RED BANK: FEDS TAKE ON ‘SEGREGATION’ CASE

The Red Bank Charter School, on Oakland Street, hotly disputes allegations that the borough schools are “segregated” as a result of its enrollment practices. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03As requested three months ago by two advocacy groups, the federal Justice Education Department is investigating allegations of segregation leveled at the Red Bank Charter School, correspondence obtained by redbankgreen on Tuesday showed.

The decision by the department’s Office of Civil Rights to open an investigation “in no way implies that the OCR has made a determination with regard to its merit,” a government letter to the complainants said.

But the revelation set off a fresh round of sniping in a bitter battle over the charter school’s existence.

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RED BANK: CHARTER FOES ALLEGE FALSE DATA

rbcs graduation 061516 2Attendees at the charter school’s graduation ceremony in Riverside Gardens Park last June. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The Red Bank Charter School engaged in “outright fabrication” of data used to support its pending request for a five-year charter extension, opponents alleged Thursday.

The purported falsification, concerning the numbers of resident white and Hispanic children who attend private and parochial schools, was used “in a deliberate attempt to mislead the state Department of Education and to perpetuate the myth that the taxpayer-funded 200-student school reflects the pre-K through 8th grade demographics of the community,” according to two groups seeking a shutdown of the school over alleged civil rights issues.

The charter school dismissed the allegations.

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RED BANK: DISTRICT CALLS FOR CHARTER END

rbcs 032216 2The charter school’s five-year renewal request is pending with the state Department of Education. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The Red Bank school district has quietly but officially called for the non-renewal of the Red Bank Charter School‘s official sanction, district Superintendent Jared Rumage confirmed Tuesday.

In an October 13 letter to the New Jersey Department of Education, Rumage told acting Commissioner Kimberley Harrington that the existence of the charter school “greatly inhibits the ability of our schools to meet our goals” and imposes an “unfair financial burden” on both borough and state taxpayers.

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RED BANK: BEER GARDEN, VEGAN PLANS OK’D

img_5866Birravino’s proposal for a 1,500-square-foot beer garden, as shown to the left of the existing restaurant in renderings below. (Photo by John T. Ward. Renderings by Michael James Monroe. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

birravino-plan-120516Two Red Bank restaurants won approvals for expansion plans Monday night.

• The borough planning board gave unanimous a OK to Good Karma Café, the only vegan restaurant downtown, to triple in size by leasing vacant retail space next door.  Read More »

RED BANK: RESTAURANT PLANS ON AGENDA

Good KarmaGood Karma Café has proposed expanding into the East Front Street space vacated earlier this year Creative Kitchens, which relocated to Mechanic Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallRed Bank’s rapidly growing restaurant scene once again dominates the attention of the borough planning board Monday night.

That’s when a vegan restaurant expansion, a beer garden addition to another restaurant, and the possible creation of a new one occupy a busy agenda.

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RED BANK: TEAK DECK OPENS, SO COME ON… UP

WhatsGoingOnHereteak-112316-2teak-112316-1Just in time for Thanksgiving Eve revelry in downtown Red Bank, a new second-story and deck at Teak, on Monmouth Street, passed its final inspections and opened for business Wednesday night. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

 

RED BANK: P.R. BATTLE OVER CHARTER SCHOOL

rbcs 032216 2The charter school’s five-year renewal request is pending with the state Department of Education. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The two sides in the recently renewed tussle over the future of the Red Bank Charter School crossed swords in the form of press releases Monday.

First, the Latino Coalition of New Jersey issued a release decrying the school’s use of nearly $40,000 to pay an outside firm for public relations.

That was followed by a press release, issued by that firm on the school’s behalf, questioning the coalition’s standing.

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RED BANK: CHARTER FOES CLAIM BROAD BASE

rbms 121715 1A rally at the Red Bank Middle School last December, shortly after the charter school announced its proposed expansion plan, drew a standing-room-only crowd. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Who’s behind the Civil Rights complaint against the Red Bank Charter School filed with the Justice Department earlier this week?

According to charter school Superintendent Meredith Pennotti, it’s a “small group that seems bent on further dividing the community” with a complaint that she called “meritless.”

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RED BANK: GROUPS SEEK FEDS PROBE OF CHARTER SCHOOL FOR STUDENT ‘SEGREGATION’

rbcs graduation 061516 1Charter school Superintendent Meredith Pennotti speaking at the school’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony in Riverside Gardens Park in June. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

[NOTE: This post was updated to include a prepared statement from charter school Superintendent Pennotti.]

By JOHN T. WARD

just_in1A group of parents and Latino rights advocates have asked the federal Justice Department to “investigate and ultimately remedy” enrollment and funding practices at the Red Bank Charter School that they claim make the borough’s public schools the “most segregated” in New Jersey.

