Meet Chris Christie’s Controversial New Camden Schools Chief

“The government fired my father and placed him on a do-not-hire list. We came home one day, all of our possessions were taken — pictures on the wall, everything. Relatives were imprisoned and tortured, and some were executed. We were homeless.”

That’s from Paymon Rouhanifard, speaking today after being introduced as chief of Camden’s new state-run school system. While he’s only 32 and has a remarkable life story–his family fled from Iran when he was seven –Rouhanifard doesn’t lack for critics. From prominent education historian and activist Diane Ravitch (My bold, not hers. Expect to see many more bring up these same points):

He worked on Wall Street for Goldman Sachs. He worked for the New York City Department of Education, mainly in developing new charter schools. For the past 10 months, he has been the “Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer” in Newark, which translated, means charters and privatization. Notice that aside from his two years in TFA teaching sixth grade, he has never been a principal or a superintendent. He probably has no licenses to teach or administer in the state of New Jersey, although [New Jersey Secretary of Education Chris Cerf] may have abolished all such requirements by now. This is truly innovative, selecting an inexperienced young man who has never run a school to run a district of very poor kids.

Of course, many of the same career stops Ravtich sees as negatives–Teach for America, charter schools, corporate experience–Chris Christie and others see as positives.