CAMDEN, NJ - More than 250 Camden families gathered at the Rutgers University-Camden Campus Center for a series of workshops, leadership trainings, and keynotes to provide practical skills for parents in advocating for the continued progress of Camden’s public schools.
The event, organized by Parents for Great Camden Schools, included breakout sessions and panels on a range of topics, including how to advocate for students with special needs, understanding immigrant rights, and supporting academic rigor and teacher quality.
Speakers included Sarah Carpenter from Memphis LIFT, LaKisha Young from Oakland REACH, and Erica Okafor from the Camden City School District.
“Parents often feel overwhelmed by the education system, especially because it’s the same system that may have failed them in the past,” Executive Director Bryan Morton said. “By introducing Camden families to parent leaders across the country and providing access to information about what is really happening in our schools, we believe we make the system less daunting. We are building parents’ skills sets and confidence so that they can immediately become more effective advocates for their children.”
In addition to skill-building workshops, the event shared information about Camden’s changing landscape. Today, parents can choose between district schools, public renaissance schools, and public charter schools.
At a press conference two weeks ago, Superintendent Katrina McCombs revealed that the majority of each of these types of schools have improved their results on the New Jersey state test in each of the last four years. This finding is consistent with independent research released in July from Stanford University, which found that citywide schools have vastly improved since 2013.
Parents also heard from state and local officials, including McCombs, Mayor Frank Moran and state Education Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet.
“This is an exciting time for families in Camden,” McCombs said. “The education landscape is improving and parents have more high-quality choices than ever before. Regardless of what school a parent chooses, he or she deserves one that is fully funded, safe, with caring teachers, a rigorous curriculum, and an environment that is welcoming to families."
In addition to McCombs, other state and location officials attended the forum, including Mayor Frank Moran and New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Lamont Repollet.
“Camden schools have absolutely improved over the past few years, but we still have a long way to go," Morton said. "Progress can only be sustained if there is consistent pressure from the voices of the people most impacted by the system. These families already care deeply about their schools, but now they will have the skills and the confidence to lead a movement to ensure all students have access to a high quality education."