May 24, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
Newark, NJ—Thousands of students walked out of school in the latest protest against Superintendent Cami Anderson and the district’s plans to designate an additional eight schools as “turnaround” schools in the next school year.
The designation means that, according to officials with the Newark Teachers Union, teachers are required to sign agreements that mandate they work a longer school day, go through two additional weeks of professional development in the summer and work on multiple Saturdays.
In the accompanying video, we interviewed John Abeigon, director of organizing for the Newark Teachers Union Local 481 and an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, about why so many of Newark’s public school students took action against the district’s plans.
“Because they’ve had enough of Cami Anderson’s misadministration of the Newark public schools. She continues to hand them over to her friends to the charter school for-profit business. Just today they announced at East Side High School an $800,000 budget cut which terminates five teachers. So you can’t say on one hand that we want to turn this school around and improve performance while letting go of the people who are responsible for delivering that,” said Abeigon.
We also asked Abeigon about why teachers didn’t join the students in the walkout to protest the superintendent’s policies.
“Teachers are currently picketing every morning and informing the local community about the devastating actions by Cami Anderson. Before we partake in any type of illegal action we want to make sure that the community is informed and supportive,” Abeigon said.
It’s very possible that Newark’s teachers may join their students in the next walkout.
“In New Jersey it’s illegal to [walkout] but at some point our membership has to take that into consideration. We’re not at that point yet, but right now we’re completely behind the students,” Abeigon said.