NJEA President Barbara Keshishian issued the following statement in response to this morning’s announcement by the Christie administration that it is taking over the Camden Public Schools:
“It is always preferable to have public schools managed by local communities, and the citizens of Camden must be assured that they will continue to have a strong and respected voice in reforming a public school system that meets the needs of all Camden students.
“The track record for state-run districts has been questionable at best, and NJEA will withhold judgment on the Camden takeover model until we see the details. Of course, the state has had essential control over the Camden schools for several years now, through the installation of a fiscal monitor and last summer’s establishment of a state Regional Achievement Center (RAC), which is housed in Camden school administration offices.
“I want to remind Gov. Christie and Commissioner Cerf that NJEA is not a newcomer to education reform and leadership in Camden. For years now, we have proudly invested our resources, both human and financial, in a number of productive initiatives to benefit student achievement in the city.
“Since last September, NJEA and the Camden Education Association (CEA) have established two NJEA Priority Schools projects in Camden – at the Pyne Point Middle School and the Yorkship Elementary School – in which we work closely with parents, administrators, and the RAC to create models for successful urban schools, and we expect to open three more Priority Schools in Camden in September.
“NJEA and the CEA have established a very strong, respectful, and productive relationship with the state RAC in Camden, and are currently working collaboratively to create a comprehensive K through 12 literacy program, which will be a strong contributor to student achievement. That project involves school supervisors, teachers, the RAC, and representatives of both Rutgers and Rowan Universities. The NJEA, through its partnership with the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning, is also bringing high-quality training for Camden teachers in the areas of science and math. That’s the kind of collaboration that spells success in urban districts.
“In addition, NJEA has brought its acclaimed FAST – Families and Schools Together – program to Camden, and it has been enormously successful in building strong links between parents and teachers. We’ve also created a highly successful partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Camden County, with two clubs in Camden – in Parkside and East Camden. The clubs give students safe places to play, learn, and make friends when the school day is done, and to stay on track in school. And the CEA, in partnership with NJEA, has recently completed a multi-year gang awareness and mentor training for school staff and community volunteers.
“Everyone knows that educational leadership has been inconsistent in Camden over the years, and we expect the Christie administration will acknowledge the need for – and work to provide – consistent and strong instructional leadership in the city’s schools.
“Our members are dedicated to the public schools of Camden, where great things are happening against the tallest of odds. The success stories out of Brimm Medical and the Performing Arts High Schools are proof that all Camden students can learn at the highest levels if they are given the proper support and guidance at the administrative level, supporting the hard work of their teachers and their community.
“NJEA wants to assure the parents and students of Camden that NJEA and the Camden Education Association will continue to provide expertise, support, and our undying commitment to Camden students and to the Camden Public Schools.”