The Camden Board of Education, in a move that surprised everyone including its own members, rejected all four proposals to build renaissance schools in the city.
The early morning decision (just after midnight) came after a closed session meeting in which the board discussed the four applications.
The proposals for Ben Franklin Academy, Camden Center for Youth Development and Universal Company were voted down by every member.
The Kipp Cooper Norcross Academy, which scored highest on the rubric and was rumored to be the chosen one, was rejected by a lack of majority vote. Board members Felicia Reyes-Morton and Barbara Coscarello, both of who served on the review committee, along with board president Kathryn Blackshear and board vice-president Martha Wilson voted ‘yes’ for the Kipp project.
As expected, Sean Brown, Sara Davis and Kathryn Ribay voted ‘no’ (Ray Lamboy, who has recently been a vocal critic of the proposals review process abstained from all votes).
The tipping ‘no’ vote came from city attorney Brian Turner, a rookie board member who often sits quiet at meetings. Turner arrived to the board just before the vote-- almost six hours after the meeting had started -- and voted down all proposals. As he walked out, I asked him why he voted the way he did but he declined to comment.
Cooper University Chief of Staff Louis S. Bezich sat through the entire meeting and was shocked to hear the board’s decision.
The board’s vote “was not consistent with the process,” Bezich said, referring to Kipp’s scoring on the rubric.
“It seems like a rejection of the Urban Hope Act and not just our proposal,” Bezich said. Asked what the group’s plan is now, he said: “We’re going to have to talk to the state and school board officials.”
Board vice-president Martha Wilson said the state could potentially veto the board’s decision.