By Brenda Flanagan
“I don’t get the, ‘Oh, Mom! Why do I need to go today?’ You know? They get up and get dressed and they’re ready to go,” said Mary Jane Timbe.
Timbe’s got four kids in Camden Schools and says their attitude did a 180, because the school’s attitude improved dramatically from prior years when she’d hear, “’Here, your child has failed.’ What happened? ‘She didn’t turn in any work assignments.’ Now, here they’ll tell me. I’ll get a progress report. They’ll talk to me, they’ll let me know what’s going on.”
“I would give us an A for effort. I think we still have a long ways to go in terms of our overall performance, so it’s hard to give yourself a grade but we’re not there yet. This is a C+ currently,” Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard said.
Rouhanifard gave us his district’s report card, one year after promising five major improvements, including safer streets, high-tech classrooms and more student support. He says kids in higher grades face highest hurdles.
“For them, the clock is really ticking. And time for them to prepare for the next stage in life is running out. Last year, only 24 percent of high school students were able to do math and literacy on grade level,” he said.
So Rouhanifard announced a new initiative: ninth and 10th-graders will get double the reading and math instruction next year. And hundreds of juniors and seniors enrolled in the vocational technical schools can expect to see an complete overhaul.
“We currently have a disjointed program. We have a lot of parts, but the whole today is currently far less than the sum of its parts. Because of scheduling and instructional challenges, not a single student completed the full vocational education courses to earn his or her culminating certificate,” Rouhanifard said.
Rouhanifard promised that, within the next five years, Camden’s medical arts and MedEast high schools will be renovated or rebuilt, brought into the 21st century. Afterwards, parents agreed — their kids do struggle with bottom line basics.
“Having problems like in math, and a couple of his other classes. But he’s improving a whole lot, now,” said Yvette Hohney.
“A lot of kids were coming out of school, they didn’t even know how to read and write. Since the new leadership of the superintendent has done, we have gone a long way,” said Eulisis Delgado.
This superintendent says he’s looking for feedback, so every month he’s going to sit at roundtable discussions with teachers and students and ask them for ways to boost their grades.