By JOHN T. WARD
A panel commissioned to review the proposed expansion by the Red Bank Charter School is expected to express “concern” about the plan’s impact on borough taxpayers, Mayor Pasquale Menna told redbankgreen.
Menna, who appointed the so-called blue-ribbon commission and participated in its closed-door meeting Monday night, said the body’s report will also air misgivings about what he termed the “strong and overwhelming” disparity between the charter school and the local school district in terms of demographic makeup.
On December 1, the charter school unveiled a proposal to double its enrollment to 400 students over three years, beginning in September. A month later, Menna empaneled the commission, and gave it the task of reviewing the proposal’s potential impacts on borough taxpayers, with an eye to forwarding the group’s findings to New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe by February 1.
That’s the deadline for comments on the plan, after which Hespe, who has sole authority to approve or reject the plan, is expected to issue a decision.
Following a packed-house public hearing Friday night that was boycotted by charter school officials, the commission met for about three and a half hours Monday night behind closed doors to prepare its recommendation. One member, Jesse Garrison, was absent.
The outcome, Menna said, will be a report, being prepared by an unidentified commission member, that will “express concern” about the impact of the expansion on the district schools.
“Both parties agree there will be a financial impact,” he said. “One [the district] says it will have a devastating impact, and other can’t quantify it.”
The report will also “express concern about the disproportionate demographics,” between the charter and district systems, Menna said.
According to district Superintendent Jared Rumage, 90 percent of the district’s 1,407 students are Hispanic or African-American, compared to 48 percent of the charter school’s 200-student population. In addition, he contends, 88 percent of the district’s children are economically disadvantaged, compared to 40 percent of the charter school’s.
Menna said the charter school had a “constitutional imperative” to bring its demographic profile more in line with the district’s.
Two commission members contacted by redbankgreen declined to speak on the record Tuesday. Commission member Michael Stasi, who was involved in the creation of the charter school in 1999, was said to be preparing a dissent from the commission’s findings. He could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
The commission’s chairwoman, Councilwoman Kathy Horgan, could not be reached for comment.
Menna said the report would be presented Wednesday night to the borough council, which “can either accept or reject the report, or do nothing.”
Here’s the charter school’s application to the DOE: RBCS Amendment Request Dec 2015