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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    Consider adopting one of these homeless dogs and cats.

    The United States Postal Service wants to share these tips on pet safety for mail carriers.

    * If a carrier delivers mail or packages to your front door, place your dog in a separate room and close that door before opening the front door. Some dogs burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to attack visitors. Dog owners should keep the family pet secured.

    * Parents should remind their children and other family members not to take mail directly from carriers in the presence of the family pet, as the dog may view the person handing mail to a family member as a threatening gesture.

    * The Postal Service places the safety of its employees as a top priority. If a carrier feels threatened by a dog, or if a dog is loose or unleashed, the owner may be asked to pick up mail at a Post Office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained. If a dog is roaming the neighborhood, the pet owner's neighbors also may be asked to pick up their mail at the area's Post Office.

    Such safe practices also apply to any package delivery services and most anyone who comes to your door. Take a moment to be sure about safety.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    A host of Top-20 matchups are among this week's can't-miss games


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    The biggest games on the schedule for the week of April 9.


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    See the April 10th edition of the girls lacrosse Top 20.


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    The NJ.com baseball staff unveils its first conference pitchers and hitters of week for games played March 31-April 8, 2018.


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    Ladies Auxiliary worked with Canine Company to get donation of three set of pet oxygen masks.

    Pet-loving families served by Westmont Fire Company #1 can breathe a little easier.  The fire company is now outfitted with specially designed oxygen masks for pets.

    The three sets of masks, valued at over $250, were donated to the department by at-home pet services provider Canine Company at the request of Kathy Bennett, Vice President of the Auxiliary.  After learning about the company's philanthropic campaign to  outfit first responders in the communities it serves with the life-saving equipment, Bennett reached out to request a donation for Westmont.

    pet masks.jpegFirst responders resuscitate a dog using a specially designed pet oxygen mask. (Provided)
     

    Pets are at special risk during home fires because they are unable to leave the house without help. An estimated 40,000 die from smoke inhalation across the U.S. each year. The cone-shaped masks are designed for a pet's snout, which human masks don't fit, making it easier for first responders to deliver oxygen.  Each set includes masks in three sizes to fit a range of pets -- from small mammals to giant breed dogs.

    "Our company was founded by a family of pet lovers and our mission is to help other families keep their pets healthy, safe and happy," said Renee Coughlin of Canine Company. "Our goal is to get these in to the hands of first responders wherever our clients live so they are ready to handle an emergency involving family pets," she added. 

    Canine Company also offers free "Pets Inside" decals that homeowners can post on a door or window to let rescuers know there are pets in the home. The decals are available from the fire department or by completing the Request a Decal form on the company's website.

    Canine Company's pet masks campaign was created to ensure first responders have the tools needed to  save the lives of family pets.  In the past year alone, the company has donated over 200 mask kits to fire departments and first aid squads in 70 communities across the northeast, including 27 in New Jersey.  

    More than a dozen pets have been saved with the masks.

    Have community news you'd like to share? Send an email to sjtowns@njadvancemedia.com. Have an event happening you want to share? Go to nj.com/events to submit your information to be included in a community calendar. 


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    A look at some of New Jersey's top alums making a difference in college softball this season.


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    Cops found a few bags on him during his arrest, and later found more that he had regurgitated

    A Gloucester Township man jailed on drug possession charges got more charges when jail officers discovered he had ingested -- and then vomited into his mouth - 32 packets of heroin.

    Officers arrested Michael Rosario, 24, while patrolling near the Sicklerville Road Wawa on April 5 around 4:30 p.m. They spotted Rosario in a Honda Civic speeding through a work zone area, Camden police said.

    He initially gave a false name, but police discovered his real identity and that he had several outstanding warrants. 

    Upon searching him, police also found Rosario with six bags of heroin and thirteen empty bags which police say containing heroin residue.

    Police took him to the Camden County Jail, where officers found that Rosario had vomited 32 bags into his mouth.

    Rosario was sent back to the Gloucester Township Police Department to be processed on additional heroin possession charges, then to a local hospital, due to the possibility he ingested the drug. 

