Education

Camden School Board Member Departs Following State Takeover

Following the state's takeover of the Camden School District , one of the the school board's youngest and most vocal members resigns, citing politics as the reason for her departure.
by | March 27, 2013

By Claudia Vargas

Following Gov. Christie's announcement Monday of the state's takeover of the Camden School District, one of the youngest and most increasingly vocal members of the school board turned in her letter of resignation.

Kathryn Ribay, who was appointed in 2011 by Mayor Dana L. Redd, cited politics as her decision to step down.

"My heart and soul are in education, not politics," Ribay wrote in a letter to Board President Kathryn Blackshear. "I believe firmly in the intelligence and capability of every child in the city of Camden, as well as in the critical need to bring our schools up to the standard that they deserve."

A Teach for America alumna with two Harvard degrees and the wife of another Teach for America alum who works at Philadelphia's Boys Latin Charter School, Ribay was open to alternative education options during her term.

The 28-year-old Fairview resident works as a chemistry teacher at Collingswood High School.

"Charters are coming, and charters will be part of our district. . . . We need more collaboration" between charters and the district, Ribay said last year when she served on a committee to prepare the district's request for proposals for the Legislature's newly created public-private Renaissance schools.

However, the evolving process for choosing a Renaissance project left Ribay disappointed with state officials.

When state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf sent the board recommendations in August for how to improve the district, Ribay said she was upset to see that the district should recruit talent through the proposed Renaissance schools and support charter schools.

"To see linked in with the state accountability report makes me extremely angry at how this is being handled," she said at a board meeting after the release of the report.

In her resignation letter, she noted her willingness to work with those outside traditional public schools.

"I do not care if that person has a traditional public school background, a charter school background, or a nontraditional background . . . I will work alongside them because the work is hard and requires many hands," Ribay said. "However, I cannot work with those who would put politics ahead of educational practice."

Fellow board member Sean Brown said he was sorry to see Ribay go, calling her "smart, thoughtful, and respectful."

Ribay would not comment beyond her letter. "The system currently being instituted by Gov. Christie will result in leaders who are afraid to criticize for fear of losing their appointments," Ribay wrote. "The children of Camden deserve better."

(c)2013 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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