RED BANK: NEW AGENCY EYES TOWN ASSETS

red bank borough hallAmong the ideas the committee may take up: the possible sale of borough hall, above, at 90 Monmouth Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

hot topic red bank njA new municipal body with the potential to exert powerful influence on the future of Red Bank quietly took to the stage Tuesday.

Not quite the hottest ticket in town, the late-afternoon session of the new Redevelopment Agency drew an audience of three: two advisory committee members, who left early, and a reporter. But the ideas being floated, including the possible sale of borough hall, could soon move to the spotlight.

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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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RED BANK: CHARTER SCHOOL SLATES FORUM

135 MONMOUTH 121515 1
HOT-TOPIC_03
The Red Bank Charter School plans to hold an open forum and press conference on its controversial expansion plan Tuesday at 7 p.m., the school announced Sunday.

“The press conference will provide clarity on a recent application amendment, after which the forum will be opened for community comment,” according to a press release.

The event will be held at 135 Monmouth Street, above, a building in which the school recently leased space for a STEM lab and to accommodate the expansion, if approved by the New Jersey Department of Education. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

RED BANK: PANEL BLASTS ‘SEGREGATION’

rbcs 121515 3The 17-year-old charter school has said a weighted lottery that takes racial and economic factors into account would be used in the expansion. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03The panel charged with a hurry-up examination of the proposed Red Bank Charter School expansion teed up the institution for segregation in its report, unveiled at a borough council meeting Wednesday night.

“According to New Jersey Department of Education enrollment data, Red Bank Borough is home to the most segregated school district in the state of New Jersey, with deep disparity” in racial makeup, primary language skills and economic backgrounds, the report said.

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RED BANK: PANEL TO AIR CHARTER ‘CONCERNS’

rbcs panel 012216 2A standing-room crowd filled the middle school auditorium for Friday night’s hearing on the charter school expansion. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03A 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.

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RED BANK: PANEL GETS DISTRICT’S SIDE ONLY

rbcs panel 012216 1Members of the charter school review panel watched a video touting the district schools Friday night. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

[CORRECTION: The original version of this article misreported data displayed in a chart during Rumage’s presentation. The chart indicated that 40 percent of Red Bank Charter School students are economically disadvantaged, compared to 88 percent of district students, whereas redbankgreen mistakenly reported the charter school figure as 4 percent. Also, the corrected figure reflects only economically disadvantaged children, not include new English learners.]

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03With the first flakes of an anticipated blizzard falling outside, a hearing on a proposed enrollment expansion by the Red Bank Charter School was predictably one-sided Friday night.

As expected, charter school Principal Meredith Pennotti was a no-show, as were the school’s trustees, but not because of the weather. They issued a statement earlier in the day saying they were staying way because the panel that called the hurry-up session should take more time in order to conduct “an in-depth analysis without outside pressure.”

Less expected was district Superintendent Jared Rumage’s strongly worded attack of charter school data, which he said obscured its role in making Red Bank “the most segregated school system in New Jersey.”

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RED BANK: CHARTER PANEL HEARING STILL ON

meredith pennotti 012016 1Charter school Principal Meredith Pennotti said she won’t attend Friday’s hearing in part because of hostility directed at her at a recent event. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03A 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. Read More »

RED BANK: CHARTER SCHOOL PLANS OFFENSIVE

rbcs 012016 2Charter school parents at Wednesday night’s meeting in the school’s new STEM lab on Monmouth Street. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03At their first gathering since a controversial doubling of enrollment was proposed last month, Red Bank Charter School officials sought to enlist the school’s parents in a campaign to push back against opponents of the plan Wednesday night.

About 75 parents crowded into newly rented classroom space for a meeting billed as a “family facts” session that members of the general public were not permitted to attend. But many of those present complained they’d been blindsided by the expansion proposal and poorly informed about how to defend it against sometimes hostile criticism by other borough residents.

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RED BANK: CHARTER BAILS FROM HEARING

pennotti menna 111115Charter school Principal Meredith Pennotti with Mayor Pasquale Menna on Veteran’s Day. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Hours after a public hearing on the proposed doubling of enrollment at the Red Bank Charter School was announced Tuesday evening, charter school officials have reversed course and said they will not participate.

Instead, the school will hold its own forum on the controversial issue, open to the public, next week, Principal Meredtih Pennotti told redbankgreen Wednesday morning.

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RED BANK: CHARTER PANEL TO HOLD HEARING

barbara boas 011316Retired teacher Barbara Boas, center, was one of seven borough residents named to a study commission last week. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Mayor Pasquale Menna’s so-called blue-ribbon commission to review a proposed doubling of enrollment at the Red Bank Charter School will hold a public hearing Friday, weather permitting.

The meeting, booked for the Red Bank Middle School auditorium at 7 p.m., was announced in an alert from borough hall Tuesday evening, a day before charter school parents were expected to hold their own meeting on the expansion plan.

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RED BANK: BECK WEIGHS IN ON CHARTER PLAN

rbcs 121515 2The charter school campus on Oakland Street, above, abuts a commercial building on Oakland Street in which the school recently leased space for current and possible future use. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03State Senator Jennifer Beck has asked the New Jersey education department to either fully fund Red Bank’s public schools or reject a proposed doubling of enrollment at the Red Bank Charter School.

In a letter sent to Commissioner David Hespe Governor Chris Christie on Friday, Beck says that allowing the charter school expansion to go ahead without a commensurate increase in funding for the district would “require Red Bank taxpayers to absorb an enormous tax increase and potentially leave public school students with less educational opportunities.”

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RED BANK: MARCHERS REJECT CHARTER PLAN

rb march 011316 1Protesters marched from the middle school to borough hall in freezing weather. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03Red Bank residents hoping to slow or halt a proposed doubling of enrollment at the Red Bank Charter School got help from the borough council Wednesday night.

After an estimated 200 parents, children, district employees and others marched in frigid weather from the middle school to borough hall, the council adopted a resolution asking the state Department to delay a decision on the charter school endeavor.

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