Camden Education Association members assembled on Saturday, May 18, for a membership meeting and work session to share their best ideas for overcoming the challenges facing Camden’s schools.
Do a quick Internet search of Camden, N.J., and you’ll find stories about the city having the highest crime and poverty rates in the nation and the state takeover of the city’s public schools. Unfortunately what you don’t hear about are the countless Camden educators who making a positive impact on their students and community.
Nearly 250 Camden Education Association members assembled on Saturday, May 18, for a membership meeting and work session to share their best ideas for overcoming the challenges facing Camden’s schools.
“When it comes down to it, we are the only true advocates for Camden’s children and schools, and we need to make the people of this city realize that,” said CEA President LaVerne Harvey. “So we are going to take a strong stand to ensure that CEA and Camden citizens will have a strong and valued voice in reforming our schools. Our members have dedicated their careers to Camden students and are working hard to help them be successful. That needs to be recognized and respected.”
Meeting takes place in context of state intervention
In March, Gov. Christie announced the state’s intervention in Camden’s public schools. Under a state-run system, the local school board has an advisory role, and the state will choose a new school superintendent. In addition to the uncertainty of the state’s plan, CEA members are also working under the terms of an expired contract.
But despite the internal and external challenges of working in Camden’s schools, CEA members remain more committed than ever to ensuring the success of their schools and students. CEA members recently completed a Climate Survey that revealed the vast majority of members expected to spend their careers working in Camden and remained focused on improving conditions for their students. The Climate Survey was followed by discussion groups at the May 18 meeting that encouraged members to share their ideas for solutions.
Challenges discussed, solutions considered
In a table discussion of the district’s ever-changing programs, one member shared her frustration that despite a high number of classified students, the district often purchases programs that lack a special education component. Members talked about ways to incorporate educators into instructional decisions and allocate time for collaboration and professional development.
"As professionals, you know what you need in your classrooms and schools. Yet too often decisions about how you do your job are made by people who don’t truly understand what your day is like,” Harvey added in her address to CEA members.
The information gathered through the survey and discussions will used to craft CEA’s proposal for school reform in Camden City and will be shared with all stakeholders.