By JOHN T. WARD
A planned hearing on a proposed enrollment expansion by the Red Bank Charter School is still scheduled for Friday night, despite the withdrawal of a key participant and the expected start of a blizzard.
Councilwoman Kathy Horgan, who chairs Mayor Pasquale Menna’s so-called blue-ribbon commission on the proposal, said the event will go ahead because the committee is on a tight deadline, and the storm will be in its earliest hours.Borough schools Superintendent Jared Rumage addresses supporters at a middle school rally last month. Friday’s meeting is scheduled for the same location. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
The charter school proposal, unveiled on December 1, calls for an enrollment increase to 400 students over three years beginning in September. Supporters of the non-charter borough schools contend it would “devastate” the district, draining it of already-insufficient funding, a claim that charter school officials and their allies disputed at a closed-door meeting Wednesday night.
Both charter Principal Meredith Pennotti and district Superintendent Jared Rumage had been expected to make presentations to the panel, which is in hurry-up mode to come up with a report in time for a February 1 deadline before New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe issues a decision.
Horgan said she expects the commission will craft its report Monday night at a meeting that is not open to the public.
But it will have to do so without any direct input from Pennotti, who withdrew from Friday’s event from after being “called horrible curse words” on her way into the panel’s organization meeting at borough hall Monday, she told charter school parents Wednesday night.
Horgan said she was surprised and disappointed to read about Pennotti’s withdrawal after she’d agreed to participate. On her arrival at Monday’s meeting, Horgan said Pennotti told her, “‘I heard my name mentioned,’ but she didn’t say anything about cursing,” Horgan said. “I think she would have said something then about it, so I’m not quite sure why that’s being said now.”
Pennotti also cited other factors for her withdrawal, including the membership of the commission, and her expectation that Friday’s meeting, to be held in the district’s middle school auditorium, would attract a crowd that might not allow her to make an uninterrupted presentation.
“Did you look who’s on the committee?” she asked parents Wednesday. And trying to “present the facts” from the middle school stage, “with a cast of thousands, yaying and booing,” is a waste of time, she suggested.
Pennotti told redbankgreen on Wednesday that the charter school would host, sometime early next week, an open public forum “to hear what [residents and others] have to say and let them hear what we have to say.”
Here’s the charter school’s application to the DOE: RBCS Amendment Request Dec 2015