    He was then taken back to the county jail again.

    Rosario faces heroin possession, drug paraphernalia and distribution charges, as well as hindering apprehension.

    Paige Gross may be reached at pgross@njadvancemedia.comFollow her on Twitter @By_paigegross. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Who is ranked first in the latest NJ.com Top 20


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    Which players are off to the best statistical starts?


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    A handful of upsets alters the look of this week's S.J. rankings


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    The Garden State is home to one of the best waterparks in the world, and you can go there year-round.

    Dying for a trip to a waterpark, but know that's impossible with the seemingly endless New Jersey cold weather? It's situations like this that make indoor waterparks amazing.

    And according to a recent report, the Garden State is home to one of the best indoor waterparks in the world.

    U.S. News & World Report recently featured Sahara Sam's Oasis Indoor & Outdoor Waterpark in West Berlin in its list of 30 top indoor waterparks around the world. The list features parks ranging from as close to New Jersey as Pennsylvania to as far away as Germany and China.

    Here's what the site had to say about the South Jersey waterpark.

    This smaller, stand-alone water park features a playful North African desert theme at its 11 indoor attractions. If you're not up for the five-story, head-first mat racing at Tut's Twisters, visit Cleopatra's Cove or the Congo Bongo lazy river. But remember, Sahara Sam's is popular for staycations, themed birthday parties and seasonal events, such as Easter Bunny breakfasts and Monster Splash, so it's best to arrive early.

    The indoor park is open year-round, where it's consistently 84 degrees and perfect for water slides and other rides. The outdoor park opens for the season on May 12 -- and hopefully we won't be getting any snow by then.

    Sahara Sam's opened in 2009, featuring a retractable roof and 58,000 square feet of aquatic and arcade attractions. The park now has a four-story ropes course that was the tallest in the world when it was built in 2010. Its FlowRider surfing simulator is one of its biggest attractions as well.

    Jeremy Schneider may be reached at jschneider@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @J_Schneider. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    "Sprung from cages out on highway nine, chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin' out over the line ...."

    I recently had to buy a car for my son after the camshaft failed on his previous vehicle. It needs to be said that no matter how poorly the car with the bad camshaft treated my son, he was sad to say goodbye to it because "Doug" -- as he had named it -- was his first car.

    chevelle.jpg*sigh" 

    My first car was a 1972 Chevelle. Admittedly, it had the family 307 V8 instead of the 350 or 402, but it LOOKED fast. It topped out at 97 mph, not a fraction faster.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    The affinity my son and I had for our first cars is in no way unique. Who doesn't have a soft spot in his or her heart for that "first set of wheels?"

    And, guys aren't the only ones who get soulful about their cars; gals are just as likely to have fond memories of former vehicles (as referenced by a recent insurance company commercial: "You LOVED Brad ... and then you totaled him!").

    Some guys, however, seem to take it to an extreme. A 2008 survey by the Daily Mail revealed that their first set of wheels ranked higher in young men's memories than their 18th birthday, first girlfriend and first kiss. I recognize that the Daily Mail survey was taken a decade ago, but it speaks to a love affair we have with our cars that shows no sign of waning in the 21st century.

    Chevrolet referred to its cars as being "the heartbeat of America" and Chrysler made it is simple as possible when it told us that "driving = love." Some may not be quick to admit it, but I think it's obvious that we all have an emotional attachment to our cars.

    Enjoy this collection of classic car photos from the past in New Jersey, as well as these links to previous auto-related galleries.

    Vintage photos of cars and racing in N.J.

    Vintage photos of hot wheels and cool cars in N.J.

    Vintage photos of a long history of auto racing in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    Schools were failing by just about every measure when Paymon Rouhanifard came to Camden.

    Kathryn Blackshear said she didn't know what to pray for before Paymon Rouhanifard arrived in Camden.

    But she freely admitted Wednesday evening her "prayers had been answered."

    "He's the most outgoing superintendent we've had here in the time I've been on the school board," Blackshear said. "He's just what Camden needed."

