Newark's Superintendent Rolls Up Her Sleeves and Gets to Work: A Conversation with Cami Anderson

By Meyer, Peter | Education Next, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

Newark's Superintendent Rolls Up Her Sleeves and Gets to Work: A Conversation with Cami Anderson


Meyer, Peter, Education Next


Scene: Large corner office, 10th (and top) floor of an old downtown Newark office building. Nice navy-blue sofa, very large desk, executive-style conference table, framed pictures and posters on the walls, floor-to-ceiling windows on two corners, and doors that open onto a rooftop deck.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

"This is a super office," I exclaim, asking Cami Anderson, the new superintendent of Newark schools, to tell me a little bit about it.

Sitting a bit stiffly on the sofa, Anderson winces. "I hate it. My ideal would be to take one of our old, gorgeous schools and make it a place of bustling collaboration and activity between adults and children," she says. "That would actually look and feel quite different than our corporate tower here."

This California blond is clearly not your ordinary educator, which could be the best thing that has happened to the perennially failing Newark Public Schools (NPS) since--well, perhaps, ever. The state took over the district in 1995, to little effect. With 75 schools and almost 40,000 students, Newark is the largest district in New Jersey, and with graduation rates hovering just about 50 percent, one of the most troubled. Enrollment is down some 9,000 students since 2001. As the New York Times reported when Anderson took over, in June of 2011, "Cami Anderson faces the monumental task of rescuing an urban school system that has long been mired in low achievement, high turnover and a culture of failure, despite decades of state intervention."

It was, said the Times, with exquisite understatement, "the ultimate high-risk opportunity,"

Even with the popular and smart Newark mayor Cory Booker on her side and a $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, she'll need all the help she can get. As even Chris Christie, the take-no-prisoners Garden State governor, said at the press conference announcing Anderson's appointment, "It took us a long time to get to where we are now [in Newark], and no leader, no matter how good, is going to be able to turn this around overnight."

It would have been hard to find anyone disagreeing with the blunt-spoken governor on that one.

"Judge me by my actions," Anderson said at the time. "Let me roll up my sleeves and dive in. Then we'll talk."

And talk we did, last May, just as Anderson was finishing her first year on the job. "The first year of anything is tough because you're saying, 'Trust me. Trust me. Trust me," she said. "But you haven't really had time to, 'Show me. Show me. Show me."

Shaking Things Up

In fact, Anderson showed her stuff immediately.

"I had to make some very important leadership decisions," she recalled about those first days on the job, "right then." And since Anderson's "theory of change" is about "great school leaders," she "ran around to as many schools as possible to try to get a sense of the quality of our principals, most particularly those who I'd heard deep concerns about or had heard were awesome and were approaching their tenure date."

The result? Seventeen new principals when school opened the following September. Major shakeup. Indeed, Anderson's first year in Newark was marked by serious change--she closed six schools, reorganized her central administration team, cut 120 jobs--and marked the beginning of a deep systemic overhaul, financial and pedagogical.

So far, so good. There have been the fights over the school closings and the upset of a system being (rather quickly) turned inside out, but as friends predicted, Anderson's engaging personal style won many people over. She did not arrive with an agenda, but she did have a clear vision of where to start--even before the principal shakeup.

"The first thing is to define success," she said. "And that's pretty simple. Every kid of school age in Newark is in a school that puts him or her on the path to graduate from college. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Newark's Superintendent Rolls Up Her Sleeves and Gets to Work: A Conversation with Cami Anderson
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.