School & District Management

No-Shows Vex Camden Board

By Catherine Gewertz — January 19, 2005 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Camden, N.J., school board has been having a bit of difficulty lately. And it’s not the usual newsmaking sort involving bickering members.

In Camden, they just can’t get enough members to show up to do business. Bills have gone unpaid. Personnel decisions have languished.

Three board members have missed a total of 41 meetings since last April. Because the nine-member board already had two vacancies, the absences deprived it of a quorum, forcing it to cancel meetings 11 times.

A heating-systems repairman, tired of waiting for his $250,000, threatened to halt work for the 18,500-student district unless he was paid soon, said board President Philip E. Freeman. Special permission from the state allowed the payment.

Mr. Freeman sent the three chronic absentees a letter last month urging them to quit if they can’t uphold their duties. One resigned, citing health problems. That left one-third of the seats vacant.

“It’s quite embarrassing,” Mr. Freeman said. “It’s humiliating for me and for those of us who regularly attend meetings. For us to be irresponsible, to me, is a detriment to our children.”

A 2002 state law dictated that Camden’s board have three elected members, three appointed by the mayor, and three by the governor. The three current vacancies would be gubernatorial choices. Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey has pledged to fill them by the board’s next regular meeting, Jan. 31.

But in the meantime, the situation is generating some humor along with the embarrassment and anger. In his list of predictions for 2005, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dave Boyer suggested that AWOL board members’ photos might start showing up on milk cartons in convenience stores across South Jersey.

But it’s no laughing matter to official New Jersey. Secretary of Education William L. Librera authorized Camden Superintendent Annette D. Knox to sign off on the basics to keep the district running, such as paying utility bills, or approving payroll.

One of the members accused of being frequently absent, Luis Lopez, says he thinks he’s only missed a few meetings. But Mr. Freeman said: “Our records are very accurate. The numbers don’t lie.”

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 19, 2005 edition of Education Week


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion ‘This Is Not What We Signed Up For’: A Principal’s Plea for More Support
School leaders are playing the role of health-care experts, social workers, mask enforcers, and more. It’s taking a serious toll.
Kristen St. Germain
3 min read
Illustration of a professional woman walking a tightrope.
Laura Baker/Education Week and uzenzen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Educators Must Look to History When They Advocate for Changes
Educators and policymakers must be aware of the history of ideas when making changes in education, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Reconsidering Causes of Principal Burnout
The state and federal governments are asking us to implement policies that often go against our beliefs, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
School & District Management Teachers Want Their Administrators to Teach. Here's Why
Principals and other education administrators should even be required to spend time teaching in the classroom, according to teachers responding to an EdWeek query.
Hayley Hardison
4 min read
Teacher Principal 11122021 1310106400