This speech was given by Camden parent Carmen Crespo at a press conference last week announcing a lawsuit against the Camden School District:

It is an honor to be here today speaking on behalf of the thousands of parents of school age children in this city who, until very recently, haven’t had their voices heard. Until just a few months ago, I, like most Camden parents, was unaware of the changes coming into our district or how they would affect my children and my neighbor’s children. I quickly learned that our school district was supposedly in a funding deficit and would be laying off many teachers and support staff to cover this supposed deficit.

I also learned that applications were filed to open new Renaissance schools, using the district funding that Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard claimed that we did not have. The more I learned, the more I felt the need to advocate on behalf of our children and of the teachers and staff who were being taken away from us. Those teachers love our children and have dedicated their lives to educating them so that they can grow up and be successful adults.

Needless to say, when our children found out that some of their favorite teachers were being taken away, they cried and couldn’t understand why this was happening. One child went up to the podium at a rally and cried “they are taking our teachers away. The best ones too”. Parents were nervous about what to expect in the upcoming school year and how long it would take before the Renaissance charter schools took most of the children from the public schools, causing those public schools to close their doors because of the lack of enrollment and funding.

We also could not understand why this was being done to us without our approval? We are perfectly capable of deciding what is best for our children! Why was the state forcing this privatization on our district against our wishes?

Although we had many concerns about what was happening to our public schools, the vast majority of Camden parents kept their children in the public school system. Mr. Rouhanifard made promises of change, increased safety control, and physical improvements to our buildings. He promised he had staffing “perfected.”

Now let’s fast forward to the first day of school, September 2, 2014. What should have been an exciting new adventure for the children, ended up being a nightmare for them and their families. Despite Mr. Rouhanifard’s promises, schools were grossly understaffed and had substitutes in place of many of the permanent teachers.

I contacted the Superintendent and asked for a rapid solution to my son’s 1st grade class not having a permanent licensed teacher. I received a call from a member of the Superintendent’s team who indicated that there were many last minute retirees whom they hadn’t planned on having to replace and that the superintendent was working to resolve the problem, but had no idea how soon that would be.

A good manager would have been prepared for these kinds of situations and would not have created a work environment that drove away his most experienced teachers.

I began to hear from more parents across the city about substitute teachers at their schools. Now I don’t know the exact number of vacancies but what I managed to put together is a disheartening list.

  • Sharp Elementary needs a 1st, 4th, 5th, as well as a music teacher
  • Brimm Medical Arts needs Mandarin Chinese and Business Education teachers
  • Yorkship needs a 6th grade and two 5th grade teachers and a Media teacher
  • Whittier Elementary needs 1st and 3rd grade teachers as well as teachers of Art, Spanish, Media and libra. They have 0 inclusion teachers for grades 6-8 (not even a sub). They have one 7th grade class with 31 students
  • Cooper’s Point needs a 6th grade math teacher
  • Wiggins has vacancies in 3rd grade Spanish, 4th grade inclusion, 7th grade math, and needs a librarian
  • Pyne Point is missing a librarian and a music teacher.
  • Cramer needs kindergarten, 1st, 3rd and 5th grades teachers
  • Vets has a shortage of 2 art, 1 social studies and 1 science teacher
  • I’ve also had complaints from many schools about a shortage of speech therapists. Whittier has none and ECDC has only 1 for the entire school

Missing-Piece

There are many vacancies in inclusion classes also. IEP students need special accomodations as well security and stability. I spoke to one parent of an IEP kindergarten student who has to transfer her child several times was initially transferred to Sumner. At Sumner there was no kindergarten teacher and now her child is being transferred to Yorkship. This mom isn’t alone. There are many parents of special needs children who are getting the run-around. This is a scary situation for these parents as well as their children.

It is inexcusable that Superintendent Rouhanifard allowed a new school year to begin without properly staffing our schools. It seems as though our public schools are being set up for failure.

But the Superintendent should know that Camden parents believe firmly in our public schools and we aren’t going anywhere.

We demand the same resources and opportunities to succeed and flourish for our public school students as what you have given to the Renaissance schools. We want full funding, full staffing, new supplies, better resources, and renovations to the physical facilities in our schools.

A great education isn’t our children’s privilege. It is their right!

 

 Please “like” the Local Knowledge Blog on Facebook!

