The Red Bank Charter School campus on Oakland Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


HOT-TOPIC_03The Red Bank Charter School is good to go for at least another five years, following an extension of its operating charter announced Wednesday night.

The generally expected renewal comes amid an upswell of tension over the school’s existence, in the form of a pending claim of segregation.

Founded in 1998, the K-8 charter school was informed of the extension by letter dated February 28 from New Jersey Acting Education Commissioner Kimberly Harrington. She cited a “comprehensive review” of the school’s student performance, public comments and “fiscal impact” on the sending district.

Here’s the Harrington letter: Red Bank Charter School_Renewal Letter_February 2017-signed And here’s a “visit summary” released by the Department of Education. Renewal Site Visit Summary Abbreviated Day_Red Bank_10282016 FINAL (1)

From a press release issued by the school:

“For nearly two decades, Red Bank Charter School has provided a choice in public education for Red Bank families and we are thrilled that the DOE has given us the opportunity to continue serving our community,” said Meredith Pennotti, the school’s principal.
“We offer students the opportunity to learn and grow in a racially and ethnically integrated school immersed in one another’s culture and experiences that prepares them not only for the community in which they live, but for the world they will inherit as adults,” Pennotti said.

In November, Fair Schools Red Bank and the Latino Coalition of New Jersey filed a joint complaint asking federal and state authorities to “investigate and ultimately remedy” enrollment and funding practices at charter school that they claim make the borough’s public schools the “most segregated” in New Jersey.

The civil rights division of the federal Department of Education said in January that it was investigating the claim.

Fair Schools Red Bank founder Wayne Woolley, of Mechanic Street, issued this statement in response to the renewal announcement:

“Although disappointing, Acting Commissioner Harrington’s decision comes as no surprise as the state has shown no appetite to remedy the segregation caused by the Red Bank Charter School — or hold the school’s leadership accountable to the taxpayers of Red Bank. We look forward to reviewing the details of the decision and will continue to fight on behalf of all of the borough’s children.”

Frank Argote-Freyre, executive director of the Freehold-based Latino Coalition, told redbankgreen he had not yet had a chance to review the documents, but said via email that the renewal was “not surprising. The Christie Administration has never been a champion of civil rights.”

The renewal comes one year after then-Education Commissioner David Hespe denied, without explanation, the charter school’s request to double its enrollment over three years. The request had ignited a series of anti-expansion rallies and allegations by Superintendent Jared Rumage that the expansion would result in crippling reductions in funding to the host district.

The charter school, which is presently at its 200-student capacity, will hold an enrollment lottery on March 30. The deadline for applications is March 29. This is the second consecutive year in which the lottery will be “weighted” to improve the chances that socio-economically disadvantaged children win seats at the school.