Dear Commissioner Hespe,
Many are wondering why you left early from the public hearing at Camden County College this past Thursday, February 19, 2015 before listening to all of the testimonies. As the head of the Study Commission on the Use of Student Assessments in NJ, one would think that you should be there to listen to the well-prepared testimonies of the public whom you were appointed to serve and represent.
Commissioner, you began the hearing stressing the importance that testifiers adhere to the five minute presentation time allotted per speaker. I was impressed by the sensitivity you showed by reminding everyone present that we needed to be respectful of each other’s time. After pointing out that testimony at the previous hearing in Jackson went on for nearly 6 hours, you mentioned that some people had to get back home to pick their children up from school or to other responsibilities. You acknowledged that everyone there was passionate about education and had made sacrifices to be there that day. You were fair about watching the clock and notifying each speaker when it was time for them to wrap up.
Yet, when it came time for a short 15 minute break for lunch, after only about 2 hours of testimony and 15 more registered speakers remaining, you chose not to return. The other members of the panel, two teachers, the president of Camden County College, and a NJPTA representative sat down and no one knew or shared a reason for your premature departure. The crowd asked for then demanded answers, but there were none given. Several people took pictures of your empty chair and turned to social media to express their anger (some clever meme’s resulted).
The next day many of us scoured the news outlets to find out why you left. But there was nothing. Just good politics and basic manners alone would dictate cause for a response, but you are paid by the taxpayers to do your job. This public hearing was part of your job. When I was teaching, I was not able to simply leave at lunch time without explanation and my lunch break was not after only two hours of work.
Admittedly, it must have been tough to sit through such a grueling two hours of testimony. Not one speaker lacked passion or preparation. You heard from parents, teachers, administrators, and even an elementary student who took the day off of school to come and bravely address you. Every single testimony was aimed directly at ending the damaging high stakes PARCC test and at your and Governor Christie’s refusal to honestly and seriously address the fact that this test is causing unparalleled damage to the state of education.
Commissioner, the state of NJ is like the land of Oz, the curtain has been pulled back to reveal that our elected and appointed politicians are not the wizards they claim to be. The PARCC test and the ill-conceived reforms that led to it are not the heart, brain, and courage that parents, teachers, and taxpayers asked for.
Perhaps you do have a good reason for leaving or a good reason for not sharing it with the people you represent, after all you did stay for 6 hours of testimony in Jackson until nearly midnight. Regardless, the message is clear. After the Jackson testimony, your statements to the media did not reflect any consideration of the well-researched, intellectual and emotional evidence provided. So, chances are, even if you had stayed to honor the time and sacrifice of the remaining people waiting to testify, their words would have fallen on your deaf ears.
So, instead of asking for an explanation, I am writing to publicly ask for your job. I do not simply want you to resign. I want you to give your job to me. I am a veteran teacher of 12 years, who was driven to resign due to the current state of education, therefore I am free to accept the position.
I am willing to sacrifice my time with my four children under age of 7, to serve the people of NJ. I will hold as many public hearings as I possibly can and look people in the eyes when they speak. I will take their words and emotions to heart and honestly consider real solutions to addressing the problems. I won’t cater to special interests, and I won’t leave early unless one of my children is sick. I will act on behalf of the children, parents, and teachers not on behalf of the greedy pockets of corporate executives.
Thank you for your service, but the time has come for someone who knows and lives public education to take the reins. We need leaders that will listen to the public they serve.
You can read my testimony here.