By Raymond Lamboy
Gov. Christie has set the stage, and Mayor Dana L. Redd has cleared the path for a grand experiment in urban public education that will unfold in Camden.
As with every well-thought-out experiment, a thesis or hypothesis statement is presented to measure success or failure. In this instance, the thesis seems to be this: The introduction and expansion of alternative-education models will lead to a functioning education system that will provide the children of Camden with an education on par with their suburban neighbors and will result in greatly increased student achievement.
A major question still to be answered is, how will the forces of innovation, tradition, and community work together to forge this result?
Some would say the state takeover, or "partnership," is not about the children, but about myriad sinister motivations that are brought to the forefront when alternative-education models are undertaken. These voices may be right.
As a reasonable person, I accept at face value that the motivations and intentions of all involved are truly about doing the right thing for Camden's children and families. But who is determining the "right thing"? The parents? Elected officials? Appointed school board members? The community at large? Business leaders?
The answer should be: All of them.
Individuals from across the region have an interest in the success of public education in Camden. The effects of a broken system are well-documented, and many have had their hands in its breaking. But, to paraphrase a leading voice in this effort, we can spend our time looking backward and pointing fingers, or we can look forward and work together on solutions. I agree with this thought.
As we move forward, Camden should welcome open and transparent discussion about the future of our children's education and about the system that is supposed to provide it. For it is only from full, open, and honest debate that the best solutions are born.
The Advisory Board of Education will no longer be the deciding vote on the district's future. However, by members' mere presence, they will sanction changes for the community.
I implore the board and all those involved - for the sake of our children, our families, and our community - to question, consult, challenge, gain understanding, ensure correctness of action, include different perspectives, and, finally, do everything they can to make sure wise decisions are made.
I agree the School District of Camden is broken. I agree it has failed our children and families. I agree drastic action is needed. I agree our children are depending on us.
The question is whether we will have open, honest, and spirited discussion as we struggle to find answers that work.