KAIGHN PUBLIC SCHOOL
1102 Newton Avenue
Southwest Corner of Newton Avenue and Chestnut Street

The Kaighn School was one of the first schools built in Camden by its Board of Education. Camden Board of Education used some of its funding to construct schools to accommodate the hundreds of scholars on the school system's waiting list. New Jersey had no compulsory education law at this time, so the district allowed only as many scholars to enroll as there were seats in the classrooms. The Kaighn Family donated land on Newton Avenue, below Chestnut Street, to the board, and they hired Mr. James W. Shroff, a prominent contractor (and Mayor of Camden in 1856 and 1857), to erect a school with the money borrowed from the Legislature under the supervision of architect Lewis E. Joy. The school, named the Kaighn School after the benefactors, on motion of Isaac W. Mickle, was 45 feet wide by 75 feet deep, stood two-stories high, and had large and airy rooms. The school had a capacity of more than 570 students, and an average class size of 64 scholars. The school was ready for occupancy on January 1, 1855, at a cost of $13,000.

The Kaighns were a prominent Camden family. Joseph Kaighn, a grandson to John Kaighn, the first to settle at Kaighn's Point, constructed a house that formerly stood on the southeast corner of Front Street and Kaighn Avenue, known as the South Ferry Hotel, and occupied by him until he died in 1797. His son, also Joseph Kaighn, was one of Camden's leading citizens, a state legislator and a sen­ator, and began the first ferryboat crossing from Kaighn's Point to Philadelphia in 1809. He greatly aided his sister Sarah in her business, and she, in turn gave him a valuable piece of property. He proposed, instead, to have her convey the lot to the Camden Board of Education for school purposes. It was on this lot that the board erected the Kaighn School.

Over the summer of 1890, the board voted to have a new school built on the property contiguous with the Kaighn School, on Chestnut Street and Newton Avenue, opposite the termination of Fifth Street They hired Moses, King, & Co. as architects for the project, but a problem developed over land ownership. Camden City Council insisted that the land did not belong to the Camden Board of Education, so the board created a committee of three to examine the title of the land, but they could not find a paper title. The solicitor assured them that, through "adverse possession, or twenty years of peaceful possession of the property," the land belonged to the Camden Board of Education.

The following month the committee reported that everything was fine with the title, and the school board authorized John Corbett to build the school on Chestnut Street, and for building an extension to the Mount Vernon School. The Mount Vernon School closed in September 1890, and remained closed until he completed the work on December 12. Work began on a new school, next to the Kaighn School site, in August. However, City Council was not convinced that the property belonged to the board, instead of the city. In addition, construction of the school occurred in such as way that if sometime in the future City Council wanted to extend Fifth Street southward; council had to lengthen the street right through the school. The board opted to erect the school there because board members felt (and as more than a century showed, felt correctly) that City Council would never go through the expense of extending Fifth Street southward at that point.

City Councilman Lord threatened to obtain an injunction to stop the construction. The board was chagrined because the recent school census count indicated that there were nearly a thousand children in the area, and there were not enough schools in the neighborhood. In late August, Councilman Lord introduced legislation to open "5th Street, south from Chestnut to Kaighn Avenue." Lord demanded immediate passage, but the addition of a~ amend­ment preventing the board of education from erecting a new school on Chestnut Street, and closing a nearby 20-foot alley to the public, forced the resolution to the Council's Streets Committee.

Although City Council took no action, the board notified its builder, in September, to stop erecting the school, and two months later, Corbett, realizing that he would not be constructing the Fifth and Chestnut Streets' school, settled with the board. The board did not want a fight with city government, so they dropped pursuit of the title, and purchased seven lots on Mount Vernon Street, west of Fifth Street, for the sum of $7,500. The architect altered the plans to fit the new location, and in June 1890, the board award John Corbett the construction contract. In 1904, after 50 years of use, the Kaighn School finally was rebuilt on the same location.

In mid-February 1929, Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Bryan learned of the sale of tickets of chance in the school system. Mr. Charles F. Otto, Principal of Kaighn School reported the incident in response to published accounts in the papers of the selling of chances at his school. The board questioned the principal and two students, Nicholas Perino and Charles Menequale. Otto recounted that on the playground, a pupil, Leon Gendler, complained to him that Charles Menequale threatened him with harm, if he [Leon] did not give him money. For this attempted extortion of money, Mr. Otto reprimanded Charles. Disregarding the warning, however, Charles continued his threats for money, and Leon again complained to the principal. Consequently, Otto summoned both boys to the office, and learned that Charles was coercing Leon to extort money from others in order to playa form of lottery. Otto decided it was advisable to inform the police, and let them make a full investigation. The board appointed a committee of three to work with the police, and to investigate further the sale of lottery tickets in the schools. The committee exonerated Mr. Otto from all blame in reference to the published accounts in the papers, and the board complimented him for his promptness in reporting the incident. The board directed the superintendent to instruct principals to cooperate "in stamping out the evil of school children selling or buying lottery chances."

The Kaighn School was still in use as late as 1947, with Camden High School graduate Rosalia Cioffi as principal. 

In the fall of 1948, declining enrollment forced the closing of the Kaighn School's "sister school", the C.A. Bergen School, which stood at 419 Mount Vernon Street. Camden's schools were integrated that year as well. Mendel Tubis took over as principal of the Kaighn School in 1948. Although the building was relatively new compared to others in the city, by 1956 the school was closed, due in great part to declining enrollment. The lot where for almost a century the Kaighn School's students once learned and played has stood empty for many, many years.

