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On March 23d at 5:30, Janet Pablo, a Camden mother of three, turned on a Facebook app on her phone and, for the very first time, listened to the Camden City School Board meeting in real time —and in Spanish. This event occurred because Camden City Public Schools, in partnership with a media company called The Latino Spirit, began live simulcasts of its board meetings in Spanish.
The partnership is paid for by a $6,000 grant from the Camden Education Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to accelerating progress in Camden’s public schools system by identifying citywide needs in education and funding them.
Currently 54% of Camden traditional schools’ 6,000 students are Hispanic; 30% speak Spanish at home. Of New Jersey’s 1.3 million public school students, almost a third, or more than 400,000, are Hispanic.
Pablo’s three children attend Camden’s K-8 Thomas Dudley School, where 27% of students are English Language Learners, 71% are Hispanic, and 45.7% speak Spanish at home. After watching the three-hour meeting simulcast in Spanish, she told the Star-Ledger, “they provided updates on the (coronavirus) protocols being put in place, the continued availability of meals and what we as parents need to know about our children’s safety this year. It makes us feel like they care about our community and want to inform us, instead of leaving these families to the side.”
Camden Superintendent Katrina McCombs said, “This is groundbreaking for us as a city… when we think of inclusivity and the importance of all voices being heard.”