In Camden, Students Honor Katz-Dalsey Founders One Year Later

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One year after the passing of the school’s two co-founders, the leadership at the Katz Dalsey Academy Charter School in Camden looks back at its first year without Lewis Katz and Marcy Dalsey.

“We’ve inherited an incredible legacy and we’re going to make sure that legacy stands proud,” said Katz Dalsey principal Tishara Landi. “This is the cornerstone of their [Katz and Dalsey’s] world.”

Remembering them as the school’s cornerstone, Katz Dalsey will honor both of their founders with a special garden dedicated in their names. Located on Katz Dalsey’s Rosedale campus, students began planting on Friday, May 29th, two days before the one-year anniversary of the tragic plane crash which took their lives.

Earlier in the week, the students on Katz Dalsey’s Rosedale campus voted on butterfly-attracting flowers and foliage for the Katz Dalsey garden. Of the numerous choices, the students selected aster, phlox, coneflower, astilbe and butterfly bushes.  The garden will also house a Japanese maple tree to signify both the strength and beauty of Katz and Dalsey.

On May 31, 2014, both Lewis Katz and Marcy Dalsey passed away suddenly after a private jet carrying them and five others crashed.  The sudden death of both of these exceptional individuals sent shockwaves through the school and the community.  As a co-founder, Lewis Katz regularly visited the schools he and Dalsey built. Marcy Dalsey had also remained deeply involved in the school up until her death, serving as the board of trustees president. Yet, despite the tragic loss the school’s two leaders, Katz Dalsey schools continue to thrive and build upon the foundation they laid.

Lewis Katz’s son, Drew Katz promised to rename the schools during a memorial service for Marcy Dalsey, so that both co-founders would be honored equally. His promise was made good on October 10, 2014, when the Knowledge A to Z (KATZ) Academy Charter School was officially rededicated as the Katz Dalsey Academy Charter School.

“Even though we went through tragedy, we didn’t crumble,” said Landi, “We weren’t about to let that legacy fall behind.”

On March 30, Katz Dalsey celebrated a landmark in the school’s history with the official induction into Camden’s Charter School Network, a charter management organization that also houses three widely reputable schools: Camden’s Promise Charter School, Camden Academy Charter High School and Camden’s Pride Charter School.  The Network, Katz Dalsey and a number of local and national figures joined in celebration, highlighted by a keynote speech by Senator Cory Booker.

In a remarkable display of support, an array of dignitaries including City of Camden Mayor Dana Redd, Superintendent of the Camden City School District Paymon Rouhanifard, City of Camden Councilman Luis Lopez, Camden County Police Chief Scott Thompson, and State Assemblyman Angel Fuentes joined Sen. Booker on a tour through the school. Following the tour, Sen. Booker and dignitaries joined more than 600 students, representing every Network school, for a special assembly. Not only was this event a stunning start to a promising partnership, but also a uniquely symbolic display of four schools united under one roof.

Though the founders may be gone, Katz Dalsey Board of Trustees president Zulma Lombardo attributes an efficient administration and an active board of trustees to the school’s continued success, even in the face of tragedy.

“We’re a group of passionate people,” said Lombardo. “We’re a working board.”

Just recently, the Katz Dalsey Academy Charter School formed an Academic Oversight Committee to ensure school curriculum stays effective and on target, while staying in line with Core Curriculum standards. Lombardo explains that it’s just another way for the board of trustees to oversee the positive strides made, daily, in the school.

In addition to a strong board of trustees, Katz Dalsey Academy Charter School is immensely proud of the advances made in school safety, as there was not a single reported incident on both its Parkside or Rosedale campuses for the entire school year.

In the next year, Katz Dalsey hopes to increase community engagement, as well as elevate test scores. Landi explains that to achieve this goal, the school has implemented support programs such as LoTi Connection, NJASK and PARCC preparation programs and staff professional development workshops to ensure Core Curriculum alignment.

The Katz Dalsey Rosedale campus, located at 3098A Pleasant Street in Camden, now proudly displays the Katz Dalsey butterfly memorial garden in the front of the building, so that students may enjoy it each and every day as they walk into school.

Lombardo said that it is important that the garden be in plain view of all who attend the school. She explained that as both Katz and Dalsey were very much enamored by nature, it is only fitting to have such a memorial on campus.

“Creating this butterfly garden with our students truly symbolizes what our founders stood for: to be the change you want to see; to be free to express yourself fully; and to have fun, joyous times together,” Lombardo said.

Posthumously, Lewis Katz was named the best commencement speaker of 2014 by North American Association of Commencement Officers (NAACO) after delivering a speech to Temple University graduates days before his passing in 2014. Just recently, Marcy Dalsey received the Beacon of Hope Award from Covenant House New Jersey during “A Night of Broadway Stars.”

“Marcy was the crossing guard for young people from poverty to opportunity,” Covenant House New Jersey President and CEO Kevin Ryan said.

Ryan spoke on Dalsey’s behalf, highlighting her determination and passion for quality education in the City of Camden.

And while there is no doubt that both Katz and Dalsey left an incredible mark on the City of Camden, it is now for certain that the mark they left on the staff and students at Katz Dalsey Academy Charter School will forever remain present and visible for all of the community to see.

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About New Jersey Charter Schools Association

Formed in 1999, the New Jersey Charter Schools Association (NJCSA) is a 501(c)(3) membership association that represents the state’s charter school community and, by extension, charter school students and their parents. We are committed to advancing quality public education for New Jersey’s children through quality public charter schools, with the vision that every child in the State of New Jersey should have the opportunity to attend a high-quality public school that best meets his or her needs.
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