As Superintendent of Newark Public Schools, Cami Anderson often finds herself in the spotlight for one reason or another. As Anderson told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider, she could do without the media attention and wishes she could focus solely on her work.
With yesterday’s bombings in Boston still vividly on the minds of people around the country, Anderson said Newark schools are reviewing all the safety protocols and providing resources to teachers and guidance and social work staff members in order to provide emotional support to students and parents alike.
“We should expect that our young people are impacted the way we are, which is wondering about their own security and feeling very sad and empathetic to members of the Boston community,” said Anderson. “So we are supporting our school community in supporting our kids through this and our adults because it’s a tough moment for the whole country.”
Anderson said she had no problem with students exercising their voice so long as it’s done in a productive way.
“I certainly support any kind of student leadership,” she said.
As for the budget, she said she fully understands the responsibility of spending taxpayer money wisely.
“I think our budget proposals are preserving really important programs and school-based services and then really taking a difficult look at our central resources to make sure that they’re absolutely focused on schools and on kids.”
She said that from a student perspective it may be difficult to see the rationale behind the budget decisions but that it’s part of her job to explain it to them.
“It’s also our job to communicate with them and to keep them in the loop just like other local leaders so that we can use this as an opportunity to prioritize what makes sense.”
To those seeking immediate results, Anderson said change is hard and takes time to bear fruit. As an example, she specifically cited the landmark labor agreement that was signed last year with the teachers union.
“You cannot expect from a contract like this to create change and goodwill overnight,” said Anderson. “We’re committed to the long haul but at the same time you know unions are supposed to do anything to protect jobs and my job is to do anything to protect kids and sometimes those interests are not aligned.”
Despite the challenges that come with her position, Anderson said she has no regrets about accepting the job. However, she said she could do without the limelight that comes with it. While she wouldn’t give a specific time frame for how long she plans to stay in the job, she said she is committed to “see this through to the next level.”
“You have to invest time and having conversations, building trust, making sure the decisions you make are built to last. Those are important things.”
She also acknowledged that the date of her departure is not entirely up to her.
“I am someone who ‘s track record is about really seeding decisions for change over the long haul because it’s how I prefer to operate, but clearly, there are tons of things that are out of my control.”