Monday, July 6, 2015

For some Camden parents, a new superintendent would not make a difference

In case you missed it, my story Sunday talked about the new Camden City school board's task of sorting through proposals for new Renaissance Schools, and possibly approving of up to four such projects, while looking looking for a new superintendent. Milagros Torres, whom I quoted in my Sunday story, is doubtful a new schools leader would provide immediate relief for children currently struggling to succeed in the failing district.

For some Camden parents, a new superintendent would not make a difference

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In case you missed it, my story Sunday talked about the new Camden City school board’s task of sorting through proposals for new Renaissance Schools, and possibly approving of up to four such projects, while looking for a new superintendent.

The Renaissance Schools – which, like charters, are privately run but mostly publicly funded -- would be in addition to the 11 new charter schools that are in the pipeline to open in the next couple years. 

Some residents and community activists have been critical about the proliferation of charters (and now Renaissance schools), arguing that resources should be spent on improving Camden’s traditional public schools.

But then there are others, like Milagros Torres, whom I quoted in my Sunday story, who have had traumatic experiences with the regular public schools and are crying for help.

Would a new superintendent help the situation? Doubtful, Torres said Friday.

Since her 9-year-old daughter’s attack by three girls at Dudley Elementary School in March, Torres has joined community activist Angel Cordero in traveling to Trenton on an almost weekly basis to ask for passage of the Opportunity Scholarship Act. Torres wants to send her daughter, a third-grader, to school outside of the city, if possible.

The Opportunity Scholarship Act would provide tax breaks to companies that fund scholarships so children in failing districts could matriculate elsewhere. It is one of a number of education-related bills that Gov. Christie hopes to sign into law this year.

But unlike the Urban Hope Act, the legislation that Christie signed in January and which allows for the building of Renaissance Schools in Camden, the New Jersey Education Association is totally opposed to Opportunity Scholarship Act. The association has called the bill a voucher system that boosts private schools at the expense of the majority of students by siphoning tax dollars from traditional schools. (My colleague Matt Katz wrote about the Gov and NJEA's clash over this a couple months ago. See story.)

In case you were wondering, the girls who beat up Milagros’ daughter, Felicia, were arrested and charged with aggravated assault. Dudley Elementary School principal Joseph Ortiz called the attack an isolated incident.Felicia is currently being home-schooled.

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About this blog

Allison Steele writes about Camden’s schools, government and businesses. Most importantly, she writes about the city’s residents. She is a former crime reporter who covered the Camden and Philadelphia police departments for the Inquirer. A Philly native, she has been with the Inquirer since 2008.

Send comments, tips and story ideas to asteele@philly.com, call 856-779-3876, or reach out on Twitter @AESteele.

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