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10-3-13 Preliminary Approval for 3 New Chartersl, Newark's $30M in Race to the Top Funds in Jeopardy, Free Breakfast for NJ Students Increasing
NJ Spotlight - State Education Department Approves Just Three Out of 38 Charter Proposals…Jersey City, Trenton bids get go-ahead; Lesniak-backed school to help substance abusers rejected

Star Ledger - Newark schools could lose chance for $30M in federal funds after fight over 'Race To The Top' application…A battle between Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso (left) and Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson (right) could end up costing the district a shot at $30 million in federal funding after Del Grosso refused to sign off on the city's application for the federal "Race To The Top" program

NewJerseyNewsRoom - Free School Breakfast in New Jersey…Although the state of New Jersey still lags behind most other states in low-income students being served breakfast - the number of eligible students receiving breakfast in the state rose 35 percent from 2010 to 2013. Currently the program now serves just over 183,000 of the half-million students eligible

NJ Spotlight - State Education Department Approves Just Three Out of 38 Charter Proposals…Jersey City, Trenton bids get go-ahead; Lesniak-backed school to help substance abusers rejected

John Mooney | October 3, 2013

 

On the eve of the November election, the Christie administration has approved just three more application for charter schools in New Jersey, continuing its on-again, off-again relations with the charter movement.

The state Department of Education confirmed yesterday that it had approved three of 38 applications for new charters to open in 2014, two of them located in Trenton and the third in Jersey City. The approvals are only preliminary, with final charters not issued until next summer.

The small number of new approvals continues a pattern for Gov. Chris Christie and state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, who started as big charter backers but scaled back their support in the last two years in the face of rising backlash in some communities.

“The department’s goal is to approve high-quality charter schools that provide families with additional choices in the education of their children,” Michael Yaple, the Education Department’s chief spokesman, said yesterday. “All parents should be given a choice to find the school that is the best fit for their child, and we believe these schools will offer that high-quality choice.”

Adding to a current roster of 87 charter schools in operation, the latest selections for approval are interesting choices, and leave out a couple of prominent applicants.

One plan rejected was the proposed charter high school in Elizabeth that was backed by -- and was to be named after -- state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union). Catering specifically to students with substance-abuse issues, it would have been the only charter in Elizabeth.

Instead, the department focused on two urban districts that have seen charters come and go, with the latest proposals providing some new approaches. The three new schools getting preliminary approval are:

·         Great Futures Charter High School for the Health Sciences. The high school in Jersey City will focus on health sciences, including partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club and the Jersey City Medical Center.

·         The International Academy of Trenton Charter School. The elementary school, with 350 pupils, will serve both Trenton and Ewing students. The school will be managed by SABIS Education Systems, a private charter management organization which runs schools in Camden, Paterson and Jersey City.

·         Trenton STEM-to-Civics Charter School. A high school also serving Trenton and Ewing students, it will focus on the so-called STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Trenton STEM-to-Civics charter is especially intriguing, as the school plans to have partnerships with institutions as varied as the Liberty Science Center and Princeton University.

The school will eventually be located on the campus of the Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf in Ewing, the once-venerated state school that has seen enrollment steadily drop as education of the hearing-impaired has evolved.

In addition to using one of the many vacant spaces on the Katzenbach campus, the charter school plans to team with Katzenbach and provide some combined programs. Still, its focus overall is expanding the options in STEM and civics education for students throughout Trenton and Ewing.

“It is really about the partnerships we have developed, with Liberty Science, Princeton, the Department of Environmental Protection,” said Nicole Doran, one of the two founding directors. “There are a lot of exciting things we can do with these in place. We will be a traditional high school with a lot of exciting opportunities for project-based learning.”

The founders of Trenton STEM-to-Civics have deep ties with the existing Village Charter School, located less than a mile away on the Trenton/Ewing border. Doran was a former fundraiser for the school, and the other founder, Leigh Byron, is the former head of the school.

But both said the ties end there and that the new school will be wholly independent of Village Charter.

The rejection of the Raymond Lesniak ESH Recovery Charter High School drew fire from the proposed school’s namesake, who said yesterday that the department’s decision showed a lack of compassion for students in need.

The school had been held up by current charter law that prohibits such targeted enrollment, but Lesniak and other Democratic leaders had recently pressed and seem poised to change the law. Apparently, their effort was not in time.

The department “said it was too recovery oriented,” Lesniak said last night of the application. “Sad. Now 40 students will likely not graduate nor get a better opportunity to recover from substance abuse problems.”

Lesniak said the proposal would move ahead as a private school. “I will not abandon these children, as has the (department),” Lesniak said.

 

Star Ledger - Newark schools could lose chance for $30M in federal funds after fight over 'Race To The Top' application…A battle between Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso (left) and Schools Superintendent Cami Anderson (right) could end up costing the district a shot at $30 million in federal funding after Del Grosso refused to sign off on the city's application for the federal "Race To The Top" program

James Queally/The Star-Ledger By James Queally/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter  updated October 03, 2013 at 2:32 AM

 

NEWARK — The Newark school district will likely lose any chance of winning roughly $30 million in federal funds because of a dispute between union and district officials over the city’s "Race To The Top" application.

While union leaders say they were not given enough time to help draft the application, a spokesman for the district said the union canceled several meetings to discuss the proposal.

