Iranian refugee tapped by Christie to head Camden schools
Glenn Townes | 9/5/2013, 11:58 a.m. | Updated on 9/5/2013, 11:58 a.m.
The school year rings in a new chief as Paymon Rouhanifard was named the superintendent of the troubled Camden school district in late August by Gov. Chris Christie. Rouhanifard, an Iranian refugee, starts the job on Thursday.
His appointment to a beleaguered school district is seen as a last ditch effort of sorts to rescue a school district that has ranked at or near the bottom of academic achievement and performance statewide. In June, Camden schools became the fourth in the state to be controlled by the state—the others include Newark, Paterson and Jersey City.
At a press conference two weeks ago in Camden, Christie said the 32-year-old former Harlem elementary school teacher and eventual chief executive officer of the Office of Portfolio Management at the New York City Department of Education brings a wealth of experience and tenacity for success that is needed in order to turn Camden schools around.
“Paymon has a proven track record of improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in Newark and New York City,” said Christie. “Under his leadership, I know Camden schools will improve on the process of the last few months.”
Some critics of the appointment contend Rouhanifard has minimal classroom experience and question whether his extensive background in business and economics overshadow his working experience in education. Nonetheless, Rouhanifard said he will be on a “listening tour” of sorts for the next few months, visiting and speaking with parents and students on how to improve the education system in Camden.
Camden schools rank as one of the worst school districts in the state in test scores and matriculation rates, with less than half of all seniors graduating.