QOD: Camden Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard on Why He Agreed to Speak at NJSCERA Conference

I spent Tuesday in Camden at the NJSCERA conference on "The Future of the Camden School System." (Here's coverage from the Courier Post and the Philadelphia Inquirer.) The subject of the conference was a white paper produced by NJSCERA, which was disturbing to Camden Public Schools leaders (as well as me) because it blithely projected an all-charter district despite the enormous efforts underway to improve traditional public schools in this city that has seen 12 superintendents over the last 20 years.

Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard agreed to speak. Here's his complete remarks on youtube, and here's an abridged version. You can also read his op-ed in NJ Spotlight. The following quote is from his remarks Tuesday morning.
 I want to give my perspective on the Camden I have gotten to know and the people I have come to appreciate and love over my short tenure here so far. There are so many individuals who have been working here long before I ever set foot in this city – educators like Katrina McCombs and Emily Vosseler, parents like Alicia Rivera, Sean Brown, Rosa Trent, Moneke Ragsdale and countless others – who will deserve the lion’s share of the credit that is ultimately handed out for the improvements I believe we can ultimately achieve. 
Second, I want to explain some of the progress we have seen, because while we should be real about the fact that we have a long way to go to fulfill our promises to our students and their families, we have seen our kids do some amazing things in just a couple short years. 
And third, I want this crowd to hear directly from me what it is that we are doing now and in the future, and why we think the approaches we are taking will help our kids and make our city even greater. 
Before I jump in, I also want to be absolutely crystal clear, as we are at a conference that asks premature questions like “Can Camden be a national model?:” the problems we face are entrenched, they are several decades old, they are systemic and complex, and they have at their roots the tremendous challenges brought forth by years of poverty and institutional racism.   
There will be no silver bullets to solve these challenges, no structural reform or easy solution to problems that began before most of us here were born and continue to this day.
There can be only really hard work, and really open dialogue and communication.  And that’s why I am here...
Nobody wants to be spoken of as if they are the subject of a white paper, least of all the tens of thousands of members of the Camden community, and I ask that we keep that in mind as we talk about Camden education today.

But if you believe that there’s a moral imperative to do everything in our power in improve our schools as quickly as possible like I do, then we must take a dual path approach and transform the status quo and make renaissance schools a choice for students and family. But let me also make clear that flipping the switch and converting all schools to charters and renaissance schools isn’t the answer either.  
Ultimately, results will do the talking and families will make that decision themselves. 

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