Joseph Del Grosso, president of the Newark Teachers Union, said late Wednesday night he will not sign the application by Thursday's noon deadline because he was not asked for his input until Tuesday. In addition, he said, very little of the grant money would have benefited students.

"Race To The Top" applications are not valid without approval from the local teachers union.

"I read the document, and there’s not really anything in there that’s truthful or that I see that helps with any of the problems we have here in Newark," Del Grosso said.

Among other things, he said, the application does not include a request for funding for literacy programs.

Matthew Frankel, a spokesman for schools Superintendent Cami Anderson, said the district scheduled four meetings with the union in recent weeks, but Del Grosso canceled each one.

Del Grosso denied that.

"We didn’t cancel any meetings because they didn’t arrange any meetings regarding ‘Race To The Top,’ " he said, adding that regular business meetings may have been canceled, but the district never scheduled any meeting specifically aimed at the application.

Literacy program

While the federal mandate for this year’s grant was improving classroom technology and "social and emotional" learning, Frankel said Newark’s 200-plus page application tackled literacy issues as well.

"There is a literacy grant as it relates to writing and improvement of writing in high school. There is an initiative about how we track our students as it relates to their ability to read. We have a special initiative for pre-school to third grade as it relates to early childhood literacy," Frankel said. "The notion that we’re not addressing literacy is just factually incorrect."

State Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf urged Del Grosso to reconsider.

"Joe is a good person and an effective union leader and I am very much hoping that he will not let other extraneous concerns get in the way of doing what’s in the best interests of the children of Newark," Cerf said last night. "Certainly, bringing an additional $30 million of federal resources to the district would be a very positive thing."

Newark Mayor Cory Booker said he has worked closely with Anderson and Del Grosso and remained "confident that they can still find a solution to benefit the children of our city."

Started in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Education, "Race To The Top" is a competitive federal education reform program that rewards school districts based on student performance, school policies and turning around educational institutions that are performing poorly. The program previously awarded funds on a state-by-state basis, but began accepting applications from individual districts last year.

Signature needed

The state-run Newark district would still have to score well on a federal review to attain the funding, but the lack of Del Grosso’s signature essentially disqualifies the district.

Cerf said Newark’s proposal was a "very strong application that would be very much in contention for the award."

Newark applied for the grant money last year, but was eliminated in the final round, Frankel said. That application, which Del Grosso signed off on, was similar to this year’s proposal, he said.

This isn’t the first time New Jersey has missed out on the federal funding because of a snag in the application. In 2010, the Christie administration submitted incorrect budget information in response to a question on the application, costing the state enough points that it fell just short of receiving $400 million in education funds. The controversy ultimately cost former state Education Commissioner Bret Schundler his job.

While district officials were holding out hope a compromise could be reached, Del Grosso said he isn’t budging.

"I’m not going to change my mind," he said. "(Cami Anderson) text messaged me just a little while ago saying they have until a certain time tomorrow, but I’m not gonna change my mind, because the document is not going to change."

 

NewJerseyNewsRoom - Free School Breakfast in New Jersey

 

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 19:17  BY REBECCA SHEEHAN

NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

We have all heard it over and over again by our parents, “Breakfast is the important meal of the day.” Without those early morning nutrients from a well balanced breakfast, you are starting the day off on the wrong foot. Empty stomachs can correlate to a bad performance in the classroom ‑  and that is the message behind Advocates for Children of New Jersey's third annual Food for Thought School Breakfast Report, which was released on Tuesday.

Although the state of New Jersey still lags behind most other states in low-income students being served breakfast - the number of eligible students receiving breakfast in the state rose 35 percent from 2010 to 2013. Currently the program now serves just over 183,000 of the half-million students eligible.

"Not only are these districts feeding more children, addressing childhood hunger, and overcoming a major obstacle to learning they are also bringing back more federal dollars to feed New Jersey schoolchildren," the report states.

For example, Camden County's overall school breakfast rate rose to 38 percent of those eligible in April 2013 from 33 percent the year before, while Burlington County's rate held steady at 27 percent, as did Gloucester County's at 33 percent – according to the report published by the Inquirer.

“School breakfast addresses a major barrier to learning,” said Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey on the ACNJ website press release. “School districts should be commended for stepping up to meet the school breakfast challenge. Unfortunately, there is much work to do. An alarming 320,000 children are still missing out on that all-important morning meal at school.”

The increase in breakfast participation is largely the result of more districts changing the way they serve breakfast. Traditionally, schools have served breakfast before school – when children have not yet arrived, while currently, a number of schools are serving breakfast during the first few minutes of the day. This method is known as “breakfast after the bell,” ‑ this timing significantly boosts student participation in the federal School Breakfast Program.

According to the breakfast report, over the last three years, the number of students eligible for free or subsidized school meals rose 12 percent. Author of the report, Nancy Parello, said that in the last few years, the number of households without enough food grew by 40 percent, and the number of children receiving food stamps rose 80 percent.

“We are calling on school boards and superintendents to provide leadership in expanding school breakfast because this makes smart sense for children, schools and the state as a whole,” Zalkind said in the press release. “Hungry children struggle to learn. Providing breakfast leverages the billions of dollars we invest each year in educating our children, ensuring that more students succeed in school.”

The Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) is the trusted, independent voice putting children’s needs first for more than 30 years. The ACNJ’s work results in better laws and policies, more effective funding and stronger services for children and families.

For more information, visit www.njschoolbreakfast.org.

 


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608
609-394-2828



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