Keith Eric Benson, who holds a doctoral degree in the field of Education, is an educator in Camden Public Schools, president of the Camden Education Association, and the father of a child in the city’s public schools. Our thanks to… Read more
This is Part Five of an ongoing storytelling series by NJ Communities United featuring parents, students and families in Newark & Camden. Look for them Monday mornings. The school districts in these cities have been stripped of local democratic control,… Read more
Don’t let the fact that the camera shakes convince you that Camden parents aren’t organizing, aren’t ready to take on the Christie administration, his hand-picked Super, the Norcross operation, and charter schools for profit. These parents are resolute. They demand… Read more
Two weeks ago NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia visited New Jersey as part of her 50-state Back to School Tour. I wrote about her visit and meeting with NJ ed bloggers here, here and here.
One of her stops was Pyne Poynt Middle School in Camden which is also home to the co-located Mastery Charter School. While the NJ state assembly passed an amendment to the Urban Hope Act today which gives charter schools greater ability to expand in take over public education in Camden, I had a conversation with someone who was in close proximity to Lily’s visit. This person asked not to be identified. Here is their story (my comments are in red):
The entire time Lily was visiting Pyne Poynt she was followed around by two of Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard’s “people”.
It is an honor to be here today speaking on behalf of the thousands of parents of school age children in this city who, until very recently, haven’t had their voices heard. Until just a few months ago, I, like most Camden parents, was unaware of the changes coming into our district or how they would affect my children and my neighbor’s children. I quickly learned that our school district was supposedly in a funding deficit and would be laying off many teachers and support staff to cover this supposed deficit.
I also learned that applications were filed to open new Renaissance schools, using the district funding that Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard claimed that we did not have. The more I learned, the more I felt the need to advocate on behalf of our children and of the teachers and staff who were being taken away from us. Those teachers love our children and have dedicated their lives to educating them so that they can grow up and be successful adults.
Tea Party Scorecard: The Tea Party is still with us and is trying to defend its incumbent congresspersons and make new inroads in the upcoming elections. Americans United for Change examined the voting records of 47 Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives who are running for reelection in statistically swing districts or who are facing significant reelection challenges. As a group, these members voted for Tea Party priorities 81 percent of the time. In New Jersey the two House Republicans who fall into this category voted in support of Tea Party bills an average of 80 percent of the time. “Rep. Scott Garrett (CD 5) had the highest score at 88% with Rep. Frank LoBiondo (CD 2) voting with the extreme wing of his party 72% of the time.”
Scott Garrett, probably New Jersey’s most conservative Representative, both in financial and social policies, holds over $2 million in Cash on Hand as of the most recent report (ending 9/31/13) from the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Roy Cho, a 32-year-old corporate lawyer from Hackensack, is challenging Garrett and says his opponent embodies “a dangerous and toxic iideology.” The N. J. Herald reports Cho is taking leave of his job next week to spend full-time on the campaign. The most recent FEC report ending 9/31/13 indicates he had $79,000 Cash on Hand. He has a website for contributions and is on Facebook. He previously worked as an aide to Governor James McGreevey and as Special Assistant to James P. Fox at the NY/NJ Port Authority. Bergen Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato recently said, “He will be my candidate for Congress.”
Frank LoBiondo who has served in Congress for 20 years won his first election as part of the “Republican Revolution” that established Newt Gingrich as House speaker. Bill Hughes, Jr. a Democrat from Northfield announced he plans to challenge LoBiondo. Hughes is a criminal lawyer and son of a U. S. Representative who served in congress for 20 years. An opposition group had previously obtained the “BillHughesforCongres” URL which now tars him as “Helping New Jersey’s most corrupt criminals,” and seeks contributions to defeat him. See his Facebook page here. He has filed with the FEC but no financial data is yet available.
Today: Gov. Christie, 3:25pm, will be at Dudley Family School in Camden and later make an announcement with Mayor Dana Redd and Schools Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard. (Do not expect the Governor to take questions.) U. S. Sens. Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, 11:00am, news conference on the Superbowl, Meadowlands Hilton, East Rutherford.
