This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
The entire NJ Spotlight Roundtable: Camden Schools and the Future of New Jersey’s Urban Education can be watched above.
by Tara Nurin for NJ Spotlight
The sense of unease among Camden residents and teachers over the recent announcement of a state takeover of the local school system was almost palpable yesterday, at a public forum hosted by NJ Spotlight. Many voiced suspicion and dismay that their city faces a future with more charters than public schools, leaving only those with the greatest needs or fewest options in neighborhood schools.
Nevertheless, almost all of the nearly 200 attendees agreed that the city’s public schools are in a bad way, with money wasted on technology that is never implemented, and what they termed a recent no-show superintendent and a general lack of leadership in the district.
Cooper Health System chairman and South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross took many of the arrows as he explained his support for the state takeover and his plans to create the first of Camden’s five planned "renaissance schools." His participation on the panel provided a rare opportunity for the public to address him directly on educational matters.
Norcross told the audience that the city’s schools have been troubled for 40 years and that what was needed was leadership, rather than talk.