It’s no secret that the stature of Gov. Phil Murphy’s Education Department has been diminished through missteps by Acting Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan and her high-level associates. For instance, at the August State Board of Education meeting, many of the thirteen members, who are appointed by the Governor, didn’t hide their disdain for the Commissioner’s attempt to railroad through various changes in educator preparation, certification, and professional development.
At that meeting President Kathy Goldenberg chided Allen-McMillan, “this is not the way we’ve done things for five years. [Proposals of this magnitude] have never gone to the public before it goes to the board.” Member Mary Elizabeth Gazi concurred: “You did not give us information in a timely fashion,” she said. “Before we even started on this chapter [of regulations], we were asked to put aside additional committee time and we all made this commitment to go thoughtfully through this copious information we got Friday afternoon. You’re not giving us opportunities to process information and do our jobs.” Others made similar comments, provoking the Commissioner to burst out, ” “don’t present us as incompetent.”
Then there’s State Board Vice President Andrew Mulvihill who has consistently pressed the Commissioner, as well as her top deputies, to clarify murky proposals that a less astute Board would merely rubber-stamp. “I have only one client who is never there at Public Meetings,” he told me last year. “They are the 12-year-olds in Newark and the 11-year-olds in Irvington. I don’t give a hoot what the lobbyists say. I care about those kids and their parents.”
Here comes Phil Murphy to the rescue–not of those Newark and Irvington parents and students but of his beleaguered Commissioner and NJ lobbyists.
What’s his strategy?
He’s firing Gazi, Mulvihill, and Mary Beth Berry.*
Today Politico (paywalled) broke the story that Murphy will nominate Mary Bennett, Kwanghee Jung, and Claudine Keenan “to replace board member Mary Elizabeth Gazi, board Vice President Andrew Mulvihill and board President Kathy Goldenberg.”
What a coincidence!
Now let’s be fair: every Board member’s term has expired and Murphy has always had the prerogative to replace every one. But right now, just as current Board members have begun publicly challenging his Commissioner’s decisions? Right as top DOE staff members are fleeing the sinking ship?
Sometimes timing is everything.
*Correction: the original article (and other outlets) reported that Murphy was firing President Kathy Goldenberg. Instead, he is firing Mary Beth Berry.