Cerf finally confirmed as commissioner

Published on Monday, September 10, 2012

It took longer than he hoped, but Christopher Cerf has been confirmed as New Jersey’s commissioner of education. He has been serving in that same role in an “acting” capacity for 18 months.

Cerf’s confirmation was held up because of senatorial courtesy, which allows the senator from a nominee's home county to block a gubernatorial appointment. Democratic Sen. Ron Rice, who represents Cerf’s home district of Montclair, refused to sign off on his nomination. Cerf got around the rule by renting an apartment in Somerset County, where he resides during the week.

Unfortunately for the commissioner, Cerf’s new title has coincided with some high-profile departures from his team at the Department of Education. Deputy Commissioner Andy Smarick, who was appointed by Cerf’s predecessor Bret Schundler, has taken a job with a nonprofit think-tank in Washington, D.C.

In addition, Cerf's chief of staff, David Hespe, was named president of Burlington County College while Chief Academic Officer Penny MacCormack was appointed superintendent of the Montclair public schools.

A department spokeswoman said the agency would forge ahead with its reform plans, which include the transition to the Common Core, a new teacher evaluation system and the introduction of new statewide assessments.

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