Comments

  • In Camden, it’s never about the children. I retired after 27 years, in the first two of which I felt as if I was actually ” teaching ” and being productive with my students. From that point on, it was evident that the state wanted its hands in Camden’s pot. The last 6 years have proven that theory. The last 4 have sealed the coffin for public education in Camden. The loss of the best veteran teachers who were not ready to retire ( and who were forced out by this process ) has taken away the educational security from Camden’s children…THEY lose.
    These parents have every right to demand what is best for their children and to demand input in the educational process that will affect those lives forever. It’s a misconception to suppose that the initial year of change will have so many kinks to work out. A year in the life of these children can make or break their progress…and that’s unacceptable!
    ” If you see something, say something” applies here, too. Stay strong, parents of Camden’s kids…OUR kids!

  • The “State” has supposedly been working “improve” Camden City Schools for at least twelve years now. Okay, so the “state” pays the state to improve schools and this does NOT happen so the state takes over? Foul play. Its a big business and unfortunately our children get slighted in the deal. I don’t understand why people do not see it is much higher than the superintedent! It is really NOT that Superintendent’s fault. He and all of the superintendents before are puppets. Camden Superintendents are paid top dollar to go into an underfunded school district, with their hands tied, with annually changing rules and regulations that are strictly observed. They are expected to make miracles while teacher morale is low because they are in jeopardy of losing their jobs, having to purchase school supplies and expected to teach ALL their students to be proficient whether the child can read or not!

  • Looks like the corporate vultures are doing their job. Charter schools are the soviet model. No accountability no democratic control. No one to complain to or be held accountable when horrible things happen. The superintendent should resign immediately for gross dereliction of duty. What a disingenuous lying scum. He should go into politics. What was his catch phrase all students deserve a great education. Apparently he doesn’t even feel its important for very little children to have teachers 2 weeks into school. I dont think its a great education when a security guard is watching children. Save our schools should start a kickstarter to sue him personally. I would donate and I’m sure alot of others would as well. I sick of these scum acting like authorities, they are supposed to be public servants.

  • Superintendent Rouhanifard is a public servant who has chosen to not serve the Camden Community and he has violated public trust by abusing his authority in this manner. The mayor of Camden, who is also a public servant of Camden Community, needs to be involved and the people/parents of Camden need legal representation. This kind of injustice would NEVER fly in white public school districts like Upper Dublin. The problem with Upper Dublin School District bus schedule was in the local news SAME DAY, 9/2/2014. Use the media to showcase the injustice brought about by Superintendent Rouhanifard’s blatant abuse of authority in firing great teacher’s and misjudgment in handling budget cuts and opening schools without proper staffing to safely manage all class rooms. By the way, are Rouhanifard’s kids in Camden Community public schools? Probably not.

  • As a laid off music teacher I was left with unemployment pay, no job and no benefits. This is disastrous for my career and financial stability iffy family. The superintendents decision has hurt many many people including us! And now only half of my former students will receive any music class at all… a subject that is scientifically proven to enhance academic achievement !!!!

  • Thank you for sharing that!

    Other parents have also been speaking out about the state-controlled Superintendent’s incompetence.

    The Camden Superintendent fired hundreds of teachers a few months ago. Now there are teacher shortages all over the district.

    From Camden parent Jackie Velez: https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSchoolsNJ/posts/826912657341896

    “My daughter is in the 1st grade at Sharp and has no teacher. There are kindergarten, 1st, 4th, and 5th grades with no teachers as well.”

    Superintendent “Paymon [Rouhanifard] told me my baby would have a permanent teacher today and when we got to school she had not even a sub.

    I left her class at 8:50 with half the students crying because they had no teacher while they sat there with the school security guard. This is an important year of their life and they have to go thru this.

    My heart broke. I am so angry and disappointed. We need to do something it is not fair for these children to be going thru this.”

    From Camden parent Toi Dawson: https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSchoolsNJ/posts/826912080675287

    “My son is a 5th grader at Yorkship where he still has no assigned teacher. He feels there is nothing educational about his classroom thus far and his excitement for 5th grade is fading quickly… I plan to try to switch him into a class that has an assigned teacher but that does not solve the problem at hand regarding the rest of the student and there are many who have the same problem… what can be done overall??

    I just found out his class is unassigned because the teacher that was assigned was let go last year. The teacher that was let go was in that class for 5 years, teacher of the year for 2 years and runner up for the last 3 years….now there’s an unsteady string of subs … I’m so FURIOUS!”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *