NEWARK, NJ (WCBS 880/AP) – Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday he expects to have a Newark schools superintendent chosen and in place by May.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney: Christie Wants To Send Strong Signal To Community

Christie said he wants to have the new superintendent working before the new school year. The governor said he will be involved in the interview process, but he did not say how many candidates are being considered.

Former Newark School Superintendent Clifford Janey resigned in January, four months after Christie decided not to renew his contract to the $280,000 job.

Speaking at the Ann Street School, Christie said the state is about halfway to its goal of raising $100 million of private money to match the $100 million donation that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced last year to try to improve the state’s largest school district.

Christie said he spoke with Zuckerberg three weeks ago.

“He and I are both pleased with the progress being made, both in terms of fundraising and the things we’re doing to transform the things in Newark,” Christie said.

The Republican governor, who wants to get rid of teacher tenure and start a merit pay system, said those priorities won’t be the only factors for him in selecting a new superintendent but should be a consideration.

Christie took question from students, including a few pointed ones.

Seventh-grader Ashley Ortiz, 12, asked the governor why he thought preschool classes were similar to baby-sitting. Christie made the comparison during the gubernatorial primary election in 2009, when he criticized government funding of early-childhood education programs statewide.

“It probably wasn’t the best phrase I used in my life,” Christie said, adding that he thought the programs were helpful in some communities.

Sixth-grader Rachel Avidor, 12, asked Christie about having regrets. Christie said he had many but noted that he wished he read more as a kid. He said he often went to his room and pretended to read to fool his parents – something that many of the kids related to doing.

Avidor replied: “Welcome to my world!”

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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