In documents released Tuesday, the Latino Coalition of New Jersey and the newly formed Fair Schools Red Bank claim the school and the administration of Governor Chris Christie have violated the civil rights of borough students by failing to address ethnic, socio-econonic and fiscal disparities between the charter school and the public school district from which it was carved out 18 years ago.

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RED BANK: VAN ZANDT LINEUP TO ROCK BASIE

van-zandt-guadagno-111416-1Steven Van Zandt and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno on stage at the Basie Monday. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

basie-marquee-111416A four-night campaign of classic rock shows curated by E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt in coming months will help drive a $20 million expansion Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre, officials said Monday.

But the names of the acts to be spotlighted in the series remained under wraps at a press conference held on the stage of the Vaudeville-era venue.
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RED BANK: CHARTER CLAIMS NO ‘SEGREGATION’

rbcs 032216 5A five-year renewal of the Red Bank Charter School charter is pending before state education officials. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

[See update, below]

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Red Bank Charter School Superintendent Meredith Pennotti went on the offensive Thursday, blasting critics who claim the publicly funded alternate school is responsible for “segregation” of school-aged children in the borough.

In an opinion piece published by the Asbury Park Press’ app.com, Pennotti took aim at what she calls “the same small but vocal group in town” that “kicks into high gear in an effort to shut us down” when the school comes up for renewal every five years, as it has this year.

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RED BANK: SUGARUSH ADDING CAFFEINE RUSH

amanda porter sugarush 062016Taking over the business from her brother and brother-in-law, Amanda Porter plans to add a café to Sugarush next week. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn smallIt’s not so much that the block on which her business resides is undercaffeinated, by urban standards, that compelled new Sugarush owner Amanda Porter to open a café at the Red Bank desserts shop.

But add to that the fact that she’s got available storefront space; a bakery out back with the capacity to create a whole new, non-dessert treats menu; and is a self-style “coffee snob,” and well, how could she not?

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RED BANK: BRANNIGAN’S, TEAK REACH FOR SKY

WhatsGoingOnHereteak 060116brannigan's 060816 1The better question might be “What’s going UP here?,” as two Red Bank restaurants are busy adding second floors with outdoor decks.

Teak, above, on Monmouth Street, remains open through its expansion, and hopes to debut its new space by September, says co-owner George Lyristis. Read more about Teak’s plan here.

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RED BANK: A WEIGHTED LOTTERY, AND A WAIT

rbcs lottery 042816 2CPA Scott Landau holds a ball he drew from a rotating drum as charter school business administrator Theresa Shirley records its number Thursday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03For the first time in its 17-year history, the Red Bank Charter School conducted a lottery engineered to give socioeconomically disadvantaged children a better shot at winning seats Thursday night.

But for parents hoping to enroll their children, the so-called weighted lottery, meant to address a lack of diversity that critics contend make Red Bank the “most segregated school district in the state of New Jersey,” now gives way to another kind of wait.

That’s because, in effect, there are no openings.

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RED BANK: WEIGHTED CHARTER LOTTERY OK’D

rbcs 032216 1The lottery drawing is scheduled for April 28 at the charter school, on Oakland Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Though its highly controversial proposal to double enrollment was rejected, the Red Bank Charter School has won state approval to conduct a weighted entrance lottery.

Charter school Superintendent and Principal Meredith Pennotti confirmed Tuesday that New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe had reversed course on one aspect of his February 29 decision and approved the use of a lottery structured to give socio-economically disadvantaged kids better odds of joining the 200-student school.

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RED BANK: PLAN TESTED DISTRICT’S METTLE

rbms 121715 3Red Bank Superintendent Jared Rumage addressing a packed middle school rally opposing the charter school plan on December 17. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_02In nearly every public utterance throughout the three-month battle over a proposed Red Bank Charter School expansion, borough schools Superintendent Jared Rumage said he welcomed the chance to talk about the district as it exists today, not as it was a generation ago.

His goal wasn’t simply to rebut what he called “fiction” in the charter school’s projections about the financial impact on the host district. Just as much, Rumage said, was the need to answer what he consider a baseless slap at the district. Read More »

RED BANK: STATE DENIES CHARTER EXPANSION

rbcs 020416 1A proposal to double the size of the charter school called for using the building on Monmouth Street for new classroom space. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD
just_in

The Red Bank Charter School expansion will have to wait.

New Jersey Education Commissioner David Hespe has rejected the charter school’s request to double its enrollment, according to a letter sent to the school Monday.

