Thursday, February 11, 2016

Archive: February, 2013

POSTED: Thursday, February 21, 2013, 7:02 PM

After more than two weeks of testimony from business owners and crime experts, the Camden business curfew trial concluded Wednesday.

A decision, though, could take another month.

Final briefs from each side are due to presiding Camden County Superior Court Judge Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina on March 6. Fernandez-Vina will make a decision sometime after that, his secretary said.

Claudia Vargas @ 7:02 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 2:49 PM

Following my story Monday on LEAP Academy University Charter School’s executive chef receiving a $24,000 raise, the school put out a statement. However, I never received the statement until I was contacted today by the school’s food service company, Metz Culinary Management, which forwarded it to me.

In a statement of its own, the food company also seeks to clarify its involvement (or non-involvement) with LEAP Executive Chef Michele Pastorello’s $95,000 salary.

A board meeting is to be held tonight in which school officials have asked parents to attend to show support, according to a person who has received the e-mail.

Claudia Vargas @ 2:49 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, February 14, 2013, 5:14 PM

As my Sunday story on Camden’s poverty showed, many people and groups trying to make a difference in the city.

Father Jud Weiksnar, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church, is one of a number of clergy members I interviewed for the story whose efforts are focused on helping and empowering Camden’s children. He has taken on the city and county in his fight to clean up Von Neida Park in Cramer Hill.

After what seemed like a fruitless fight in 2011, Weiksnar got the youth from St. Anthony’s parochial school to start a Von Neida Park Student Task Force. The students have since done several park cleanups, met with local officials and continue to plan park improvements.

Claudia Vargas @ 5:14 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 2:39 PM

Despite the bleak Camden statistics mentioned in my Sunday article on the city’s spiraling poverty, some city residents continue to work in the city and send their kids to city schools -- people like firefighter Andy Delgado and teacher Keith Benson, both of whom I featured in my article.

Because of the space constraints, Delgado and Benson each received only a few lines in the newspaper to share their passion about the city and trying to make it better.

Benson, who purchased a home on one of the city’s most stable streets in Parkside, sends his 9-year-old daughter to Cooper's Poynt School in North Camden. He likes what he sees there, and she seems to be excelling.

Claudia Vargas @ 2:39 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, February 11, 2013, 1:28 PM

Charley Shambry, one of the many city residents featured in my "Inquirer Special Report" on Camden's poverty, can't walk with his 2-year-old niece and nephew farther than a block in his Bergen Square neighborhood without running into a prominent drug sect.

"I don't want them getting near that," he told me last fall as I chatted with him in the kitchen of his Bergen Square home. When his 15-year-old twins get home, they also are not allowed to hang outside.

"It's horrible," he says of the violence in Camden.

Claudia Vargas @ 1:28 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, February 5, 2013, 2:15 PM

The Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and a group of Camden clergy will be hosting a day of healing Saturday for the families of last year’s Camden homicide victims.

The Family Day of Healing & Hope will include seminars in relaxation techniques and how to help children cope with tragedy; counseling sessions with clergy and massage rooms.

"We hope that those who attend will share their stories, learn new coping strategies to deal with grief and loss and find strength in community," Linda Burkett, Director of the Prosecutor's Office Victim Witness Unit, said in a news release statement.

@ 2:15 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, February 4, 2013, 8:23 PM

Will the third time be a charm for Camden in its quest to shut down businesses early for the sake of public safety?

Camden County Superior Court Judge Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina began listening to testimony Monday in the Camden business curfew case, the third one in 15 years.

The curfew ordinance, intended to help curb crime, was enacted on Sept. 19, 2011. It requires businesses in residential zones or within 200 feet of a residential zone to close between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays and between midnight and 6 a.m. on weekends. The curfew does not apply to pharmacies or businesses holding liquor licenses or selling fuel.

@ 8:23 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Saturday, February 2, 2013, 11:17 AM
Camden County School Superintendent Peg Nicolosi with LEAP Academy University Charter pre-schoolers in 2009. Tax-exempt status was revoked. MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer

In addition to LEAP Academy University Charter School’s financial woes, the school has been hit was a lawsuit alleging misappropriation of school and scholarship money.

The lawsuit filed in January by LEAP employee Mark Paoli, who served as the school facilities manager for 12 years before being demoted in May, alleges LEAP founder and board chair Gloria Bonilla-Santiago “routinely demanded that he perform work on her home while on LEAP Academy time and using LEAP Academy, tools, equipment and supplies.”

Some examples of the work Bonilla-Santiago allegedly ordered Paoli to do during school hours included fixing the gutter, leaks and the air-conditioning system in her house.

@ 11:17 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
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, call 856-779-3876, or reach out on Twitter @AESteele.

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