Categorized | Local Perspectives

Community Voice: Statement on Dr. Caffrey

PERTH AMBOY — It is an outrage that ousted superintendent Janine Caffrey has succeeded in being reinstated by NJ Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf; despite the ruling of an administrative law judge in favor of the Perth Amboy BOE, and lengthy opposition papers filed by David Rubin, Esq. on behalf of the Board. These papers filed by Rubin affirm the many concerns that the BOE has regarding Caffrey’s ability to lead our school district. It speaks to the power endowed to elected local BOE officials. Cerf’s action is without legal support. We have witnessed a commissioner act against a local elected BOE on its decision to reprimand, suspend, or fire a school district superintendent. NJ has over 600 school districts; BOE’s hire and fire superintendents on many occasions throughout every school year.

Typically the local BOE and the superintendent reach an agreement of separation. Many superintendents have been suspended since Cerf returned Caffrey to her position. There has been evidence that in some cases the reasons for suspension have been much less serious than what Caffrey has been accused of.

From the beginning of her tenure as superintendent, Caffrey has repeatedly committed serious actions that have led the BOE to conclude she is not the person who should lead this urban district of over 10,000 students. Caffrey describes herself as a “reformer,” and within a few months of her employment proceeded to disparage the staff in the media demonstrating her anti-tenured position regarding teachers.

She then proceeded to malign Board members by filing frivolous and bogus charges against those who voted to suspend her. On her Facebook page, she quotes the movie Terminator by saying “she will be back”; thus, mocking and disrespecting the BOE decision to suspend her.

She inferred and has stated that the board’s actions are inconsequential and meaningless. Her last action is a vindictive retaliation against the asst. superintendent of schools, Dr. Vivian Rodriguez. Dr. Rodriguez was appointed interim superintendent on both occasions when Caffrey was suspended. Upon Caffrey’s first return, Caffrey banned Rodriguez from sitting at the dais during BOE meetings. Rodriguez was banned from executive sessions unless ordered to do so by Caffrey. Caffrey does not have the legal authority to take those steps. Returning from her 2nd suspension Caffrey relocated Rodriguez from her office in the administration building to the basement of School #7. Caffrey alerted the media to her decision without ever informing the Board, her boss and employer, of this action. Caffrey stated her reason was because she needs an administrator at School #7. For many years School #7 has fallen under the supervision of the Ignacio Cruz center and the early childhood centers supervisor.

Caffrey’s intent was to disrespect and minimize the professional responsibilities of Rodriguez within the district. Rodriguez is a tenured employee and has always interacted intensively with staff. She is loved and well respected. When she accepted the appointment as interim superintendent, she was not defying Caffrey but was merely complying with the Board’s request to fill this important vacancy.

The Board, the staff, community, and students are awaiting a final decision by Commissioner Cerf as to whether or not this legally elected Board acted in accordance with the law when it suspended Caffrey. This is the same Commissioner who has thwarted the decision of the majority of the elected Board every time the Board takes any action against Caffrey. The staff is demoralized and frustrated. We ask one very important question, WHY? Why is this commissioner doing this to this town? 1.) Is it because of alleged ties to Caffrey? 2.) Carrying out a Republican agenda in an attempt to privatize as much of the nation’s public schools? 3.) Is it because this is a largely minority district and perceived by outsiders to be easy pickings? 4.) Is it because this is one of over 30 districts in need of improvement? 5.) The district receives a substantial amount of funds that can be diverted to private contractors and consultants?

The BOE and their attorneys are outraged and appalled. This is why the AFT in Perth Amboy has endorsed the incumbent board members for reelection because they feel that the incumbents are the only candidates that can confront this affront at our precious rights as citizens of this great land. It should be noted that in addition to putting the local district in a tailspin, Caffrey stated in FB during her suspension that she would work full time to elect the current Mayor Wilda Diaz. These individuals have unfortunately, politicized the BOE for their own gain. Caffrey has attended the mayor’s fund raisers when the Board was holding a special meeting to evaluate Caffrey’s job performance. Caffrey thumbed her nose at the Board by taking this insubordinate action at the same time claiming that the BOE plays politics. She will go on social medias, various newspapers, radio stations and blogs to spin her message and cloak herself with self-righteousness and martyrdom; while at the same time bullying her way as an untouchable superintendent.

The Commissioner has, is and may continue to interfere in the very legitimate and necessary actions taken by the BOE. In NJ, Elected officials control the hiring an firing of their superintendent. The citizens of this city take exception to Commissioner Cerf’s interference. He and Caffrey are in fact the responsible parties for the situation this district finds itself in today. Staff and community morale is at its lowest. Respected, legally, elected board members fail to understand the Commissioner’s dictatorial tone and interference toward this town and its voters. With less than 3 weeks left for the municipal and BOE elections, we hope that the community can understand what is at stake and exercise their right to vote on Nov. 6 and send a clear and loud message to Trenton and City Hall that our city, our staff, and our children are not for sale.

Roberta Newman

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