S. Jersey Democrats busy laying Rutgers-Rowan track

Posted: March 24, 2012

The trustees of Rutgers University, whose consent even Gov. Christie presumably needs to consummate a shotgun wedding between Rowan University and Rutgers-Camden, don't like being rushed.

"I feel like I'm doing this with a gun to my head," trustee Dorothy Cantor said Thursday, referring to the governor's ambitious/preposterous July 1 deadline for setting the merger in motion.

Rutgers trustees are frustrated by the lack of financial and other details in Christie's overall proposal, which mostly involves transferring assets of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to Rutgers-New Brunswick.

The sweeping changes were suggested by a five-member commission, whose mostly closed-door deliberations the governor apparently believes were divinely inspired (others disagree).

And as part of the all-or-nothing package deal Christie would prefer to dictate rather than negotiate, Rutgers-Camden would be amputated from New Jersey's flagship university system and absorbed by Rowan, in Glassboro.

Proponents among the power bloc of Democrats whose votes Christie needs for his priority legislative projects insist the merger will create a research university of the greenback-generating clout that South Jersey deserves.

Despite fierce push-back, including concerns about damaging town-gown programs in Camden, mergerites are busy laying track. On Thursday, Rowan issued a "road map" to the merger; this unilateral wish list of steps, some of which appear to require magic, was immediately lambasted by merger opponents.

Meaning, pretty much everyone except for Rowan's inner circle, Christie and Company, and South Jersey's Democratic power posse.

OCEAN GATE, N.J. - This tiny town on the south bank of the Toms River took a giant leap forward four years ago - at least with regard to green energy - when it became the first municipality in New Jersey to install its own wind turbine.

Leap number two arrived Thursday when the town installed a second turbine. It will use the fierce winds that sweep off the river and the nearby Barnegat Bay (renowned among sailors who use the spot for competitions) to harness enough power to generate electricity for its firehouse and water-treatment plant. The $750,000 cost of both projects has been funded through federal-energy grants and low-interest loans.

While some residents have complained about the "swoosh" sound the giant blades sometimes make when the turbine is running, Mayor Paul Kennedy said the payoff in the form of a more-efficient government was well worth it.

"Many obstacles have come in the way of this project. . . . I can finally say the day has arrived," Kennedy said. "Ocean Gate is moving forward with many energy-efficient projects throughout the borough's facilities, and this second turbine adds to it."

After stating "I will not be answering any questions" - a warning that elicited much mumbling in her audience - Camden County school Superintendent Peggy Nicolosi stood in front of more than 300 people Thursday night ready to listen to their concerns about the Camden City School District.

Residents' comments at the education forum, held by the state Department of Education and Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd, were to be taken into consideration as state officials prepared a final Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) report, state Department of Education spokesman Justin Barra said before the event. The report - which assesses instruction, operations, personnel, governance, and fiscal management - allows the state to intervene in problem areas or mount a full takeover if a district scores less than 50 percent in all categories. Camden scored less than 50 percent in all but the fiscal-management category.

But not a single parent brought up the city's poor showing in the first report. In fact, hardly any parents spoke.

The first several people to speak promoted their own leadership nonprofits and educational programs. Then there was a string of the usual activists who attend school meetings. The teachers' union president spoke and so did some union members and school board members.

Of the few parents who spoke, most voiced concerns over the state's focus on charter and renaissance schools.

"If kids act up in charter schools, they'll be sent back to Camden public schools. Well, bring that money back" immediately, said Diane Jones, who was concerned about the district's funneling of funds to charters.

After a count of Camden students attending charters is done in October, state funds will be redirected to their schools. Camden's traditional schools stand to lose up to 90 percent of their per-student allotments for each child who is in a charter. If a student leaves a charter school in the middle of the year, the money follows the student back to public school, but only in the next school year and the October count.

Former school board member Theo Spencer suggested putting a cap on the number of charter schools coming into the city. Six new charters are waiting for final approval to open in September.

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