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Longtime school board member Sara Davis loses seat

Mayor Redd notified Davis she would not be reappointed and selected Brother Wasim Muhammad, a minister at the Nation of Islam Muhammad's Temple of Islam No. 20 to fill the seat.

Sara Davis, who served on Camden's school board for six terms - one of them as president - was notified this month she would not be reappointed. Mayor Redd appointed Brother Wasim Muhammad, a minister at the Nation of Islam Muhammad's Temple of Islam No. 20 to fill the seat.

Davis, a former teacher, has been an outspoken critic of state intervention and charter and renaissance schools, who fought to keep jobs in the district. Tonight will be her final meeting.

In the advisory board's vote earlier this year about whether to recommend the renaissance applications of Mastery and Uncommon Schools to the state, Davis was the only board member who voted no.

"I don't want to say there was anything in particular that made her not reappoint her but it's just time for bringing on somebody new and the mayor thought Brother Minister Wasim should be that change," city spokesman Robert Corrales said. "It's a decision the mayor made. In her letter to (Davis) she thanked her for her years of service."

Davis could not be reached for comment.

Muhammad, 46, (formerly known as Donnie Walker) graduated from Camden High, where he played on the undefeated 1986 Panther's basketball team and then went on to play for the University of New Mexico.

Muhammad taught at Hatch Middle school for nine years, first as social studies teacher and then as a special education teacher. Now he's a full-time minister who also runs the University of Islam, a private K-12 school in Camden with about 50 students. He is a longtime friend of Mayor Redd who campaigned for her reelection in the fall.

"I am very interested in children who are not in our private school because it's the neighborly thing to do. It's kind of like raising your children in your household. You have to also be concerned with the community and the neighborhood your children have to go play with. I'm concerned with public education in Camden because it's our community and it educated me."

Muhammad joins the board during a transformative period for Camden schools in which the state-run district is restructuring central administration, laying off as many as 400 people to bridge a budget gap and encouraging two new renaissance schools to join the district in the fall.

Muhammad said he's for "any model that's going to educate children," public, charter or other.

He said despite the board having no voting power (the remainder of the work sessions were canceled for this year) he still thinks he can effect change.

"It's unfortunate but nevertheless, given what's going on in Camden and urban centers across America, sometimes we have to take a step back to move forward so as long as I'm in the room to advise and for people to listen, I'm happy."

Tonight's board meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at Octavius V. Catto Family School.

-Julia Terruso