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5-1-13 Camden Schools in the News
NJ Spotlight - Camden Board Doesn’t Resist State Takeover of Schools…Community activists, educators voice concerns over impact on troubled urban district “With little debate among board members but plenty in the audience, the Camden Board of Education last night voted not to challenge the Christie administration’s planned takeover of its public schools…”

Philadelphia Inquirer - Camden board says it's cutting more than 100 jobs

NJ Spotlight - Camden Board Doesn’t Resist State Takeover of Schools…Community activists, educators voice concerns over impact on troubled urban district  With little debate among board members but plenty in the audience, the Camden Board of Education last night voted not to challenge the Christie administration’s planned takeover of its public schools…”

By John Mooney, May 1, 2013 in Education

With little debate among board members but plenty in the audience, the Camden Board of Education last night voted not to challenge the Christie administration’s planned takeover of its public schools.

The board voted 4-2 in favor of a resolution that waived its right to a legal hearing over the state’s intervention, likely removing the last legal obstacle before the full intervention takes place this summer.

The resolution read that local consent would be “in the best interest of the children of the district and the district,” and that the district and its employees would fully cooperate and share information with state officials in the transition.

With formal approval still needed from the State Board of Education, the local vote nonetheless opens the way for the administration to start looking for the district’s next superintendent and the overhaul of the district’s central office, as it seeks to remake what is arguably the lowest-performing school district in the state.

Even as it gets relegated to advisory status, the board’s acquiescence was largely expected since Gov. Chris Christie first announced the takeover plan in March. The board is also entirely appointed by Mayor Dana Redd, who strongly backed the state’s plans and stood with Christie when the takeover was announced.

But the lack of any meaningful resistance at all was a little surprising, especially given the concerns and criticism that continue to dog the state’s long-running oversight of schools in Newark, Paterson and Jersey City.

Some community advocates and others in the audience let the board know their displeasure, some more diplomatically than others.

“You sold us down the darn tube,” said Joyce Carter, a former employee in the district, echoing a half-dozen others who spoke during public testimony.

The vote on the resolution came at the very end of the meeting held at the H.B. Wilson Elementary School, which reflected the challenges that will immediately greet the state in its new role.

For one, the district is slated to eliminate more than 110 positions in next year’s budget, more than 60 of them classroom teaching positions.

Approximately 35 administrative positions are also to be lost, and more than a dozen of those administrators came to protest last night.

In all, dozens of educators attended the meeting to openly challenge the layoffs, reminding the administration that one of the first tasks in state intervention will also be to negotiate new contracts with both the principals and the teachers.

In addition, community activists attending the meeting said they will proceed with their legal challenge of plans for a network of new privately-run public schools in Camden under the Urban Hope Act.

The first of those schools, run by the KIPP charter school network, is slated to be built in the next year in partnership with Cooper Health Systems and its chairman, South Jersey businessman and political leader George Norcross III.

Board members voted on the consent resolution as part of a package of more than 30 resolutions, with virtually no discussion. By that point, the auditorium was almost empty as midnight approached.

Some cautionary words came earlier from outgoing board member Sean Brown, who said promises by state officials and Mayor Redd will only go so far. Brown was one of the two dissenting votes on the resolution.

“If mayors and governors want to make decisions and judgments on what happens in schools, then they at some point be in those schools,” Brown said. “Not just for press conferences to announce a takeover or partnership, but to take tours to see the inadequacy of our facilities, the excellence of our teachers, and the thirst for learning of our students.”

Philadelphia Inquirer - Camden board says it's cutting more than 100 jobs

Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 10:20 Pm  Claudia Vargas

The Camden Board of Education will eliminate more than 100 positions in the 2013-14 school year, officials said at Tuesday night's meeting.

 

In front of more than 100 people, most district employees, the board announced that the cuts would include about 32 teaching positions and 35 supervisory positions such as vice principals, department heads, and supervisors. The district has about 2,700 full-time employees.

 

Since the board approved a $326.5 million operating budget for 2013-14 earlier this year, it was estimated that about 100 positions would be eliminated, but it was not clear until Tuesday which positions would be cut. The budget, which included the cuts, is about $10 million more than the current school year's budget.

 

Some of the eliminated positions are vacant; others are filled by employees planning to retire. Employees whose jobs are cut could be moved to similar positions within the district, school officials have said.

 

A large group of school employees gathered by the microphone at Tuesday's meeting to express disappointment in the proposed job eliminations.

 

The teachers union president, LaVerne Harvey, complained about so much district money going to charter schools. "I'm just saddened by what charter schools have done to the members of our association," Harvey said.

 

About $66 million of the district's budget will go toward charter schools. Charter schools receive up to 90 percent of per-pupil costs in the district.

 

"In order to balance the budget, positions need to be eliminated," said interim Superintendent Reuben Mills. "In getting to that point, we are making these recommendations."

 

Calvin Gunning, representing the Camden principals union, called the elimination of so many employees "a union-busting tactic."

 

Teachers, supervisors, and union representatives were lined up by the dozens waiting to decry the job cuts late Tuesday.

 

Contact Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or cvargas@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," at www.philly.com/camden_flow=


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