A new non-profit announced Tuesday that it is launching with the mission of sustaining progress in Camden’s public schools.
The Camden Education Fund (CEF) will make grants to programs and partnerships to address citywide education needs, such as the lack of diverse teacher pipelines and high-quality special education and bilingual settings for students. Support will be available to all public schools: district, charter, and renaissance.
The launch of CEF comes after an eventful start to the school year that included the first school board election in more than a decade and the announcement of rising test scores.
“The academic gains being made by our students is further proof that Camden is rising,” said Mayor Frank Moran. “Thanks to the dedication of our educators, the partnership of district, renaissance, and charter schools, and the leadership of Superintendent McCombs, we are now having a conversation about how to sustain progress.”
Camden’s academic progress was highlighted this summer by an independent study led by researchers at Stanford University. The study showed that citywide, student performance has improved significantly since 2014. According to the study, Camden students are receiving the equivalent of an additional 85 days of learning in math and an additional 30 days of learning in reading, compared to what they received in 2014.
Naeha Dean, who most recently served as chief of staff at the Camden City School District, was named founding executive director of the CEF. Dean, a former teacher, was as a member of Governor Phil Murphy’s education transition team.
“In my time at the District, I saw what’s possible when educators come together to share best practices and develop solutions that are responsive to the needs of students and families,” Dean said. “My vision for this organization is to create more opportunities for collaboration and to provide additional resources to schools, teachers, and community organizations doing great work for students across Camden.”
CEF has made commitments to fund several initiatives, including a partnership with Rowan University to develop a teacher pipeline for Camden, support for the Camden City School District’s implementation of a rigorous K-8 math curriculum, and a partnership to provide professional development to help district, renaissance, and charter schools better serve students with disabilities.
With CEF’s support, 15 aspiring teachers are participating in the Camden Teacher Pipeline program this year. The project is designed in partnership with Rowan University to recruit students to teach in public schools in Camden and provide ongoing support in their development. Ultimately, the project aims to create opportunities and pathways for Camden students to become teachers in their own city.
Initial funding for CEF comes from two national foundations, The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and The City Fund. The board is comprised of Camden civic leaders, including Jose Brito, Falynn Miligan, and Taisha Minier, as well as City Fund program officer Kameelah Shaheed-Diallo. Brito and Minier are former members of the Camden City School District Advisory Board.
“I am so proud of the gains our city’s schools have made -- yet significant barriers remain to achieving the kind of results our families want and our students deserve,” said Jose Brito. “I am inspired by CEF’s commitment to partner with schools and community organizations to achieve our shared goal of ensuring all students attend a school that prepares them for success.”