    Blackshear said she was surprised and saddened earlier in the day when she learned Rouhanifard was stepping down as the district superintendent at the end of the school year with two years remaining on his contract. In five years, Rouhanifard was greatly credited with leading a turnaround of a district that was failing by just about every objective measure and had been taken over by the state.

    "I realized I was seen as the face of the takeover," Rouhanifard said Wednesday during a phone conversation as he drove back to Camden after handing his resignation to the state secretary of education. "But this is the best job I've ever had. It has been unbelievably fulfilling. But I'm also tired. It has been grueling."

    Rouhanifard said he's proud the district has cut its dropout rate from 21 percent to 11, and that only eight of 18 public schools are performing in the bottom 5 percent of achievement in the state now. That compares to 23 of 26 schools that were bottom performers when he arrived. The district also boast of nearly tripling K-8 math proficiency in three years; and more than doubling proficiency in reading in the same time. It also cites a 17-point rise in the district's graduation rate - up from 49 percent in 2012 to 66 in 2017.

    Yet critics, including some public teachers' union leaders, accuse Rouhanifard of presiding over the dismantling of the public school system. Public schools were reduced by almost a third, from 26 to 18, while more than half of the city's 15,000 students receiving a public education go to the 11 renaissance and 11 charter schools operating in the city. Renaissance schools are a publicly funded, privately operated community schools. 

    Rouhanifard was also in the middle of a battle over demolishing the century-old Camden High School over the objections of community and alumni who hailed the architectural and historic significance of the building. But he said the district has fought to incorporate elements of the old structure in the new $136 million construction of a state of he art Camden High School scheduled to open in 2021.

    Rouhanifard, 36, said he doesn't want to just walk away now.

    "I want to do a slow fade," he said.

    He and his wife welcomed the birth of a baby girl, Ava, six weeks ago and he said spending more time with her, his wife and 4-year-old son, Jonah, are the prime concerns he has going forward.

    But he also said the kids of Camden also remain on his mind. 

    "Our kids are tired of being pathologized and capturing negative headlines in the paper," he said. "There's greatness in the city. I'm proud that we could play a small role in steadily changing the perception of the city."

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

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    The Sicklerville resident's suit says he got a concussion and has back, neck and memory issues as a result of the fall

    A South Jersey moviegoer who says he was seriously hurt last year when his seat at the AMC Loews theater in Cherry Hill in suddenly collapsed has sued the corporate owner of the cinema for his injuries.

    James Braxton Jr., of the Sicklerville section of Winslow, claims he sustained "serious, disabling and permanent" injuries while taking in a movie with his wife Marcia Quarles-Braxton at the AMC Loews Cherry Hill 24 on Route 38, according to court papers. 

    The injuries Braxton suffered as a result of the April 21, 2017 mishap include a concussion, a strained back, exacerbation of a previous injury to his right knee, head pain, neck pain and memory issues, the lawsuit says.

    Braxton's suit says the theater allowed the chair to be installed in a way that allowed it to collapse and permitted the "exceedingly dangerous" seat to exist for a significant period of time. During that time, the theater didn't properly maintain the seat, according to court papers.

    What is MoviePass? Breaking down the cheapest new way to go to the movies in N.J.

    Braxton and his wife, who is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, are each seeking more than $50,000.

    The defendant in the suit is Leawood, Kansas based American Multi-Cinema, Inc. 

    The suit, filed March 1 in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, is now being heard in federal court in Philadelphia. 

    A spokesman for AMC couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     
     

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    Despite the cold and wet, there are some baseball players across N.J. warming things up.


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    Find out which college has the most NJ alums on its roster.


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    Paymon Rouhanifard said he is stepping down to spend more time with his family.

    The unexpected announcement this week that Camden school district Superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard was stepping down has sparked an active debate on what happens next.

    Rouhanifard, 36, whose family fled Iran when he was a child, was the chief strategy and innovation officer at Newark Public Schools when he was chosen by then-Gov. Chris Christie in 2013 for the Camden post when the state took over the failing district. 

