With Camden Mayor Dana Redd’s support, Mr. Rouhanifard, a 33-year-old who fled Iran as a child, is attempting an overhaul that includes a hybrid form of charter school that draws from its neighborhood. This fall, three taxpayer-funded “Renaissance” schools opened for the first time, delighting some families but dismaying critics who argued that children in traditional schools lack their fair share of resources.
Now 486 children attend Renaissance schools, run by established nonprofit networks called KIPP, Mastery Charter Schools and Uncommon Schools. If they expand to their approved caps in the coming years, they could eventually total 15 schools with 9,754 students—nearly as many as Camden’s traditional schools teach today.
In many places around the country, district chiefs have been hostile to the growth of charters. To Mr. Rouhanifard, the school’s governance structure doesn’t matter, as long as it gets results. “We need to rethink the system,” he said. While Camden’s teachers are caring and students have grit, he said, “the biggest challenge we face in the district is a dramatic lack of rigor.”
Labels: camden, charter schools