RED BANK: CHARTER SCHOOL WINS EXTENSION

The school’s campus includes buildings on Oakland Street, above, and Monmouth Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

See UPDATE below

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The Red Bank Charter School has won state authorization to operate for another five years, Head of School Kristen Martello announced Wednesday.

The widely expected extension was granted by the New Jersey Department of Education over the objection of borough school district’s board, which was joined by the town council in its request that the school be closed.

Head of Charter School Kristin Martello with students at the borough’s Veterans Day commemoration last November (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

In a prepared statement, Martello said the renewal of the 23-year-old school’s charter followed “a comprehensive review” that included “student performance on statewide assessments, a structured interview with school officials, public comments, student composition of RBCS, and the fiscal impact on the sending district.”

“After such a rigorous review process, yesterday’s decision by the New Jersey Department of Education to renew Red Bank Charter School for another five-year term demonstrates that we continue to provide an excellent public educational option to families in our community,” the statement said.

The statement also said the charter school “wants to find a path forward where all families’ educational choices are respected. We are committed to working with our partners at Red Bank Borough Public Schools to end the divisiveness and lift up all children in our beloved community.”

Here’s the full statement: red bank charter school statement 020222

Last August, the borough BOE called for a “unified” borough educational system and the elimination of the 200-student charter school, which Superintendent Jared Rumage said had fostered segregation throughout its existence and created $2 million a year in duplicative costs.

Rumage did not immediately respond to a redbankgreen request for comment Wednesday.

UPDATE: Rumage responded with a statement Thursday. The text is at the end of this post.

His challenge echoed rhetoric from a bitter battle leading up to the school’s charter renewal in 2017.

In November, the borough council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the district school board’s opposition to the charter renewal and call for a unification of the two systems.

Afterward, Martello called Rumage’s comments “a segregation slur against the charter school, which, despite an immense waste of public monies in legal fees, has never been proven.”

In 2016, the state DOE denied, without explanation, a request by the charter school to double its enrollment over three years.

Here’s Rumage’s comment:

We are extremely disappointed with the decision to renew the local charter school. In our opinion, we provided a comprehensive package with detailed evidence supporting a single public school system in Red Bank. As we noted in our submission to the NJDOE, this is not a charter school issue, it is an issue of equity. The current structure is clearly a barrier to educational equity in this community and contradicts the longstanding values of the NJDOE and those recently described on the Department’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) homepage.

We are the only community in New Jersey of similar size that supports two K-8 public school districts. While the local charter school claims to be “much-needed”, it is not filled to capacity, educates several children who reside in districts outside of Red Bank, and has a dwindling waitlist. Moreover, as did our evidence, a comprehensive review of both schools would clearly show that the local charter school does not distinguish itself in any way from the Red Bank Borough Public Schools. Most importantly, after 24 years of existence, if this experiment with a two-school model is much-needed, why has it not been replicated in similarly-sized communities by the NJDOE? And why have other local municipalities not explored this much-needed option? Not Fair Haven, not Little Silver, not Shrewsbury, not Tinton Falls, not Rumson, not Oceanport – and the list goes on throughout the State.

Currently, the regionalization of school districts is a prominent topic. The fiscal outcome of operating two school systems is wasteful and unfair to taxpayers. If we were building a new Red Bank, a system of two public schools would not be a part of the conversation. Furthermore, in Path to Progress (August 9, 2018), the Economic and Fiscal Policy Workgroup noted that school districts with less than 1,000 students cost taxpayers 10 to 15 percent more per pupil than larger districts and are unable to provide as diverse a curriculum.

Again this decision is not only disappointing but disheartening. We are grateful for the many residents, community partners, and municipal leaders who support our vision for Red Bank. Our intent was and continues to be unifying a community and building a robust, diverse, and fiscally responsible school district for all of Red Bank to enjoy. Looking ahead, we will redouble our efforts to inspire our students to Dream BIG and maintain our Best In America mindset, so that we can be certain we are best for the students, families, and community of Red Bank.

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