Although they clamored for answers, those attending the Monday night meeting of the will have to wait longer still to learn whether there is any substance to rumors of racial discrimination surrounding the athletic department.
The issue came to the fore in a meeting that was diverted from discussions of a new teacher’s union contract, end-of-year reports, and the approval of a new math curriculum to address the replacement of long-term CHS boys’ basketball coach Joseph McLoughlin.
His supporters claim that McLoughlin was a victim of principle who refused to comply with unjust directives to field a predominantly white basketball team. Acting on the recommendation of Superintendent Scott Oswald, the board itself is treating these allegations as incidental to the replacement of the coach.
Until a separate fact-finding report commissioned by the board is completed, observers only have the public testimonies from the meetings as second-hand accounts in the matter.
“It appears that one or more school personnel has made it a mission to change the color of the boys’ basketball team back to when the town was all white,” Lloyd Henderson, President of the Camden County East chapter of the NAACP said Monday.
“Someone needs to inform them that that mindset is no longer acceptable. A person that has that mentality should not be in education,” Henderson said.
McLoughlin’s sister, Joan, told the board that she had observed stray remarks that concerned her as far back as 1999, and encouraged her brother to keep track of such incidents.
“I went to our football coach, my athletic director,” she said. “Sorry to say I was one of the people who gave Joe the advice to document it all the way back then.”
Blackwell Albertson, the father of a developmentally disabled student who participated in the CHS basketball water team, chastised the board for failing to stop CHS administrators from using their power “to take vengeance on a child.”
Albertson was referring specifically to the case of Malik Clark, a student who transferred to CHS when his family moved from Camden at the start of the 2011/12 school year.
Malik Clark was frequently in trouble at school on trumped-up charges—of cheating, sexual harassment, drug use, and drug distribution—his father Malcolm Clark told Patch after the meeting.
These encounters, he felt, were orchestrated at the behest of CHS athletic director Ronald Hamrick, whom he said tried to keep Malik and his sister Myesha off the CHS boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, respectively.
“Hamrick was great at pushing that button and trying to get him to snap,” Malcolm Clark said. “My son would have lost it a long time ago. He went above and beyond his duty to show [he’s] not that guy.”
Malik Clark did play for the team; Myesha Clark rode the bench all season before finally quitting, their father said.
To investigate the matter, . The Board approved Borden’s services at a maximum of 40 billable hours at $250 apiece.
Tuesday, Borden said his understanding of the matter is “very preliminary.”
“I was just engaged by the district last evening and I spoke with [Betley] this morning,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to anybody else in the district yet.”
Borden said his task is to “investigate some allegations that have been made about the school district administrators,” on which subject he says details are slight at present.
“People have said some relatively vague things in public meetings,” Borden said. “I want to see what specifically people claim was said.”
Borden, a former Camden County prosecutor, declined to comment on the strategy employed by McLoughlin and his attorney, Dennis Young, to attempt to get the Board of Education to speak more openly about details of the case.
In the meeting, Young hand-delivered a letter to the board offering to waive his client’s right to privacy in the matter in favor of an open discussion of the reasons why McLoughlin was not retained.
“That’s up to Mr. Young and his client and the board as to how they respond to that,” Borden said. “My job is to determine some facts here and provide those to the board and the public.”
Borden doesn’t have a specific timeline for the completion of his report; neither would he offer an estimate on how much time it would take him to complete the work.
“It depends on how cooperative people are; how much information I can gather,” he said. “I can assure the folks in Collingswood that I will be diligent and persistent in seeking information and I hope that people will provide it.”
Borden encouraged anyone with testimony to offer in the matter to contact him directly through his law office at 856-354-7700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.