    As Rouhanifard plans to step away at the end of the school year, he'll leave a district that appears to be greatly improved but may still be a long way from regaining control from the state.

    "I will step down as superintendent this summer with immense gratitude to the entire Camden community, and optimism about the continued progress our schools will make," said Rouhanifard, who said he is stepping down to spend more time with his wife, new-born daughter and 4-year-old son.

    During his tenure, the district cut the dropout rate from 21 percent to 11; reduced its poorest preforming schools from 23 of 26 to eight of 18; nearly tripled K-8 math proficiency in three years; and more than doubled proficiency in reading in the same time, according to information provided by the district. It also cites a 17-point rise in the district's graduation rate -- up from 49 percent in 2012 to 66 in 2017.

    But Camden Education Association teacher's union President Keith Benson, who has been critical of Rouhanifard and the state takeover, said the improvements may not be as rosy as they seems.

    "Sometimes numbers can tell a story but not tell the complete story at all," said Benson, a teacher at Camden High School. "The superintendent adjusted what constituted a failing grade. Before the superintendent got here, any grade lower than a 65 constituted an F. A few years into his tenure he lowered it to be anything under a 60.

    "A lot of students who might have been on the border, rather than getting an F on their report card and repeating a course, now are passing. And, the biggest thing that contributed to dropping out was grade retention."

    Benson said he is glad more students are succeeding with the changes and relaxed standards statewide that had required passing a proficiency exam to graduate from high school.

    District spokeswoman Maita Soukup said Rouhanifard adjusted grading standards to make them uniform across the city's five high schools. She said grading system and proficiency exams are part of a core of academic achievement options students can use to graduate high school.

    Benson said he still feels like Rouhanifard has presided over the dismantling of public schools in Camden.

    "It feels like the last five years have been like The Hunger Games for school resources," he said. "Public schools have been starved to grow renaissance schools."

    The number of city schools declined from 26 to 18 during Rouhanifard's tenure. The city now has five new renaissance schools, eight in all. Renaissance schools can receive a higher percentage of funding per student, especially for facility costs, but are largely privately administered. They also are open to students within the geographic area. There are also 11 charter schools, which are privately administered and receive no assistance for facility costs and are not required to enroll students in the neighborhoods in which they are located.

    The majority of the city's 15,000 students receiving a public education now go to either renaissance or charter schools.

    Mayor Frank Moran said he is pleased with the direction Camden schools are moving and is confident he will have Gov. Phil Murphy's ear in deciding who will now lead the district.

    "We started a trend in improving the public education system in the city and I, as a mayor, need to make sure we continue in the right direction," Moran said.

    Rouhanifard has endorsed assistant superintendent Katrina McCombs to succeed him. He said he thinks it is important for someone from Camden to now lead the district.

    "I am proud to be part of the team that's worked so hard to raise expectations in our schools over the past five years," McCombs said in a statement. "As a Camden High graduate and former classroom teacher and principal in the district, I will continue serving our students in whatever capacity I can have the greatest impact."

    Camden was one of four low-performing districts that were under control by the state, however, Newark and Jersey City have recently regained control of their schools after more than two decades and Patterson is in the process of transitioning.

    Murphy, a Democrat, has not announced a time table for naming Rouhanifard's replacement. The commissioner of education would make a recommendation to the state Board of Education. The nominee would be formally appointed by the governor after a vote by the board.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on FacebookHave a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips

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    From hit-by-pitch leaders, searing sluggers, hot teams, on-a-tear players: Baseball's best for Week 2.


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    Camden County Police Department Spokesman Dan Keashen said the girl was hit around 3 p.m. while crossing Princess Avenue in Camden.

    A 5-year-old Camden girl was struck and killed by a car on Friday afternoon.

    Camden County Police Department Spokesman Dan Keashen said the girl was hit around 3 p.m. while crossing Princess Avenue.

    She was taken to Cooper University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

    The girl's name was not released.

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at csheldon@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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