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Camden Board member Kathryn I. Ribay’s letter of resignation

March 25, 2013

March 25, 2013

Madam President,

It is with great sorrow that I am resigning from my position as member of the Camden City Board of Education, effective immediately. My heart and soul are in education, not politics. 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. I am not unqualified in this role- I began my career as a classroom teacher in the city of Camden, a position which gave me a unique perspective of the daily challenges facing our students, teachers, and principals. I have dealt with the barriers to achievement in our schools in a very real, and often frustrating, way. In addition, I hold an Ed.M. in School Leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During this program, I took many courses on the current state of school reform, particularly in urban areas. All this is to say I know education- academically and practically- and I am passionate about the critical importance of a quality education in the life of a child.

I will work with anyone whose goals align with mine. I do not care if that person has a traditional public school background, a charter school background, or a non-traditional background- I respect people who work for kids and I will work alongside them because the work is hard and requires many hands. However, I cannot work with those who would put politics ahead of educational practice. The state has, since the implementation of the Regional Achievement Centers and the appointment of additional Highly Skilled Professionals, been essentially in control of the district. This sudden symbolic move, perhaps driven by a fear of the strong, independently minded finalists chosen by the board in its superintendent search, is more focused on publicity than academic options.

I cannot participate in the continued disenfranchisement of the city of Camden. Real school reform is hard, slow, and not very glamorous. I could point out that the Regional Achievement Center is understaffed and unable to carry out its mission due to a lack of state funding. I could point out that the state’s idea of a “model curriculum” is a joke among education professionals across the state. I could point to the continued low achievement present in districts currently under the management of the State Department of Education. However, there is no joy gained from pointing out any of these missteps because the stakes are too high. The school district needs leaders who will think critically and creatively to address the gaping issues in the Camden public school system- leaders who will have honest and critical dialogue with each other to move the district forward. However, the system currently being instituted by Governor Christie will result in leaders who are afraid to criticize for fear of losing their appointments. The children of Camden deserve better.

It has been my honor to serve the citizens of Camden as a school board member, and I plan to continue to work- however I can- towards educational equity in the state of New Jersey.

Kathryn I. Ribay

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