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NJ Education Officials Say Camden Schools Must Improve In A Hurry Or Face Takeover

By David Madden

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) -- New Jersey education officials have issued a written ultimatum to those running public schools in Camden: shape up in short order or we'll be taking over.

The 32-page report, sent to the district on Thursday, pulls no punches.

"Over the past six months we've conducted an in-depth evaluation of both the Camden schools and their district operations.  While we identified a number of very serious concerns from the report, the most severe is the persistency of low student achievement in the district," says Barbara Morgan, a spokeswoman for the state education department.

Little more than a third of high school seniors were proficient in basic skills last year, and the graduation rate was just 56 percent.

There are also personnel problems and issues with how the board itself operates, according to the report.

Among the recommendations from the state is a national search for a new superintendent with experience in turning around troubled schools.

And if things don't change within a few months, the state might not just be monitoring Camden schools -- there may be a takeover.

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