Last week, Chris Cerf stepped down after three extraordinarily successful years as New Jersey’s commissioner of education. Education observers in the Garden State and beyond will remember his tenure for its major initiatives.
He secured a Race to the Top 3 grant and one of the first ESEA waivers. He successfully led the charge for the overhaul of the state’s outdated tenure statute and launched a new teacher-evaluation pilot program. He negotiated a new labor contract in Newark, and he had the state intervene in the tragically low-performing Camden school district. He dramatically improved chartering in the state, authorizing dozens of new schools while closing 10 persistently low performers. And he was a stalwart for both Common Core and PARCC.
Cerf’s accomplishments are undeniable. But in the fine tradition of blogging, I need to make this about me.
To wit, no single person has had a larger or more positive influence on my professional development. I learned mountains from Chris Cerf about leadership in general and, more specifically, how to bring about change as the whipping winds of politics (and worse) swirl around you.
As fate would have it, our adventure and all I took from it came an inch from being aborted. We met during the darkest period of my professional career. I had been offered the job as New Jersey’s deputy commissioner by Cerf’s predecessor.
I quit my job, moved my wife and two-week old baby away from family in Maryland, bought a house, and began...