Vindication has finally come to a former Camden principal who was dismissed in retribution after blowing the whistle on rigged test scores, but six years later the school district that fired him is still mired in mediocrity.
Joseph Carruth has not only reached an $860,000 settlement, but an arbitration judge has ordered the district to rehire him by July 1, 2013, even if the Camden school board has to dismiss someone else to create a vacancy.
Carruth said he was fired in 2006 for refusing to alter test scores despite pressure from an assistant superintendent. The cheating scandal was exposed after The Inquirer questioned unusually high test scores in 2005 at two Camden elementary schools and the magnet high school where Carruth was principal.
No one was ever held responsible for what investigators called "adult interference," but Carruth lost his job. He told the Inquirer Editorial Board this week that in anticipating his return to Camden schools, "I hope to change things for the better."
That's a tall order. Camden's schools are some of the worst in New Jersey. There has been little improvement under Superintendent Bessie LeFra Young, who is finally stepping down next month after a five-year tenure that was undermined by her own excessive absenteeism — 221 work days in five years — due to a health problem.
It defies logic that, with Camden schools desperate for strong leadership, the school board and Mayor Dana Redd didn't step in earlier to replace Young. Her $244,083-a-year contract is being bought out, with her receiving three months' salary.
State education officials, too, should have interceded earlier to give the city's 16,000 public-school students proper leadership. Then, too, that's par for the state. It has had a fiscal monitor in the Camden schools for years, but poor spending decisions have continued.
Nearly a third of the poorest performing schools in New Jersey are in Camden. Gov. Christie has promised to fix the schools, but only offers more charters and vouchers, whose legislative approval isn't guaranteed. A detailed, comprehensive plan to improve Camden's schools is needed, and a good superintendent to carry it out.