New Leader Takes Charge of Camden Schools

N.J. Governor Chris Christie announces a new leader will take charge of the Camden School District.

Paymon Rouhanifard leaves his position as Chief Strategy Officer of Newark Public Schools to come on as Camden's new Superintendent of Schools.

"I believe in my bones that the American dream can live strongly here in Camden," said Rouhanifard.

In March, N.J. took control of the Camden School District, which became the fourth district to be run by the state. Other districts include Paterson, Jersey City and Newark.

"It's no secret that the situation in Camden was very, very challenging. And we know that it's not acceptable for 23 of the 26 worst-rated schools in the state to be here in the City of Camden," said Gov. Christie.

Over the past five months, since the state takeover, Gov. Christie says they have made some progress.

"It shouldn't be just in our suburbs where educational excellence is demanded. It should be everywhere where it's demanded across the state," said Gov. Christie.

In 2012, the four-year graduation rate for Camden Schools was 49%.

"Of all the cities and all the towns in this state, that gap might be the most pronounced here in Camden, with the lowest proficiency rates in the state and Cherry Hill sitting 5 minutes away with one of the highest," said Rouhanifard.

Rouhanifard was born in Iran. His family fled to Pakistan, where they lived in a refugee camp for about a year before coming to the United States.

He began his career through Teach for America, teaching 6th graders in West Harlem. Rouhanifard was picked as the new leader out of 100 applicants for the job.

"Zip code, family income, country of origin are unfortunately the factors that ultimately determine a child's life trajectory, even before that child is born," said Rouhanifard, who says he's committed to fighting for all of Camden's students.

Rouhanifard says in the coming weeks, he'll be on a "listening tour," collecting feedback from parents, teachers and the school board to help him develop strategies for change.

"I believe it's time for a dramatic change," said Rouhanifard. "We need to put aside the debates, politics and the excuses and base all of our decisions on what's right for kids."

Contact Lauren DiSanto at 610.668.5705,

Contact Us