There are two qualities that every politician has that are often in conflict.
First, there’s the ability to compromise and find common ground to attain results. Second, there’s the strength in sticking to ones principles, regardless of the outcome.
A good leader is able to balance those qualities. And naturally, he or she is both praised and vilified, often by the same people.
Lyndon Johnson was one who excelled at the political game. He was an ardent champion of Civil Rights and his Great Society approach to health care and education. But his prosecution of an unpopular war cost him another term in the White House.
Senate President Steve Sweeney reminds me of Johnson. Sweeney knows how to play the political game to further the causes he believes in and knows when to compromise to make things better but not perfect.
Chris Christie is another master of the political game but there’s a significant difference between the two men. I believe that Sweeney has empathy for the people of New Jersey, despite some of his actions that rile many Blue Jersey readers. Christie scores a big ZERO on the empathy meter.
I sat down with Sweeney in the State House this morning to get his views on a number of issues and to get him to answer the pressing question “Do you do your own tweets?”
Something is rotten in Trenton. And it has to do with the politicization of the selection of school superintendents.
If you remember, almost three years ago, Chris Christie imposed a cap on the salary of school district superintendents. He unilaterally decreed that (with a few exceptions for size of district and performance) no superintendent should earn more than the $175,000 annual salary that is received by the governor. At a taxpayer-funded political rally in Washington Township in November, 2010, Christie gloated as he told the audience that Parsippany superintendent Lee Seitz would have to take a pay cut from a then-recently negotiated salary of $216,000. As a result, Seitz decided to leave, and take a job out of state. One wonders how much the Parsippany district had to spend in its search for a replacement.
By contrast, Christie’s hand-picked superintendent for the Camden school district, Paymon Rouhanifard, starts off at a salary above the cap, almost as what Seitz negotiated, $210,000.
Here’s a comparison of Seitz and Rouhanifard
School Principal – 7 years
Asst. Superintendent – 1.5 years
Superintendent – 18 years
President – Hunterdon County Association of School Administrators – 4 years
Teacher – 2 years
Superintendent of Schools – NJ and PA
Secondary Principal – NJ and PA
Two year provisional granted immediately.
Child Assault Prevention Administrator of the Year
Star School – NJ DoE
National Blue Ribbon School – US DoE
Doctor of Eduation – Penn
Master of Education – Lehigh
Economics and Political Science – UNC – Chapel Hill
Field as specified on LinkedIn Profile
Below the fold: Video of Christie gloating at Seitz’s salary cut. Move the video slider to the 2:10 mark.
“He would’ve never made the cut of a national search because he has no expertise in areas he would be responsible for as superintendent.”
– Jose Delgado – former Camden school board member on the approval by the State Board of Education to appoint Christie Crony Paymon Rouhanifard as the Camden Superintendent of Schools.
Rouhanifard will be on a two-year taxpayer-funded development program to obtain the required credentials. He does not have a Master’s degree, which is required by most superintendents, and will be “earning” $210,000 annually – well beyond the cap set for other superintendents, based on a waiver granted by Christie’s Education Commissioner.
Jersey Jazzman has written an excellent diary on Chris Christie’s handpicked inexperienced appointee to become the Superintendent of Schools for Camden. Paymon Rouhanifard is a 32-year-old with virtually no credentials to run a troubled urban school system (other than the fact that he’s a disciple of the education profiteers.)
What struck me as unbelievable is the fact (as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer) that “Rouhanifard … will have a mentor assigned to him as he learns the ropes of being a superintendent. He will also have a large support staff sent in by the state.”
So instead of hiring a battle-scarred experienced superintendent, Christie is giving an important job to this young crony and throwing in tons of money to pay for mentors and support staff. The children of Camden become the laboratory in which Rouhanifard tries to learn his job.
If Christie put his ego aside, got rid of the superintendent salary cap, and hired someone with a successful track record and who did not require on-the-job training, we could save money and help Camden students at the same time.