In one-on-one meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, dozens of staffers at the Camden School Administration Building were given layoff notices, the first step in a district-wide restructuring expected to eliminate hundreds of positions by May 15.
The district notified 94 people this week that their positions would be eliminated. Earlier this month the district warned it would be reducing staff positions by up to 575 to bridge a $75 million revenue shortfall heading into the 2014-2015 school year.
Including the elimination of vacant positions and expected retirements, the layoffs are expected to affect about 400 people, including teaching staff who will be notified in coming weeks.
The two school operators hoping to open “Renaissance schools” in Camden this fall requested waivers from the state for the portion of the application requiring that they provide an address and building schematics plan.
Mastery and Uncommon Schools are looking to be approved to open in the fall 2014-2015 school year and have been working with the city to determine a permanent location for the schools they hope to build or renovate, pending state approval, the applications say. June 2 is the final deadline for round two of the application process. Round two requires applicants to share construction schedule, agreement to purchase land, and financing plan, among other details.
In the meantime, they've started recruiting students and teachers and have secured temporary locations for next year through the district.
I've been covering Camden for the Inquirer since August and I get my share of criticism, often fair, about the negative depiction of the city.
It's a place that has owned too many unwanted superlatives - highest crime rate, lowest graduation rate, all compounded by extreme poverty.
But Thursday's North Camden night garden festival showed off the spirit and creativity of the city and the untapped potential for its North Camden waterfront, currently covered in parking lots and grassy fields. Cooper's Ferry Partnerships spent around $20,000 in the form of a William Penn Foundation grant to put on the show.
A grassroots education group, frequently and oftentimes fiercely critical of the state’s charter laws, is questioning whether Camden’s process of bringing two more Renaissance Schools to Camden violated state statute.
On Monday Save Our Schools sent a letter to Comissioner David C. Hespe at the Department of Education raising concerns over promotional materials mailed home detailing Mastery and Uncommon Schools and a letter explaining enrollment at Mastery. The letter to the commissioner also takes issue with the district's application of the Urban Hope Act, which created the district-hybrid schools in Camden.
The Department of Education did not return calls for comment.
On Thursday morning, outside an abandoned building on Federal Street, Nohemi Soria, of the Camden Children’s Garden, danced in a bright peach shirt, flower crown in her hair, toward a camera-man panning with her as she strutted to Pharrell’s hit song.
Some cars slowed, passersby stopped. It’s not every day a mini-film crew descends on the city.
The public hearing and second vote on a tax abatement for an affordable housing complex in Camden will be Tuesday April 8, not tonight.
A judge last week ordered Camden City Council re-open the ordinance, which grants Broadway Townhouses a 20-year tax abatement, for public debate. Judge Lee Solomon said the council must also re-vote on the issue since the first vote in April 2013 was held at a meeting which was not properly advertised to the public.
An article published Monday said the hearing would be today, Tuesday April 1 but that meeting is a caucus and will be closed to public comment.
Camden's first skyscraper has a new owner.
In today's paper I reported LEAP Academy Charter was looking into buying the Wilson building at 130 North Broadway, adjacent to its campus.
It turns out, they already did.
Rita Bianchi teaches language arts at St. Anthony of Padua in Camden. In her sixth grade class she has a student with great potential but who lacks any kind of drive. When she approaches him, tries to pump him up or get him engaged, he shrugs her off with a heart-breaking answer.
“What do you expect from me, I’m from Camden?”
Bianchi, new to the city herself – she taught at St. Mary’s in Bordentown before the school closed – asked a panel of education experts Monday what she could say to the student and how educators in the city can overcome the helplessness that often weighs down the children who come through their brightly-decorated doors.