Principals at underachieving Camden schools to be reassigned

Posted: June 19, 2012

The state has ordered the reassignment of at least four principals in persistently underachieving Camden City schools by fall, a move that could have a domino effect on other principals and schools in the district.

Under a new state Department of Education accountability plan, created when New Jersey was granted a waiver to federal No Child Left Behind requirements this year, the principal of a "priority school" who cannot produce improved student achievement after three years will be replaced.

Seventy-five of the state's worst-performing public schools were labeled "priority schools" under the plan. Twenty-three of Camden's 26 schools received the designation.

In a letter sent to the district last week and obtained by The Inquirer, acting state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf cited three priority schools — including Woodrow Wilson High School and Charles Sumner Elementary — whose consistently low performance mandated the reassignment of their principals. No other schools in the state fell into that category, state officials said Monday.

Because it was unclear whether the principal of the third school had yet been notified, The Inquirer is withholding the school's name. A fourth school whose principal must be replaced was expected to be named Monday night in a revised letter, Camden Schools Superintendent Bessie LeFra Young said. The principals will be reassigned within the district.

Fewer than 30 percent of students at the schools named by Cerf scored proficient in annual state tests averaged over the three-period beginning in fall 2008. The averages are a combination of language arts literacy and math scores.

Wilson, which had a 29.9 percent proficiency average, will likely have a new leader by September. Principal Tyrone Richards said Monday that he was aware of the state notification but could not comment on the letter.

Janis Kauffman, principal at Sumner, also knew of her imminent transfer, but could not answer questions about the matter. The elementary school had a 23 percent proficiency average.

Young said she would not comment on the Department of Education mandate until she received the state's revised letter, but expressed concern over potential consequences over so many moves in the district at one time.

"There will be a bumping process and it will have an impact on nine schools," Young said. She declined to name the other schools that would be affected.

If the district does not comply with the state order, it could lose federal funding, Cerf stated in his letter.

Contact Claudia Vargas at 856-779-3917 or cvargas@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her blog, "Camden Flow," on philly.com.

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