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RED BANK: RUMAGE REFUTES CHARTER DATA

rbcs rumage slides 012216 1Superintendent Jared Rumage speaking at the middle school in January. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_02Red Bank borough schools Superintendent Jared Rumage calls data in a recent mailing to borough residents by the Red Bank Charter School “fiction.”

The flyer, which purports to show that the charter school’s impact on local taxes is light and getting lighter, also includes figures that “are different from those previously shared by the Charter School when making the same argument,” Rumage wrote in a letter posted on the borough schools website Monday.

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RED BANK: CHARTER PRESIDENT RESIGNS

janice havay 022316Janice Havay at the charter school following acceptance of her resignation Tuesday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD
HOT-TOPIC_03

In the midst of a highly contentious expansion proposal, the president of the Red Bank Charter School board of trustees has resigned.

Janice Havay, who served as board president since mid-2014, cited “expanding work responsibilities” and family obligations in a resignation letter that was dated February 4 and accepted by the board at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Havay declined to comment on whether she had misgivings about either the expansion plan, which would double enrollment over three years to 400 students, or its rollout, which has been widely criticized.

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RED BANK: O’SCANLON OPPOSES CHARTER PLAN

rbcs 021016O’Scanlon says underfunding of the local school district should be “preemptively disqualifying” of the proposed charter school expansion. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_02New Jersey Assemblyman and self-described school-choice supporter Declan O’Scanlon calls the proposed expansion of the Red Bank Charter School “ill-informed” and says it should be rejected.

In what he calls a “data-driven” analysis of the plan, O’Scanlon calls on state Education Commissioner David Hespe to deny the request, and adds that he would “question” the merits of the proposal even if, as other critics have demanded, the state fully funds the local school district from which the charter school sprang 17 years ago.

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RED BANK: MORE FUNDS COMING, SAYS BECK

jen beck 012216 5Senator Jen Beck addressing a hearing on the charter school proposal at the Red Bank Middle School last month. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The Red Bank school district can expect additional funding from Trenton under the latest Christie Administration budget, state Senator Jen Beck said Tuesday afternoon.

How much? It’s unclear, but it won’t be enough to offset the “devastating” impact that a proposed doubling of enrollment by the
Red Bank Charter School
 would have on the district, Beck told redbankgreen.

Morevover, Red Bank won’t be sharing in a new pot of money created by the administration to help districts that host charter schools shoulder costs, Beck said.
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RED BANK: CHARTER OFFICIALS DEFEND PLAN

foss pennotti block 021016Charter school Principal Meredith Pennotti, flanked by trustee Roger Foss, left, and business administrator David Block, at Wednesday’s press conference. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD
HOT-TOPIC_03

An enrollment lottery weighted to give economically disadvantaged kids a better shot at getting into the Red Bank Charter School should help address racial and ethnic disparities with the borough school district, charter school officials said Wednesday.

In a wide-ranging press conference held at the Oakland Street school, they also rebutted much of the criticism directed at their controversial expansion plan, which would double enrollment over three years, to 400 students. And they maintained that allegations of “segregation” resulting from charter school policies, and negative impacts on the local district’s finances, were aired and put to rest, more than a decade ago.

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RED BANK: DISTRICT KEEPS PRESSURE ON PLAN

jared rumage 082814Red Bank Superintendent Jared Rumage, above, said PARCC test results show that students gain skills as they progress through the middle school. Below, charter school Principal Meredith Pennotti at the forum her school hosted Tuesday. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

meredith pennotti 020216Twists in the proposed Red Bank Charter School expansion saga in recent days have prompted the borough school district to dial up its attack on the plan.

District Superintendent Jared Rumage said a change in the timeline of the plan’s proposed rollout “amplifies [the] disconnect” between the charter school and the community.

In addition, academic test data released this week shows that district eighth-graders are not only competitive with those at the charter school, but outscored them, he said.

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RED BANK: CHARTER TRIES SILENCE WITH PR

rbcs 020216 6Charter school Principal Meredith Pennotti with a school cofounder, Michael Stasi, center, and trustee Roger Foss, in blue tie. Below, charter school parent and middle school employee Diana Archila addresses the crowd as charter school spokesman Kevin King looks on. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

archila king rbcs 020216After what’s been called “a PR disaster” involving its proposed plan to double enrollment, the Red Bank Charter School shifted into corporate communications mode Tuesday night.

Over the course of a two-hour forum that drew a fired-up, overflow crowd in its new STEM lab on Monmouth Street, school officials, with one exception, refused to answer questions, rebut criticisms or even state positions on their own proposal plan, instead sitting silently and letting critics have their say.

And for reporters, school officials deferred all questions to a polished corporate spokesman who stayed rigorously on-message.

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