Charter 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
After 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.
“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)
The 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
The 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.
A 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
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.
Members 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
With 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.”
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. More →
Charter 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
At 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.
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.
The 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)
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.”
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.
This time, they’re planning to march from the middle school to borough hall for a semimonthly council session, where a resolution will be introduced asking the state Department to tap the brakes on the charter school endeavor.
The turnout, on a rainy and foggy night, surprised organizers, which they said reflected wildfire concern that the expansion, if approved by the state Department of Education, would occur at steep financial cost to the two-school borough district and taxpayers.
“I have two kids in the primary school, and I don’t want them to be hurt,” said Marion Street resident Genilda Shinners. “And I don’t want my taxes going up, either.”
The charter school recently leased space at 135 Monmouth Street, the former home of Prown’s Home Improvements, and hopes to acquire the building for its planned expansion. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
If allowed, the expansion of the 200-student charter school “will almost certainly lead to a significant tax increase, as well as a multitude of cuts” in services at the borough schools, a visibly riled Superintendent Jared Rumage told a small audience at a board of education meeting held at the middle school.
“I cannot and will not allow our children to be left behind,” he said.
Principal Meredith Pennotti with a Red Bank Charter School student in 2013. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)
By JOHN T. WARD
In an audacious bid to educate more borough children, the Red Bank Charter School has asked the New Jersey Department of Education for permission to double its enrollment over the next three years.
The move is likely to provoke “public discord” and impose “financial hardship” on the district from which the charter school sprang in 1998, charter school Principal Meredith Pennotti acknowledged in a letter to the DOE dated December 1. But it’s needed to address disparities in achievement between students in the two systems, she wrote.
Red Bank schools Superintendent Jared Rumage blasted the proposal as reflecting nearly 20-year-old attitudes about the district, and said its implementation would be “devastating.”
“That perception of who we were 20 years ago is irrelevant,” he told redbankgreen Tuesday morning.
Reflecting a statewide pattern, Red Bank Charter School students bested their district-school counterparts in standardized math and language tests in 2010, according to a report released Tuesday by the New Jersey Department of Education.
The report, titled “Living Up to Expectations,” is a comment-free compendium of tables comparing charter school test results in math and language arts against test results of students in the host districts.