE Rescinds Administrative Leave, Reinstates Ousted Perth Amboy Super…Cerf angers school union, meddling in what some see as a strictly local dispute
  • Star Ledger - Federal merit pay program to reward teachers across N.J.
  • NJ Spotlight - Interactive Map: Violence and Bullying in New Jersey Schools

NJ Spotlight - DOE Rescinds Administrative Leave, Reinstates Ousted Perth Amboy Super…Cerf angers school union, meddling in what some see as a strictly local dispute

By John Mooney, October 5, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment

The Christie administration’s role in the state's larger urban districts like Newark and Camden has been well-chronicled, but its aggressive intervention in a smaller district like Perth Amboy is becoming just as controversial.

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Yesterday, the state Department of Education reinstated for a second time the superintendent of Perth Amboy schools, Janine Caffrey, counter to the ruling of an administrative law judge who had upheld her suspension by the local board.

The reinstatement by assistant commissioner Bari Erlichson was not a final decision, with state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf still to make a ruling on the judge’s recommendation in the next month.

Final or not, the decision set off another tempest in the Middlesex County district of 11,000 students and nearly 1,000 teachers, with the teachers union president last night pushing back against what she called the state’s destabilizing move and the equivalent of a state takeover.

“The district is in chaos,” said Donna Chiera, president of the Perth Amboy Federation and also president of the statewide American Federation of Teachers. “People are hesitant to even get involved. Nobody knows who is in charge.”

Who controls the Perth Amboy schools has been a murky issue for a while, with charges of corruption at the municipal level, dysfunction at the district level, and a fall municipal and school election that may incorporate the worst of both.

Caffrey has been her own lightning rod, outspoken in her wishes to reform the system and especially bring more accountability to the teaching corps through a revamp of the state’s tenure system. Many of those changes were put in place by the new tenure law enacted this summer, but with his own pro-reform positions, Cerf has not hidden his admiration for what Caffrey is trying to do.

Still, Caffrey has clearly ruffled some feathers, first being fired outright by the local school board last May, only to see Cerf reinstate her on technical grounds. Then, the board sought to put her on administrative leave for the rest of her contract, a move also challenged to the commissioner.

In early September, an administrative law judge ruled in the local board’s favor, saying they had followed proper procedure, albeit under unusual circumstances. Just four members of the nine-member board initially voted on the action, the rest abstaining due to conflicts of interest because of relatives employed in the district.

Erlichson yesterday wrote the board that for the time being Caffrey would keep her job while Cerf weighs the merits of the case. She called the suspension “premature” because of Cerf’s pending decision. The commissioner and his staff would not comment further. Efforts to reach board leaders or Caffrey were also unsuccessful.

But Chiera wasn’t holding back last night, saying she would seek a meeting with Cerf but that the teachers themselves may have to take a stand. The union president said she had previously had a good relationship with Caffrey, but acknowledged there was little love lost now that Caffrey had been publicly criticizing teachers in the district.

“I feel a lot of this has become political, and she clearly has some political views the same as the administration,” Chiera said.

“I’m not talking walkouts or strikes or anything, but there may be some boycotts after school, things like that,” she said. “It feels like there is a divorce going on, and the staff are the kids.”


Star Ledger - Federal merit pay program to reward teachers across N.J.

Published: Friday, September 28, 2012, 6:34 PM Updated: Friday, September 28, 2012, 7:03 PM

By Jessica Calefati/The Star-Ledger

The Star-Ledger
The best teachers in Asbury Park, Lakewood, Hillside and North Plainfield will be among the first in the state to earn federally financed merit pay, a spokesman from the U.S. Department of Education said.

In partnership with the four low-income districts, Rutgers University will distribute $39.7 million over five years through the department’s Teacher Innovation Fund to bolster educator recruitment, evaluation and rewards systems.

It is not yet known how much an individual district or teacher might receive.

Gov. Chris Christie supports the idea of merit pay for the best teachers, but a bill allowing its distribution has stalled in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. The New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, opposes merit pay.

"Our best teachers and principals are invaluable leaders in changing life outcomes for students," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "They are desperately needed in our struggling schools and they deserve to be recognized and rewarded."

Rutgers University could not be reached for comment about what proportion of the grant money will be used to strengthen the district’s evaluation systems verses the amount that will fund the performance-based bonuses.

The New Jersey Department of Education is piloting a teacher evaluation system now that will be rolled out statewide by fall 2013.

The fund also awarded $9.5 million over five years to the New York based Center for Educational Innovation to identify and reward the best teachers in five South Jersey charter schools.

Also, high-performing teachers were not the only New Jersey educators awarded federal funds. National charter school chains Democracy Prep and KIPP received a total of $14.4 million to start or expand schools in New Jersey and other communities across the country.

KIPP has partnered with TEAM Academy to run two elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school in Newark.

However, a spokesman for the state Department of Education could not confirm that Democracy Prep runs any charter schools in New Jersey.


NJ Spotlight - Interactive Map: Violence and Bullying in New Jersey Schools

By Colleen O'Dea, October 5, 2012 in Education|Post a Comment




New Jersey’s school districts dealt with more than 26,000 incidents of violence, vandalism and bullying last year -- the first time the latter statistics were reported separately as part of the year-old new statewide anti-bullying law. That’s equivalent to almost two incidents affecting every 100 New Jersey students.

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The report released from the state Department of Education includes data on incidents for all school districts. Because of the inclusion of bullying for the first time, the number of incidents statewide rose by more than half.

According to the report, 36 districts across the state – all of them with elementary students only -- had no incidents in five categories: violence; vandalism; harassment, intimidation and bullying; weapons use, sale or possession; substance use, sale or possession.

Not surprisingly, high school districts, including those with and without vocational schools, had among the highest rates of incidents compared with enrollment across New Jersey.

The highest rate of incidents – more than 10 per 100 pupils – was found in three South Jersey districts: Commercial in Cumberland, New Hanover in Burlington and Asbury Park in Monmouth. The largest number of total incidents of all kinds – more than 300 – were reported in three city districts: Elizabeth, Jersey City and Newark. Twenty districts, ranging from Pine Hill in Camden County to Parsippany in Morris County, reported more than 100 cases of bullying.

But because the law is new and all the data is self-reported by the districts, it’s unclear whether the data show full and accurate reporting or whether there were some errors.

All of the districts’ statistics for last year, as well as the 2010-11 totals and a comparison between the two years, are available on the maps.

Violence and Bullying in Elementary Districts

Violence and Bullying in K-12 School Districts

Violence and Bullying in Regional High Schools

Violence and Bullying in County Vocational Schools

Violence and Bullying in Charter Schools (PDF)


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608

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