The Queen Of Gutting Tenure

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman:

We have a new queen of gutting tenure: Dr. Janine Walker Caffrey, the Superintendent of Perth Amboy. The queen was crowned by none other than Star-Ledger Opinion Editor Tom Moran, who has, within the space of two weeks, given her highness space for an op-ed decrying tenure AND the patented Moran-style hagiography (a treatment highly recommended by reformy hedge fund manager David Tepper).

I already dealt with the substance of Moran’s piece. Let’s talk about the style:

To earn such a huge amount of the S-L’s space, Caffrey must have vast experience as an administrator in New Jersey’s schools, right?


Janine Walker Caffrey’s Experience

Superintendent of Schools

Perth Amboy Public Schools

2011 – Present (less than a year)


Great Potential Press

2010 – Present (1 year)

Nurturing Brilliance: Discovering and Developing Your Child’s Gifts


DaCapo Lifelong Press

August 2008 – Present (3 years 5 months)

Drive: 9 Ways to Motivate Your Kids to Achieve

Assistant Superintendent

New York City Department of Education

Government Agency; 10,001+ employees; Education Management industry

2009 – 2011 (2 years)


Dr. Mendes

2009 – 2010 (1 year)

Founder and Head of School

Renaissance Academy

2002 – 2009 (7 years)

Vice President, Infinity Schools


Nonprofit; 1001-5000 employees; Nonprofit Organization Management industry

1992 – 2002 (10 years)

Um, you mean she just started her first year as a New Jersey superintendent, and she’s already been in two articles in the S-L as an expert on NJ’s tenure laws? Does that strike anyone else as a little premature?

Well, let’s go through the rest of the resume: maybe she’s got some other experience that shows how she earned her tiara. AMIKids is a huge non-profit that helps troubled youth; good stuff as far as I can tell, but hardly related to teacher work protections.

“Founder and Head of School for the Renaissance Academy.” Well, that’s a private school in Florida; no tenure protections there. In fact, RA is a tiny school, with an enrollment of 94 children (according to their accreditation report). Click through to their narrative; by their own admission, the surrounding area is overwhelmingly white, and the school’s population reflects that. Did the Perth Amboy BOE think Caffrey had adequate experience to run their district, with its 75% of students who speak Spanish at home?

How did Caffrey come to found this little private school?

What was a turning point in your life? My biggest failure was my biggest turning point. Renaissance Academy was originally designed to be a charter school. Three weeks before it was set to open, we lost the facility due to unexpected build-out costs. We had to lay off 13 employees and tell 230 students they needed to find another school. It was devastating, both personally and professionally. This caused me to remove every safety net I had in my life and really commit to what I knew was most important. [emphasis mine]

Caffrey was looking to start a charter (that ought to tell you something by itself), but she screwed up because she couldn’t get the budget right. OK, everyone is entitled to mistakes; we learn from them. But, again: does this sound like someone who is ready to run a public school district with over 10,000 students?

I went to Guidestar (a non-profit information site) to look up the financials on Renaissance Academy, but I couldn’t find anything. It took me a few minutes to realize why: Florida allows private schools to be run as for-profit institutions. Fortunately, Florida also has very good electronic records, and I was able to access the corporate report for 2011; it shows Caffrey as president of Renaissance Vision, Inc., a company with the same address as the Academy.

But wait: according to her LinkedIn resume above, Caffrey worked for the NYC DOE from 2009 to 2011. And the FL state report shows her address as Trinity, FL. But she was clearly working in NY at the time; here’s a quality review report of a NYC high school she did in May of 2010.

Was Janine Caffrey the president of a corporation running a private school in Florida at the same time she was working for the NYC schools? Did NYC know this? Did the Perth Amboy BOE? And how did she find the time? Especially since she wrote two books during the period. And sold herself as a public speaker.

No wonder she can’t be bothered with putting together a case for tenure hearings: she’s way too busy with all these side projects! Unless, of course, she’s suspended all of this outside activity. Has she? And does she still maintain an address in Florida?

Just asking…

There’s very little record of Caffrey’s time in New York. But her website says:

From 2009-2011, Janine enjoyed her work with the New York City Department of Education, where she developed new programs to help parents get involved in their children’s education, and increase high school graduation rates.

OK, fine – but that really doesn’t have much to do with tenure, does it?

Here’s the takeaway: Janine Caffrey has scant little experience with the tenure laws of New Jersey, or any other state. There is no evidence she ever participated in a tenure case or supervised a teacher who had to be removed through tenure. Her books have nothing to do with the subject. Her supervisory experience in public schools is limited.

Which is why she can’t, by her own admission, deal with poor teachers in her schools – she doesn’t have the experience. She can’t handle staff who are outright defiant or show up high to work:

Another teacher arrives at work high on drugs nearly every day. “The kids can spot it a mile away,” Caffrey says. “It’s been going on for at least five years, and there’s a file a mile thick with all the interventions. But it keeps happening.”

Any competent supervisor would have this person escorted out of the building by the police; but somehow, this solution eludes Caffrey. And the reason why is obvious when you look at her career: she’s never had to deal with the situation before. Parents of Perth Amboy, are you happy with your superintendent?

Tom Moran picked a very weak subject for an op-ed about tenure. Yet he gave her multiple opportunities to crow that tenure is “…the single greatest impediment to education improvement in New Jersey, without a doubt.” Maybe next time, Tom, you should ask someone who’s actually spent significant time in New Jersey’s education system the question. Maybe you should ask a superintendent who is competent at his or her job.

And maybe, Tom, you ought not to automatically gravitate toward someone simply because they know how to market themselves to the press:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Lord, she sounds like Michelle Rhee talking about how her children suck at soccer. But now that I think about it, the parallels with Rhee are obvious: a superintendent, lacking in practical public school administrative experience but with a penchant for self-promotion, thrown into a large district. I wonder how her staff feels about her – is it the same as Rhee’s teachers felt about her?

Well, we all saw how great that worked out in Washington DC. Let’s see how Tom Moran’s new queen of tenure fares in Perth Amboy – a district that has had a lot of… issues – over the next few years.

Comments (8)

  1. Nowlan

    In the words of Victor R. Gook, Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy, Mr. Moran.

    (We don’t write that kind of stuff on student papers these days–but for “editors” who don’t do their homework I think it’s ok.)

    Ah well, when the kids start taking classes via the internet, it won’t matter if the “teachers” are high or naked or even human.  See the recent article in The Nation

  2. Bertin Lefkovic

    When you have 600+ superintendents, you are going to find that a significant percentage of them are unqualified for the position.  However, if we only had 21 (or less by consolidating some of more sparsely populated counties) county superintendents, it is reasonable to at least hope that they would be amongst the most qualified in the state.

    There can be no doubt that there are bad teachers in our public school system, but they are the exception, not the rule.  If the opposite were true, our state would not be ranked as high as it is.  If the proposed reforms to the tenure system are passed, I would bet that more good teachers would be lost than bad teachers, because good teachers tend to use more innovative and potentially controversial methodologies than bad teachers, who just do the bare minimum or less.

  3. Norma Ray

    If the governor is going to slash aid to school districts, it would make much more sense to cut from the top not the bottom, which is the front line of education-teachers. Public ed in this state is too top heavy. There are many perfectly willing and able teachers out there who could be paid a stipend to do the job of curriculum supervisors and in the process, save school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars. Instead, the very people most responsible for educating our students are losing their jobs while middle managers making big money are spared. You can’t run an effective school district without effective teachers. Oh yea, and any teacher who comes to school high needs a face to face with a police officer asap. Admin’s need to do their job to protect their students.  


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