Philadelphia Inquirer * August 30, 1886

Howard Sharp - Frank H. Green - James R. Carson - Edward A. Martin
Kaighn School

Camden Courier-Post - February 4, 1938

Parent-Teacher Association News

Kaighn- Founders Day will be observed at the meeting February 15. Music will be furnished by the WPA orchestra. There will be a white elephant party after the meeting.

Camden Courier-Post

May 22, 1945

Click on Image to Enlarge

 

Joseph Balzano, 11, Selected As City’s No. 1 Young Citizen

 By Daniel P. McConnell

Camden’s outstanding young citizen for 1945, Joseph Balzano, Jr., a sixth grade pupil at Kaighn School, wants to be a "bone doctor" so that he can help other children get well again.

Last night before an audience of more than 500 adults and pupils this courageous youngster, the son of a longshoreman, accepted with calm dignity and a radiant smile the tumultuous applause that greeted the announcement he had been picked for this high honor in the annual contest sponsored by the Camden Lodge of Moose.

Known only to a few of the audience that taxed the capacity of the city hall commission chamber was the father of the “champ”, Joseph Balzano Sr., who after quitting work in Philadelphia rushed to Camden in time to hear his son called to the platform to receive a certificate naming him the out­standing citizen of his own school.

The audience virtually shrieked its approval of young Joe's selection. His surprised and excited father naturally jumped up and down for joy as the lad, attired in a gray suit with long trousers walked to the platform where he was received by Stan Lee Broza, director of the radio "Children's Hour" program; Dr. Ethan A. Lang, governor of the local lodge of Moose; Mayor Brunner and Supreme Court Justice Donges, Past Supreme Governor of the Loyal Order of Moose.

Broza presented the outstanding youth plaque to the winner. Justice Donges gave a plaque to Miss Emilia Corda, 16, of 1104 South Fourth Street, Camden High School junior, winner of the second award. Dr. Lang also gave a plaque to James Zitz, 16, of 702 Florence Street, Camden Catholic High School junior, who won the third award.

Suffered Blood Poisoning

Young Joe Balzano never dreamed as he lay on his pain-wracked cot in Hahnemann Hospital in January and February last year that this great honor would come to him. Joe had blood poisoning in his left leg. He suffered excruciating pain.

When the doctors stuck needles in his leg every two hours, day after day, he never cried. He only wanted to do one thing- go back to school.

When he was brought home he was told he could not go to schoo1. Members of the Camden Board of Education, of which Dr. Lang is president, assigned Miss Clara Mantini to give him home instructions. That was almost like going to school. Joe went back top school and ended the term in the upper quarter of his class, Miss Mantini said.

After he was whisked into a side room to escape well-wishers, fellow pupils and pothers who wanted to shake his hand, this typical American lad, taking it all in stride sat down to be interviewed.

Tells of Ambition

"My ambition in life is to be a bone doctor,” he said. “While I was in the hospital I watched the doctors and nurses who treated me so fine. They told me I would walk again, and I did. I want to be that kind of doctor so I can help other boys and girls who were stricken as I was. I want to do something when I become a man to show my gratitude for what was done for me by the doctors in the Hahnemann hospital.”

Obtaining a perfect score of 80 points in the contest, young Balzano was rated for courtesy, kindness, trustworthiness, sportsmanship, cleanliness, obedience, thrift, loyalty, reverence, leadership, cooperation, punctuality, init­iative, leisure time activities, school activities- extra curricula and social attitude.

His regular teacher, Miss Rosolia Cioffi, gave him a testimonial to the judges. She lauded his courageous spirit, among other attributes.

Rev. Michael Argullo, acting pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, had this to say about Joe. "He is an outstanding boy endowed with many fine qualities. He is a boy of fine character, manly, a good sport, faithful to his religious duties and has the necessary qualifications for the honor of the outstanding young citizen."

Miss Mantini, who taught him at home, added this: "He is pleasant, good natured and above all, a courageous boy. I have never known him to complain. There are many words I could us to describe Joe, but I prefer you see and speak to him personally.

Mrs. John Beskett, director of recreation, Deaconess Home and Community center, also praised the citizen award winner. As a member of the center’s boys club, she said, he accepts responsibility, is honest, trustworthy, ambitious and is willing at all times to help others.

The winner and the two runners up will receive two additional awards. Sunday all will appear on the "Children's Hour" broadcast over WCAU at 11.30 AM.

Going to Washington

In addition, they will be taken ion a two-day trip to Washington. The escorts will be Justice and Mrs. Donges.

Mayor Brunner said the three winners and each of those picked as outstanding citizen of the other public and parochial schools are the future citizens of the community, state and nation. The mayor congratulated all the outstanding young citizens and praised the local lodge of Moose for conducting its second annual award program.

Offering his congratulations, Justice Donges warned against optimism over the early end of the war with Japan. Sacrifices on the home front, he added, must be endured until the victory is won.

Dr. Lang presided at the exercises. Rev. William L. McKeever, assistant rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, gave the invocation. Vocal selections were given by the Cooper School choir under the direction of Mrs. Anna Malloy. Rev. Everett W. Palmer, pastor of Centenary-Tabernacle Methodist Church, offered benediction.

Among: those attending were Leon N. Neulen, superintendent of public schools; Daniel R. Weigle, executive vice-president, county Chamber of Commerce; David Balsam, director of youth activities, Federation of Jewish Charities, and Mrs. Alice K. Predmore, member of the Camden Board of Education.

Teacher Assignments & Transfers - June 22, 1933

Thanks to Fred Reiss, Ed.D. , for writing the defining book on public education in Camden prior to 1948, PUBLIC EDUCATION IN CAMDEN, N.J.- From Inception to Integration, from which much of the above history of the Kaighn School is derived. 

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