Mr. Cerf, 56 years old, will be nominated to lead a department that has been adrift since the sacking of its former commissioner, Bret Schundler, in the wake of the state's loss in a federal education grant competition. A spokeswoman for the governor wouldn't confirm the selection.
Mr. Christie has spent the past year cutting school funding, tangling with teachers and superintendents, and trying to make New Jersey's schools do more with less. He has pointed to Newark and other cities as examples of school systems where more money has not led to sufficient education gains, leaving children "trapped" in failing schools.
Joel Klein, the outgoing chancellor of New York City schools, where Mr. Cerf served as a deputy chancellor until 2009, called Mr. Cerf "a man of enormous intellect, talent and deep understanding of K-12 education and would be a terrific leader."
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