Sunday LeftoversOctober 18, 2009
Preschool Panacea?October 21, 2009
How dysfunctional is the Camden Board of Education? So dysfunctional that Board President Sara Davis tried to award an insurance contract to a firm that bid $100,000 over another so that she could garner the votes to maintain her presidency.
According to the Courier-Post, Davis pressured the Board and the Camden Business Administrator to award the contract to M&C Insurance Agency and McCollum Insurance Abstract and Title Agency because, per an internal memo from the B.A., “M&C is a [Democratic] machine company and she is not a machine person but she needs the machine votes to be elected board president.”
At least Davis is consistent. She has already been censured by the State for serving on the district’s negotiating committee and negotiating a lower perscription co-pay for herself (she’s a former Camden teacher).
It would be bad enough if Camden was serving its students. Of course, it’s not. Camden High School is in its 6th (soon to be 7th) year as a School In Need Of Improvement (SINI); in fact, 27 of Camden’s 31 schools bear the label. Over half the kids can’t pass the high school assessment, a middle school level test. And it’s not for lack of resources: taxpayers sent Camden $281.6 million in state aid this year. As unlikely a cadre composed of Education Commissioner Lucille Davy, Education Law Center Director David Sciarra, and E3’s Derrell Bradford have decried the district’s lack of leadership.
Example: East Camden Middle School, which serves 452 kids in grades 6-8. It’s in its 8th year as a SINI. In 2007-2008, 80.6% of 6th graders failed the NJ ASK assessment in math and 87.5% failed the NJ ASK assessment in language arts. Last year 57% of the children there were suspended (the state average is 5%). It’s not for lack of supervision: there is one administrator for every 150 kids. (The state average is one administrator for every 262 kids.)
Where do we go from here? The district’s already under state supervision. How about turning Camden Public Schools over to a successful charter organization, which is one of the options for restructuring under NCLB guidelines? It couldn’t be worse for the kids. It might even be better.