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In Camden, crying over spilled water

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There's been plenty of buzz this year about the new day for higher education in South Jersey, with the involvement of power broker George Norcross in reshaping the higher education landscape in the state to make the region a powerhouse.

The school district’s other punishment option has the unfortunate side effect of seeing the disciplined children develop Cockney accents.

Turns out, they've got some work to do in the public schools serving the youngest set.

Exhibit A is this heartwarming Courier-Post story about a Camden school administrator who, to punish a group of students, forced them to eat their lunches on the cafeteria floor, since more traditional punishments like grueling factory work and chimney sweeping have fallen out of favor.

The best part of the story, of course, is the part that immediately follows the dollar sign. The $500,000 settlement means each kid walks away with nearly $31,500, which is almost as much as the state already spends on their education each year as students of an Abbott district.

To briefly sum up the incident: A fifth-grader spilled a jug of water in class, which allegedly led Theresa Brown, an administrator, to hand out the punishment. According to the story, a teacher was fired by trying to blow the whistle on Brown; he gets a nice settlement, too. Fortunately, Brown's brand of education is no longer on display at Charles Sumner Elementary School; she's now a vice principal at Camden High School, the story reads.

So, the lesson: Don't cry over spilled milk, but if you spill water, I hope you have something comfortable to sit on while you dine on the linoleum.

This kind of incident helps prove that the costs and problems with Camden's schools are not going to be solved overnight, even with all the positive energy owing to Norcross (there's a clause I never in my life expected to write). Let's hope Chris Christie's much-lauded reform efforts are successful in bringing new, forward-thinking teachers and administrators to troubled urban districts, as opposed to those whose ideas about discipline are a few centuries in the past.

I'm even more irreverent on Twitter @joe_arney.

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