A Skeptic Turns Supporter: Community Leader Angel Cordero is Now Camden Supe’s Biggest Fan

Check out community leader Angel Cordero’s take on the last few years of progress in Camden schools!

Cordero, a leader in Camden’s growing Hispanic community, who in the past has put pressure on the District to do as much as possible to support English Language Learners and provide necessary engagement and support to families of bilingual students, has written a glowing endorsement of Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard.  Once a critical skeptic, Cordero is now a positive collaborator working with Rouhanifard to improve Camden schools.

Most recently Cordero sat on a  panel with the District to hire a bilingual principal for Woodrow Wilson High School, the comprehensive high school in East Camden and the City’s hub for a growing Hispanic population. He also is a regular contributor to the Superintendent’s ongoing efforts to seek community feedback and host open meetings with the community on new policies. Since coming to Camden in 2013, Rouhanifard has held over 100 community meetings.

Cordero’s support for Rouhanifard was won through specific ways that the District is making progress for ELLs and bilingual students:

  •  Investing in additional bilingual teachers in high needs schools
  •  Embedding a new biliteracy framework that helps students develop their vocab and comprehension in English and Spanish
  • Becoming one of the first District’s in NJ to offer the Seal of Biliteracy, helping ELLs get a leg up in the job market by using their dual fluency as a strength with employers and post-secondary education
  • Reducing the dropout rate for English language learners by a quarter since 2012, while graduation rates among ELLs is up nearly as much.
  • Increasing the overall graduation rate by 21 points since 2012 while reading and math proficiency is progressing faster than the state average

Here are Cordero’s full comments:

Because Camden public schools can serve as a model for other districts in New Jersey, it is important to consider what has been taking place in the educational community here.

Camden community leaders comment that charter schools are destroying the public schools in Camden. I have no idea what they are talking about, and the scary thing is that they believe their nonsense. Where were these leaders when $1 million went missing under Annette Knox’s tenure as superintendent? Where were those leaders when Hispanic students at Camden High were beaten up because they did not speak English? Where were those leaders when Camden High and Woodrow Wilson High students were at war? Where were their criticisms of the ineffective and inadequate superintendents who stood in the way of our children’s education for so many years? These leaders have the audacity to attack and criticize the superintendent of Camden Public Schools.

Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard has done a magnificent job turning around the Camden School District, despite the teachers’ union attempt to sabotage his mission. They contend that the superintendent is not qualified for the position, that he is not one of us, and that he was sent here to destroy the Camden public education system.

In my opinion, Camden Public Schools have been doing a fine job of destroying themselves and our children. I experienced the destruction of young minds as a student myself, as a parent and, more profoundly, as a parent advocate in the city for more than 20 years.

To the teachers’ union, administrators and teachers who are sabotaging the superintendent’s agenda, I say shame on them because they are only hurting our children. The notion that Rouhanifard is not qualified to lead Camden Public Schools is absurd. The superintendent is a brilliant man who has proved that he is capable of turning around Camden’s school district, no matter how many obstacles are put in his way. Previous superintendents did nothing to improve the quality of education for children in Camden Public Schools. They did fill their pockets with taxpayer money and did not give a damn about our children. Rouhanifard was sent here to save the children from a broken public school system that only cares about the people who work in the schools, not the children trying to learn in the schools. It does not matter where our children are being educated – what matters is the quality of education that our children are receiving.   

Gov. Chris Christie and George Norcross have advocated for the development of renaissance schools in cities such as Camden. Renaissance schools have been a major part of the Camden school turnaround, mainly because the teachers’ union has no power over them. Teachers who are not doing their job get fired on the spot, which is not the case in the public school system.

There is a revolution of hope for our children in the city of Camden. We still have a long way to go, but we are on the right track. The superintendent is a major part of this movement of hope. The new governor must keep hope alive by extending the superintendent’s contract. The decision not to renew his contract will result in the loss of hope for the children of our city.

 

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