The “Virtuous Circle” in Camden: Positive Progress Yields Community Support

Bryan Morton, Executive Director of Great Camden Schools, has an op-ed in the Courier Post that traces the arc of Camden Public Schools’ transformation, which he ascribes to the leadership of state-appointed Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard, a series of reforms that brought in hybrid renaissance schools, heightened expectations for students and teachers, and a growing sense of hope among Camden families.

Morton also describes a trip he took with other community members to the State Board of Education in Trenton. “It was hard to believe how much positivity and enthusiasm they expressed when talking about the school system in Camden,” he writes — so that Board members could understand “the changes we’ve seen in our public schools, and to make sure Camden can continue building on this progress with a new governor in office.”

Here are a few more excerpts from Morton’s editorial.

One parent shared that his child’s high school is preparing her for the Ivy League. He explained how he’d observed academic standards falling in Camden schools over the years, and how grateful he was to see new schools open where teachers were setting the bar high for students. Another parent shared her excitement that the superintendent was making meaningful investments in our traditional district schools, where she’s seen teachers getting new training to help reduce suspensions and get more students reading and doing math at grade level. A Camden High alum and local business owner thanked the superintendent for introducing a single citywide enrollment system where students could apply to attend any district school, even if it was outside of their catchment area.

A board member shared her initial skepticism about the plan to introduce new renaissance schools to Camden, and her pleasant surprise when she saw the transformation of failing district schools in poor condition into well-run, well-funded 21st century neighborhood schools that embrace even the most challenging learners, like those with severe learning disabilities.

Camden still has a long way to go before our district, charter and renaissance schools are achieving at the same level as public schools in wealthier districts. However, steady improvements to our graduation rate, dropout rate and PARCC results are being noticed, and every day more parents are getting more involved in their child’s school.

One of the Parent Advocate Leaders I work with told the board members about the 5,500 parents who’ve signed Parents for Great Camden Schools’ petition demanding great schools in every neighborhood. The signatures we’ve gathered are from families who don’t care about politics, but care deeply about their children, and providing a brighter future for their families. These families are the beneficiaries of the reforms taking place in Camden. These are the families who will suffer if we revert to the same old system of unchecked district management.

What do you think?

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