Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet is angry. Yesterday the State Board of Education postponed a vote to approve his plan to take his Asbury Park 64 Floor statewide by lowering standards and lying to families about student academic progress. Now he’s threatening to ignore the Board’s oversight.
Next, I suppose, he’ll accuse the Board of treason, invent derogatory names for them, and tweet profane insults.
The Commissioner’s behavior is short of Trumpian but still reeks of arrogance as he disregards what’s best for students and the oversight of the State Board. Yesterday when board members declined to approve his proposal to lower academic standards by eliminating high school standardized testing up to the levels of what’s taught in ELA 10 and Algebra 1 — tests that students would have to take in the 11th grade, which is, well, just silly, a waste of everyone’s time, and a set-back for those trapped in low-performing districts (see here) — he responded by threatening the Board that he might do it anyway.
From NJ Spotlight’s coverage:
Facing a November deadline and ramping up the tension, state Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet for the first time indicated an “or else” if the board does not approve the plan. He did not say what that “or else” would be, but indicated he would have the unilateral power to act.
One option, the commissioner signaled, would be to cut back even further on high school testing than the administration has already proposed.
“If it sunsets [without a vote for changes], you may not like the consequences of what happens next,” Repollet said, referring to the existing regulations.
Seriously? What’s he going to do? Press charges for treason? Repollet’s “plan,” which he didn’t hand to the board til the evening before the meeting — Board VP Andrew Mulvihill: “we only received the documents at 5 o’clock last night. . . which I think is problematic” — will only be approved if the members disregard what’s best for students and shed all integrity.
That hasn’t happened yet, Repollet’s threats aside. And, really, the Commissioner knows — he said so himself at the meeting — that his plan is “imperfect.” Its only merit is what he calls “a sense of stability,” which, I’d point out, is not the same thing as actual stability. It “represents our best thinking,” he added, not terribly reassuring to those who recall his decision while superintendent in Asbury Park to turn a student-centered, federally-funded trip to Ghana into a frat party for his friends and a celebration of his new kingship. It’s “one step in our transition,” with New Jersey taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars as we pay some yet-to-be-named company to create new assessments that, according to Repollet, will be used for a short period of time.
From Spotlight: “When asked afterward what could break the stalemate, [Board President Kathy] Goldenberg said only that ‘time will tell.’ Mulvihill added: “Maybe the commissioner will see the light.”
I wouldn’t count on it. It’s all on the State Board now to exercise its oversight and protect the rest of the state from turning into one big Asbury Park. If you’re unsure of the consequences of acceding to Repollet’s threats, consider the plight of parents and teachers there who bemoan what amounts to a publicly-funded scam, with annual cost per pupil at $42,382. (This is the man you’re trusting to approve RFP’s?) Listen to Senator Teresa Ruiz, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, who says that this proposal “dilute[s] the value of the tests” and is the antithesis of “good education policy.” Please, board members, do your duty: Don’t be initimidated by Repollet’s bluster that demeans the academic abilities of New Jersey students. Honor state taxpayers and save our schools from the inequities insults imbedded in the low-ball scam. New Jersey deserves better than this.