I stand corrected.
Yesterday, in reporting on a rumor about the departure of Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet, I noted that “17 out of 55 leadership positions are marked ‘vacant’ on the DOE organization chart.” A few hours after I published that post the State Board of Education, reports NJ Spotlight, approved six candidates for those leadership positions, leaving only 11 out of 55 seats that “had been long-vacant under [Repollet].”
Sometimes timing is everything, not just for blog posts but for soft landings. Before we get to the new appointments (one in particular), I have heard now from four sources that Repollet has a specific reason for leaving at the end of June: He will take over the presidency at Kean College at a salary northward of $300,000 plus an array of benefits.
If Repollet is really leaving at the end of the month, you’d think we’d hear something soon. But, remember, today’s not different than yesterday; we’re still in rumor territory.
Back to yesterday’s State BOE meeting. One of the appointments recommended by Repollet and approved by the Board is Cary Booker, older brother of Cory, and that’s who I want to focus on.
I have huge respect for Cary Booker, a graduate, with his little brother, of Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan. Senator Booker has said of Cary, “[he] always was one of my greatest guardians, mentors, teachers and friends. He is truly the epitome of a gentle man, one of the kinder people I know with a depth of goodness and decency in his soul that overflows endlessly into the world.”
Indeed Cary Booker has an impressive resume: Co-founder of Omni Care Academy, a public charter school in Memphis; a professor of education at the Newark campus of Rutgers University; advocacy partner at the Newark Charter School Fund. At one of my favorite annual events, the NJ Parents Summit (register here!), Cary Booker told a reporter in 2017,
I hope that this kind of event can bring parents together for ways to strengthen their communities. It’s really exciting to see this kind of energy around education reform. I would hope that parents come away feeling empowered, gain useful information and with an idea of what their next step is as far as how to be engaged with their communities…We hope to see a real discussion about what Newark’s educational system will look like in this new era. Newark is uniquely poised for this.
When asked about the friction (now much abated in Newark) between charter and district parents, Booker said, “the way the narrative plays out drives the divide,” noting that charter and public school parents are striving for the same outcome. “We all want to see an outstanding system of public education that is meeting the needs of our kids.”
Outstanding! What a boon for NJ families that the DOE now has an educational leader focused on student outcomes and, as he said at the Summit, committed to “community input and giving a voice to parents,” especially those of color and low-income who ardently support public school choice.
So, what’s his new position at the DOE?
He is New Jersey’s new Assistant Commissioner of the Division of Early Childhood Education.
I googled “Cary Booker” + early childhood education. No results. I’m sure he’s a fast learner but let’s get real: the DOE is desperate for leadership in NJ’s charter school sector because the Office of Charter and Renaissance Schools post remains vacant. I know, I know, it’s below Booker’s pay grade: Assistant Commissioner is way loftier than office chief.
But maybe he can help out in his spare time? Maybe he can find out the status of the DOE’s (possibly mythical) Charter School Act Review? Maybe he can help Repollet’s friends understand that, indeed, charter and traditional school parents are striving for the same outcome?
Hey, a girl can dream.