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Officials Tout New Newark School But Some Still Critical of Leadership

4-7-14

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

Pile drivers pounded supports into the foundation for a brand new school on Newark’s Oliver Street. Work’s scheduled to pick up speed at another new school on South Street and on the block where the old Elliott Street School once stood, a brand new one’s under construction. While saws sliced through two-by-fours, officials called a news conference.

“Construction such as this — cue the saw back there — is critical in making sure every kid is in a top-notch school,” said Superintendent Cami Anderson.

Anderson emphasized change is coming.

“When this school is complete, we will fill it with top notch educators and with incredible curricula and with a huge sense of urgency,” she said.

Lightning struck the old Elliott Street School back in 2006, burned down a building dating back to Abraham Lincoln’s administration. These construction projects follow years of delays, lawsuits, and frustration — and an often-angry, intensely political full court press.

“Collectively these three schools represent an investment of $177 million in the Newark Public School system by the Christie administration. And it is this type of investment that Sen. Ruiz and Superintendent Anderson have fought for,” Charles McKenna said.

“I do want to thank Gov. Christie and his Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd because there wasn’t a moment that every time I walked by the office — there were set priority agendas that I had — and Elliott was on top of that. So I think they’re quite happy I don’t persist or bother them as much,” said Sen. Teresa Ruiz.

But that forward movement hit a wall of sorts in February when Cami Anderson decided to skip Newark’s Board of Education meetings, claiming raucous opponents of her agenda accomplished very little but screamed a whole lot.

Ever since, Anderson’s avoided these meetings, with her boss’s full support.

“She’s done a great job. I don’t care what the community says. We run Newark,” Christie said.

“I’m out and about all the time,” said Anderson. When asked if she won’t be going to the meeting, Anderson replied, “So I go to tons of meetings. Change is not easy but our kids deserve it. And I’m someone who believes deeply in the power of adults coming together.”

“She has shut down. She has taken the position of our almighty governor. She’s gonna be the bully in the room. She’s not going to concede, even when she’s wrong,” said Donna Jackson.

While everyone applauds the multi-million dollar project, community leaders say the Christie administration and Anderson need to invest even more — more time and more effort — at improving communication.