Camden board votes to lay off teachers, aides

Posted: May 09, 2013

In a swift meeting Tuesday evening in which none of the Camden Board of Education members answered any questions from worried school employees, the board approved the layoff of nearly 100 teachers and support staff and all 113 lunch aides.

The board also approved the layoff of Joseph Carruth, the principal who was just rehired by the district at the start of the school year after a tumultuous court battle to get his job back.

More than 100 people showed up for Tuesday's meeting at the school administration building. The few people who spoke were greeted by "No comment" from Board President Kathryn Blackshear.

The official count of layoffs was not clear because of last-minute amendments to the list. It was initially 96, but some names were taken off and others added.

Tuesday's official notice of layoffs came a week after the board approved the elimination of 117 positions. Union seniority rules and tenure play a role in which employees will lose jobs. Some of the positions were vacant or held by employees planning to retire. Some positions were held by vice principals, whose new titles and locations for 2013-14 school year have not been determined.

The district has about 2,700 full-time employees.

Earlier this year, the board approved a $326.5 million operating budget for 2013-14. That budget hinted at eliminating about 100 positions. The budget is about $10 million more than the current school year's.

Teachers union president Laverne Harvey said she would look through the list, which she had not yet seen when the board voted Tuesday evening, and "make sure they are laying off the right people."

Harvey said she feared tenure rules might not have been followed.

"They seem to come up with all sorts of surprises," Harvey said after the meeting.

Principals union president Calvin Gunning shared the same sentiment.

"The seniority process was done wrong," Gunning claimed. "It's some type of favoritism."

Gunning is also concerned about the board's letting go of Carruth and the legality surrounding it.

Carruth was rehired in August 2012 following an arbitration ruling. He alleged that the district fired him for publicly revealing in 2005 that he was asked to tamper with students' state test scores. He was also awarded an $860,000 settlement.

In March 2012, the arbitrator ruled that the district should reinstate Carruth as a principal by July 1, 2013. The school board voted to reinstate him for the school year beginning September 2012.

Because there were no principal positions open, Carruth was hired as a principal on special assignment within the office of safety and security.

Before Tuesday's meeting, Carruth said he would consult with his attorney on what to do next.

The lunch aides who showed up at Tuesday's meeting were especially upset. Many are city residents and single mothers.

"Are you going to be there for us when we're evicted?" aide Chanell Johnson yelled from her seat.

She later said in an interview that she took the lunch-aide job two years ago thinking it would be a stable job, albeit part time.

"I don't know what I'm going to do," said Johnson, 24, a Woodrow Wilson High graduate. "I try to give back to [the district], and this is what I get."

A school board official said the district's food-service provider, Aramark, might hire some of the aides.


Contact Claudia Vargas

at 856-779-3917, cvargas@phillynews.com,

or follow on Twitter @InqCVargas. Read her

blog, "Camden Flow," at www.philly.com/camden_flow.

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