CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — As acting state superintendent of Camden School Katrina McCombs has the biggest job of her career, but it’s the little girl inside who will help guide her.
McCombs, who may have inadvertently spilled the beans to Eyewitness News that her nickname was “Mooch,” grew up near the corner of Morton and Louis Streets in Camden.
It’s an area known at times as one of Camden’s worst drug sets, but that’s not how she remembers it.
“This is where I spent most of my childhood, playing, running up and down the streets here and having a good time, I had a wonderful childhood here,” McCombs recalled Tuesday while standing on the front porch of her grandfather’s former home.
It wasn’t until she went off to college at Lehigh University she found out how negatively many people view Camden.
“It made me really think about myself and my identity a little bit differently. But I wanted to prove that just because I’m from a place that other people thought maybe wasn’t so great, that didn’t mean it hindered me from achieving what I wanted to,” says McCombs.
McCombs returned to Camden to teach and provide counseling for 25 years.
Earlier this year, when Governor Christie-appointed superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard decided to leave the state-controlled district after 5 years, she was chosen as the acting superintendent.
McCombs believes her local roots will make her a strong advocate for Camden and provide a role model for students.
“If I can do it anyone can,” says McCombs, “I think our students faced similar circumstances that I had to overcome and some a whole lot more.”
McCombs doesn’t know how long she will be the acting superintendent for Camden Schools.
The State of New Jersey plans to launch a national search for a full-time replacement.
She hopes during the time she is here she will make a lasting impression and maybe get the permanent job.
“I would love to continue work just to ensure the positive improvement that’s been made over the last few years,” says McCombs.
So as a new school year begins if you see superintendent McCombs, feel free to ask if you share any neighborhood connections with “Mooch.”