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Ex-Education Commissioner Chris Cerf narrowly wins approval to become Newark schools chief

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NEWARK, New Jersey — A former state education commissioner narrowly won approval Wednesday to become the new state-appointed superintendent of Newark Public Schools.

The state Board of Education voted 6-4 in favor of Christopher Cerf's nomination. The 60-year-old Montclair resident succeeds Cami Anderson, who stepped down last month after an often stormy four-year tenure.

Anderson's time in office was marked by conflict in Newark, where some parents and students opposed her plan to overhaul the struggling district. Some organized a boycott on the first day of school last September.

Newark's schools have been under state control for decades, but officials have said their focus now is to guide the district back to local control.

Cerf was New Jersey's education commissioner for three years, starting in early 2011.

Each of the six board members who voted in favor of him was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie, while the four opposed have held their positions since before he took office.

NJ.com reported that many Newark officials expressed disappointment with the board's decision, but most of them seemed willing to put aside their concerns to foster a positive relationship with Cerf.

"We have to work with our new superintendent to drive the school district to what we want it to be," said Ariagna Perello, chairwoman of the city's School Advisory Board.

John Abeigon, the new president of Newark's teachers union, was less conciliatory. NJ.com reported that he was removed from the meeting after he began shouting from the back of the room after the vote.

In a statement issued later Wednesday, Abeigon said the board's vote would contribute to the "ongoing destruction of public schools in Newark." He also called for federal oversight of all Cerf's actions as school chief.

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