Pa. principals to lead two of Camden's most challenging schools

The Camden school district has recruited two educators from across the river to fill the principal spots at two of its most challenging schools. Tuesday evening, the school board approved the hiring of:

  • Karen Jones-Rodgers, an elementary school principal in the Chester Upland School District. She will be principal at Henry L. Bonsall Elementary. She is no stranger to Camden, having worked at Freedom Academy Charter School there from 2004 to 2005.
  • Lisa Thomas, a high school administrator in the Philadelphia School District, will be the new principal at Woodrow Wilson High School.

A second round of interviews is to be conducted next week to fill the principal spot at Charles Sumner Elementary, said Interim Superintendent Reuben Mills.

The current vice principal at East Camden Middle School, Shareef Daaliya, was promoted to principal there.

The leadership reshuffle at the four schools stems from a state Department of Education accountability plan that was created when New Jersey was granted a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind requirements this year.

Under the plan, principals of the worst performing schools — labeled “priority schools” — who cannot produce improved student achievement after three years must be replaced.

In a letter to the district in June, state Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf ordered the principals at Woodrow Wilson High School, Charles Sumner Elementary, East Camden Middle School, and Henry L. Bonsall Elementary replaced by the start of the school year because of the consistently low performance of the schools.
It has not yet been determined where the displaced tenured principals will go within the district.

“I’m going to have to be as creative as possible” in reassigning those principals, Mills said Wednesday. “My goal is to have the rest of the organization within the next two weeks.”

The president of the Camden principals’ union, Calvin Gunning, had complained earlier this week that these principals had yet to know where they will be placed with classes set to start Sept. 6.
Mills attributed the delay to the state’s decision to get involved in the principal selection process.

“We have to work in concert with the (Regional Achievement Center). … They just came on board two weeks ago,” Mills said.

The Camden Regional Achievement Center is staffed by about a dozen state education department specialists who are to assist in turning around the district’s priority schools. Though a physical location has not been set aside yet for the center, the Camden RAC director, David Hardy, already has begun working alongside district officials.