Where to even begin?
I’ve had an incredible 2 years, 8 months and couple weeks covering the great city of Camden, NJ. It was an honor and privilege to take over the beat that Matt Katz did such a fine job covering.
A year after getting a handle of the city and school system, I decided to start Camden Flow. I tend to over-report stories I figured a blog was the best way to get my “extra” info out to the public. But it evolved into more than that.
As Camden students go back to school today, they might see their new school superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard, who started last week. But they are more likely to see more immediate changes that directly affect them.
We sat down with the state-appointed leader on Friday to discuss his plans for Camden schools. A lot of his work in the first few months will be focused on simply looking at how Camden schools currently operate and taking note of what teachers, students and families have to say about the system. (Check out today's story on Rouhanifard HERE)
There are some changes that have already been implemented by state officials for the start of this school year such as new technology, including mini i-Pads and Google Chrome books at certain schools. Each students will also get two sets of language arts and math books (one for home and one to keep in the classroom), which is a big step up from the photocopies of books the youths used to receive.
A memorial service for Camden community activist Frank Fulbrook will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday at Sacred Heart Church in Camden.
The first part of the service, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. will be visitation. That will be followed by some scripture readings and a short homily. A portion of time will be dedicated to "Friends of Frank Eulogy" for family and friends to share memories of Fulbrook who died last week.
An anniversary mass and walk will be held Monday for the 6-year-old hero who died last year when he saved his sister’s life in a horrific attack.
Dominick Andujar died on Sept. 2 as he tried to defend his 12-year-old sister against a knife-wielding intruder. The man turned the knife on Dominick, slicing his throat and leaving him dead. But Dominick gave the man enough of a struggle that his sister Amber was able to escape and survive.
The last year has been a rollercoaster of emotions for the family. On March 18, Dominick’s family took pizza and cake to the cemetery where he is buried and held a birthday party for him under rain and ice. Dominick would’ve turned 7 that day.
At Tuesday’s Camden school board meeting, the new superintendent was the topic du jour, with some residents and teachers expressing their frustration to the board.
“It’s an insult to the Camden community when there are equally and more qualified candidates (in the district) who weren’t considered,” Keith Walker said of the superintendent selection process. Interim superintendent Peggy Nicolosi led the meeting.
Teacher union president Laverne Harvey complained about teachers and principals being held at a higher standard than Paymon Rouhanifard, who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science and is not a certified principal or superintendent. Rouhanifard was not at the Tuesday's meeting.
In addition to the water slides and other amenities the Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Camden's Cramer Hill neighborhood will have once completed next year, visitors will also enjoy an exotic fish exhibit.
The community center on Thursday received a $25,000 donation from Adventure Aquarium, of which $15,000 will go toward a 7' by 4' fish exhibit featuring marine creatures from around the world. The other $10,000 will go toward the Building Hope and Changing Lives campaign, which is the main fund for the $90 million project, slated to be completed next year.
The 120,000 square-foot facility is expected to create 160 new jobs and will feature a fitness center, an eight-lane competition pool and water park, a chapel, a black box theater and dance studio. It also features indoor and outdoor basketball courts and ball fields.
The New Jersey State Board of Education has scheduled a special meeting Monday to vote on Gov. Christie's selection for Camden superintendent.
Paymon Rouhanifard, 32, of New York, was announced Wednesday as Christie's pick for the next Camden school chief. The state board is expected approve the selection.
Since it is a state-run district, the state board will also set Rouhanifard's salary. One state board approval is complete, Rouhanifard will begin his job as head of the most troubled district in the state.
More pay-to-play issues in South Jersey; Moorestown looking to allow much bigger campaign contributions
Moorestown Township Council will hold a public hearing tonight in a controversial move to increase the political campaign-contributions threshold for businesses looking to contract with the township.
The campaign contribution limits currently in the Moorestown code are similar to those set forth in Camden's pay-to-play ordinance. The ordinance, if passed, would increase the amount a business entity could donate from $300 in the year preceding a given contract to $2,600. It would also increase the maximum amount allowed to be donated to Moorestown Township party committees or to any political action committee (PAC) to $7,200, up from $300 and $500 respectively.
Moorestown current law and suggested changes have been criticized by campaign-finance-reform advocate the Citizens Campaign.