Newark principals sue over suspensions

Five Newark school principals suspended for speaking out against the superintendent’s school reorganization plan have filed a free-speech lawsuit reports the Newark Star-Ledger.

New Jersey took over the troubled district. Superintendent Cami Anderson’s turnaround plan is very controversial.

Four principals — H. Grady James of Hawthorne Avenue School, Tony Motley of Bragaw Avenue School, Dorothy Handfield of Belmont Runyan School and Deneen Washington of Maple Avenue School — were suspended with pay Jan. 17, two days after they spoke at a community meeting at a Newark church intended to oppose Anderson’s One Newark plan.

The principals work at schools affected by the plan. Hawthorne and Bragaw are targeted for use by charter schools and Maple is set to become an early childhood learning center. Belmont Runyon has been designated a “renew” school, which means new leadership will be installed and teachers will be asked to reapply for their positions. Brown’s school, Ivy Hill, is designated for “redesign.”

The fifth principal, Lisa Brown of Ivy Hill Elementary, was suspended for not heeding the district’s ban on Daryn Martin, the head of Ivy Hill’s parent-teacher organization who was escorted from the school Jan. 15 after he protested the removal of fliers he posted that were critical of the reorganization plan.

Motley, James and Handfield are now back to work at their schools. Brown and Washington will be reassigned.

“The school district has violated their rights and we’d like a judge to say that,” attorney Robert Pickett said. “Public employees have a right to talk about issues of public concern.”

Do principals have a right to oppose district policy and keep their jobs?

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  1. Stacy in NJ says:

    All the drama and all the shouting and these school have been and remain complete wastelands.

  2. Good question. I wouldn’t get away with it working for a for-profit business. Should I if I’m working for the government? That is different, but . . . .

  3. PhillipMarlowe says:

    Newark superintendent storms out of tumultuous school board meeting after parent refers to Anderson’s “brown baby”

    • PhillipMarlowe says:

      Read here about conditions in Newark schools, after a decade of state control.

    • And the rest of the story:

      “The New Jersey Education Department said today that it was prepared to take control of Newark’s troubled schools. It issued a damning report that portrays the district as badly mismanaged by officials who sit aloof in comfortable offices while students struggle through badly taught classes in filthy buildings and ultimately fail in great numbers.”

      That was back in 1994. Things have improved since although my guess is that state control didn’t include steamrolling the entire central administrative staff and making the schools independent entities, i.e. charters. But it was 1994 and “school district” and “public education” were interchangeable terms. No longer.

    • PhillipMarlowe says:

      [Senator Cory] Booker described Anderson as a “get-it-done” manager who brings a “level of love” to her work.
      “When something happens to one of her kids — and she’s one of the strongest people I know — I’ve seen her show weakness,” said Booker, adding that he has been friends with Anderson for 20 years. “She will weep for a child who’s not her own.”