By David Madden and Syma Chowdhry
CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Students at a Camden elementary school got a special visitor today as they resumed classes for the fall term.
The appearance by Gov. Chris Christie at Cream Elementary School, with Mayor Dana Redd and newly appointed school superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard, was part student pep talk and part photo opportunity as Christie’s re-election campaign moves into high gear.
The students asked the governor any question they wanted.
“My favorite movie is probably ‘The Godfather.’ That’s a more important answer for the legislatures than it is for you,” Gov. Christie said.
While Christie didn’t take any questions from reporters, one student asked something we’ve all been wondering: What’s being done to help Camden schools?
“We got to make sure you get the books you need, you have the computers you need. We’ve got to make sure you have good teachers,” Christie answered.
“It shows they are informed, that they know the issues. They are paying attention to the issues,” said Mayor Dana Redd, who also said that the school year has started with improvements, including new leadership with the superintendent.
“Our buildings were student ready day one, which we haven’t always seen here, based on the stories I heard. So we are off to an encouraging start,” Superintendent Paymon said.
R.T. Cream School added two new principals, who say they’ve seen already noticed changes within students and teachers.
“While we have a huge amount of work to do, I think that everyone is on board,” said Principal Hye-Won Gehring.
“You deserve a better future than the one you were being given, and we’re going to try and help you get there together,” the governor told the children.
Camden’s schools are being run by the state now (see related story). Trenton provides most of the money, some of which is now going into new textbooks and school computers.
That, and the revamped police department here (see related story) are two signs that Christie points to as ways of turning the troubled city around.
And parents are looking forward to improvements, too.
“We are going to get this school together,” one parent said.