Sheila Seaberry, grandmother of a seven-year-old girl with autism, describes how Mastery’s North Camden renaissance school worked with her “precious grandbaby Taliana":
[S]even months ago, Taliana did not speak. She is autistic and spent most of the first seven years of her life in a shell, not speaking. Then she entered Mastery’s school in North Camden. I laugh because now she talks so much sometimes I want her to stop! She is in first grade and now reads at a third-grade level. I am so proud.
At first, I was not in favor of her going to Mastery. In fact, I was outright opposed to it, but my daughter insisted. I didn’t think they would know how to work with children with special needs. Boy, was I wrong. Mastery has been the best thing for Taliana.
She is happy. She is communicating. She loves her teachers. She has friends. And I love Mastery because they treat all kids the same. Mastery doesn’t isolate Taliana or any children with special needs. They are in the classroom with all the children and then are pulled out to get the support services they need.
As I recuperate from my stroke and battle cancer, there are two things that keep me going. First, my family, my Taliana — she is going to be something one day. Second, knowing that Mastery is building a new school in Cramer Hill, right across the street from where I grew up, and that hundreds of other children will be able to have wonderful teachers just like Taliana has now.
North Camden Elementary School is currently the target of a formal complaint filed by NJEA against the expansion of hybrid district/charter schools in Camden, authorized under the Urban Hope Act. Education Law Center filed a complaint last year, as did Save our Schools-NJ. (Barbara Martinez of Uncommon Schools responded, "Why a group based in affluent Princeton (Save Our Schools NJ) would seek to take successful school options like ours away from Camden prep families is beyond us.") All three allied groups allege that the renaissance schools violated technicalities in the law by temporarily using space in empty Camden school buildings.
From NJEA’s press release:
The school district is attempting to circumvent the terms and spirit of the Urban Hope Act to allow the corporate takeover of Camden Public Schools,” said NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer. “The district is merely waiting until the end of the school year to do superficial renovations, at which time it will simply call these schools Renaissance Schools so they can be turned over to private management companies.”
In response, district spokesman Brendan Lowe said the NJEA "is mischaracterizing the law and diverting attention from the real issue, which is the need to improve our children's education. These improvements are focused on increasing student learning and renovating dilapidated buildings in a city that is sincerely in need of change."
Maybe NJEA should have a conversation with Ms. Seaberry.