Camden native Katz to open charter school at the Parkside Boys & Girls Club

Camden school board president Susan Dunbar-Bey was thrilled when she received a call a couple of months ago saying millionaire businessman Lewis Katz wanted to talk about helping the district.

Dunbar-Bey was prepared to discuss the Camden High football field renovation and construction of a new Lanning Square Elementary School.

"We figured if he wanted to help us, those were our needs," Dunbar-Bey said Thursday.

But neither item was on Katz's agenda. During the breakfast meeting, Dunbar-Bey, board member Martha Wilson, and deputy superintendent Reuben Mills listened to other ideas, including the Knowledge A to Z, or KATZ, Academy, a charter school Katz plans to operate at the Boys & Girls Club in Parkside. He contributed to building the $6.5 million clubhouse in 2001.

Katz Academy, which plans to open with 135 elementary students, is one of six new charters the state has approved for Camden pending final review. On July 15, state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf will announce which schools are ready to go based on valid certification of occupancy, number of teachers and staff to be hired, and other criteria.

Since taking office, Gov. Christie has advocated for more school choice, especially in poor cities. He has accelerated charter-school approvals, recently signed the Urban Hope Act, which allows nonprofit companies to operate "renaissance schools," and has been pushing for legislation to authorize corporate-sponsored scholarships for students in failing districts to attend private and parochial schools.

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