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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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: SCHOOL AID TO RISE 13 PERCENT

Red Bank Primary School. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)

Red Bank schools will see a $339,000 increase in budgetary help from Trenton next year, the Christie Administration announced Thursday.

As part of what the state Department of Education called “the largest appropriation of K-12 education dollars in the state’s history,” the two-school Red Bank district will see an increase in state aid of 13 percent, to a total $2.7 million, in the 2013-2014 year, the agency said in a press release.

The entirety of the increase reflects “under-adequacy” funding, a new DOE category of aid designed “to benefit districts that are currently 10 percent or more below” what the state figures it costs to provide students an adequate education.

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STATE AID BOOST COMES WITH QUESTIONS

c-christieGovernor Chris Christie at a Middletown town hall meeting in January. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Governor Chris Christie’s announcement Wednesday of how he’s apportioning $850 million in aid to school districts was welcome news to superintendents, who last year took axes and scalpels to their budgets when Christie froze funding.

But while any additional funds are welcome, local school leaders say they’re still in the dark over one big question: how are they going to be able to use it?

“We’re still, right now, sort of waiting for additional guidance from the Department of Education how they would like us to proceed with additional funding,” said Jim Stefankiewicz, superintendent of Red Bank Regional High School in Little Silver. His school got a whopping 147-percent boost in state aid. “Information from the governor’s office said that they would really like it to be earmaked more for property tax relief, which we are very open to and considering.”

But until official word comes down what the money can be used for, Stefankiewicz, like other leaders, is in a holding pattern.

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FAIR HAVEN TAX UP, RUMSON’S DOWN AT R-FH

r-fhThe high school’s budget will raise taxes in Fair Haven, but lower taxes in Rumson. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Rumson-Fair Haven Superintendent Pete Righi says he hasn’t seen a tax increase this small in about 15 years, and as a result, one of the two sending towns to the high school will see a drop in taxes.

The other will see an increase.

The school’s $16.3 million budget for 2011-’12, of which $15.1 million will be raised through local taxes, calls for an increase of $10.92 per every $100,000 of assessed property value in Fair Haven; in Rumson, the budget, if approved, would mean a drop of $1.41 per every $100,000, Business Administrator Frank Gripp said.

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RED BANK SCHOOL BUDGET RAISES TAX 1.9%

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Board of Education unveiled its 2011-12 budget last week, a plan that includes difficult decisions but avoids drastic ones, said Superintendent Laura Morana.

Sports, fields trips and capital projects are, like last year, off the table, and a handful of positions will be eliminated under the $19.45 million spending plan.

That doesn’t necessarily equate to job losses, though, Morana said.

“I am positive everyone will be absorbed” somewhere else in the district, she said.

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ANOTHER FAIR HAVEN TAX DROP EXPECTED

fh-boro-hallFair Haven is expected to reduce taxes for the fourth straight year. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

While Governor Chris Christie laid out a state’s budget Tuesday that included a plan to keep state aid to cities and towns flat, Fair Haven, in anticipation of such a move, outlined its own spending plan for the year.

As it’s become custom under Mayor Mike Halfacre, local taxes are going down.

But don’t make dinner reservations just yet. The savings might only get you a half-tank of gas.

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M’TOWN BUDGET: 10 COPS COULD LOSE JOBS

mtown-cruiserThe axe may fall if the PBA doesn’t make significant concessions, the township committee said. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Faced with the state’s new two-percent property tax cap and a drastic revenue shortfall, Middletown’s township committee has drafted what Mayor Tony Fiore calls a “doomsday scenario,” which includes laying off 10 police officers and effectively dismantling the town’s recreation department.

“It’s not news we like to share,” Fiore said of the plan, filed with the state Civil Service Commission on Friday, which anticipates the elimination of some 26 jobs.

Layoffs could take effect as soon as April, Fiore said, if the committee doesn’t get significant concessions from the library board and the handful of unions that represent township employees.

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RED BANK GIVES LAST OK ON RBR CUTS

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

A week after delaying a vote on reductions to Red Bank Regional‘s failed $24 million budget, the borough council gave the green light on $270,500 in recommended cuts at a special meeting Tuesday night.

Sports, clubs and programs are spared in the new spending plan, but eight positions will be eliminated, Superintendent Howard Lucks tells redbankgreen.

“It did include eliminating positions. It included a wage freeze [for Lucks]. It included a reduction in force,” Councilman Michael DuPont said.

