Wednesday, November 5, 2014

State Shutting Down Jersey City Charter School By Jessica Calefati/The Star-Ledger

"Stevens Castle", Harold Knickerbocker Faye, - circa 1939
The following article appeared recently and discusses the shutting down of a charter schools in nearby Jersey City, NJ. When does the State of New Jersey decide to close down a charter school? According to the article and the NJDOE accountability website, charter schools answer directly to the New Jersey Department of Education and not to a local school district. According to the NJDOE website
"If a school does not meet academic, fiscal and organizational standards that are outlined in its initial charter application and Performance Framework, the NJDOE will make the decision to close the school. When this does happen, the top priority is ensuring that students are not disrupted by this closure. The NJDOE works with local public schools, both district and charter, to find a school that meets the needs of each individual student."
In this case, the school had failed in terms of budget, declining enrollment, and in poor academic performance. 

It is worth noting that the Hola Dual Language Charter School has a stable budget with no major issues, a well publicized waiting list indicating full enrollment, and outstanding academic performance….and is currently fighting a lawsuit (despite former Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback saying there is no lawsuit) initiated by the Hoboken Board of Education and the Superintendent's Office requesting revocation of Hola's approved renewal and expansion to 8th grade as well as its very  existence as a charter school (should the renewal be rescinded), 

Excerpt from HBOE lawsuit 
One can only imagine what the situation would be if charter schools were required to be accountable to local public school districts rather than the Office of the Commissioner of Education. Issues of "segregation" and "funding" as well as subjective ideas of quality would cause havoc around the state and country. That doesn't mean some charter schools should not be closed as the following article points out. Simply that local school districts and local boards of education can never become the entity that does the evaluation in my opinion.   -Dr. Petrosino 

The K-8 school has been open since 2000 and is one of New Jersey’s oldest charter schools, but it has been beset in recent years by budget woes, declining enrollment and dismal academic performance, Assistant Education Commissioner Bari Erlichson said in a letter to the school’s board of trustees.
"The decision to close a school is one of the hardest decisions we make, and not one we take lightly," Erlichson said. "We cannot conclude that Schomburg Charter School is a viable school alternative for the students of Jersey City beyond this school year."
A representative from the school could not be reached for comment.
Last month, state education officials announced plans to close Emily Fisher Charter School in Trenton and Pleasant Tech Academy Charter School in Pleasantville. Supporters of both groups have been fighting the decisions in court.
Like Emily Fisher and Pleasant Tech, Schomburg is one of the lowest-performing schools in the state. It underperforms every other public school in Jersey City, where proficiency rates for elementary grades range from 30 percent to 70 percent. Nearly 90 percent of Schomburg’s third- and fifth-grade students failed last year’s state test in language arts.
The school’s academic performance has improved marginally since 2008, but the meager gains are not good enough to keep the school open, Erlichson said in the letter.
Because the school’s enrollment has declined by 50 percent since 2005 — it had 173 students in the 20011-12 school year — it no longer collected enough state aid to finance basic operations. The budget submitted to state officials for the next academic year was in the black by only $600, Erlichson said.
"Over the past school year, the Department expressed serious concerns about Schomburg’s fiscal viability and long-term sustainability," according to the letter. "With decreasing revenue and enrollment, the school does not have a viable budget."