Could marketing campaign help the Camden School District retain its students?

The likely influx of charter schools to the Camden School District in September has some school board members worried.

At Wednesday night’s budget meeting (yes, another one), a few members complained about the increase in charter schools taking away money from the district schools. The board is predicting that $56.5 million of the school’s $314 million budget will go to fund the city’s charter schools in 2012-13, compared to $43 million this year.

The city currently has seven charter schools, and six are planning to open in September, pending final state approval.

“That’s going to kill the school district,” said board member Sara Davis. “This district is going to be wiped away, and we are not doing or saying anything.”

Davis and board president Susan Dunbar-Bey both pitched marketing ideas as a way to retain students in the district.

“I don’t think charters can compete with what our districts have,” Dunbar-Bey told the board. “We have some good programs.”

She suggested launching a marketing campaign.

Davis took it a step further and asked whether money could be put aside to fund a documentary on the school district. She suggested using money from the CCS-TV Station budget to fund such a project.

Business administrator Celeste Ricketts did not know whether that was possible and simply took note of the idea.

This all came 24 hours after Mayor Dana L. Redd proclaimed in her State of the City address that she wants parents and students to have choices in schools, whether they are traditional public, charters or renaissance schools. In recent months Redd has been very outspoken about the school district failing to meet her expectations for education reform.

The board also is dealing with a $5.5 million cut in state aid in the 2012-13 school year. Even so, the state will provide $276 million of the city’s total budget, which provides for the education of 13,000 students in 27 schools.

To deal with the aid cut, more than $1 million was cut from the central administration office. And there were salary reductions of more than $3 million. Total schools budgets were cut by 10 percent, or $851,000.

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