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RESIDENTS SWEAT BUDGET DETAILS

rb-budget-042810Participants in last night’s Q&A on the Red Bank budget pick up info packets. (Click to enlarge)

Red Bank officials held a marathon budget walk-through before a standing-room crowd at borough hall Wednesday night, laying out the rationale for a plan that calls for a property tax increase and the possibility of furloughs for government employees.

Over the course of three and a half hours in an increasingly stuffy council chambers, they also addressed every one of 90 suggestions put before them by former GOP council candidate Kim Senkeleski, who had gathered the ideas for submission.

Given their opportunity to speak, though, audience members most wanted to talk about wringing some tax money out of the borough’s outsized population of nonprofits.

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REPORT: RUMSON SCHOOLS TO CUT 16 JOBS

hot-topic rightWith no state aid coming from Trenton this year, the Rumson school district will eliminate 16 jobs and still ask voters to approve a 4-percent increase in taxes this month, according to today’s Asbury Park Press.

The district is faced with closing a $1.34 million budget gap that results from the loss of $666,000 in aid, increases in health insurance and benefit costs, and other, contractual obligations, the Press reports.

From the Press:

The district made $875,000 worth of cuts, including 16 full-time positions and reducing three full-time jobs to part time, said Scott Feder, superintendent of schools.

“The things we were looking to maintain were class size, which ranges from 20 to 26 (students per class),” Feder said.

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M’TOWN BUDGET TO GET ‘DECISIVE ACTION’

taxesBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

In the wake of what Middletown Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger calls a “perfect storm” of financial woes, he’s proposing 12, and maybe more, “decisive actions” to make up for the town’s large revenue shortfall.

After checking to see if the ideas were feasible and legal, Scharfenberger delivered a communique Monday afternoon outlining his plan to mitigate a heavy burden on taxpayers.

Although “everything’s on the table,” his 12-step program calls for outsourcing, salary freezes, mandatory furloughs and a 10- to 15-percent decrease in operations and expenditures for all departments, including layoffs, he said.

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BOARD PASSES BUDGET, TAX INCREASE

rb-budgetBoard members Ann Roseman and Ben Forest at Tuesday night’s session. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Board of Education unanimously passed a $19 million budget Tuesday night, a spending plan that will increase the tax levy if voters approve it next month.

Even with $1.4 million in reductions in the general operating portion of the budget, to $14.1 million, the budget will result in a 3.75 percent increase to the tax rate due to a drop in revenues and the state-mandate that local school districts use surplus funds to compensate for state aid cuts, school officials said.

Property owners would see an approximate 2 cent increase per $100 of valuation their tax bills, to $0.5371. For the owner of a home assessed at the borough-average $405,000, that would mean $2,175 in taxes, excluding levies for the the borough government, the regional high school and Monmouth County.

To make up for a steep cut in state aid to the two-school system, positions had to be eliminated — though there haven’t been any layoffs — and, among other extracurricular programs, all athletics at the middle school were dropped.

“To me that’s just incredible,” said a displeased Ben Forest, who heads the board’s finance committee.

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FAIR HAVEN REDUCES TAXES… AGAIN

halfacre-1Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre, shown here at a December council meeting, introduced a  smaller 2010 budget that shrinks taxes on Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Fair Haven has accomplished an improbable feat in today’s fiscal climate.

While most towns, including Red Bank, are jumping on the panic button to balance budgets over cuts in state aid and a dormant economy, borough officials on Monday night introduced a 2010 budget that reduces taxes.

Mayor Mike Halfacre, who’s vying for the Republican nomination to challenge 12th-district Congressman Rush Holt in November, was quick to tout the achievement as evidence of his GOP tax-cutting credentials.

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STATE AID CUT FORCES ‘SEVERE CHOICES’

dupontCouncilman Michael DuPont delivers the bad news Monday night. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Layoffs, furloughs and a reduction in services, once considered elements of a worst-case scenario, will now be a reality in Red Bank, officials said Monday.

“We’ve made some severe choices, we’re going to make severe choices, and you’re going to see them,” Councilman Michael DuPont, who chairs the finance committee, said at last night’s Borough Council meeting.

The grim news comes on the heels of word that the borough, already saddled with what officials have called the extraordinary burden of providing services to a large number of tax-exempt nonprofits, will see a drop of $517,144 in state aid this year. Traditionally the borough has received $2.5 million, DuPont said.

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