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2-14-13 Education Issues in the News
NJ Spotlight - Florence Township Charter Withdraws Application to Expand…After much hue and cry, Riverbank charter bows to public pressure, does what it says is best for kids and community

The Times of Trenton - Vineland BOE unanimously OKs school uniform policy

NJ Spotlight - Newark Superintendent Turns Attention to Revamping High Schools…District-wide choice program to be key component of plan to improve 9th-through-12th grade academics

NJ Spotlight  - Florence Township Charter Withdraws Application to Expand…After much hue and cry, Riverbank charter bows to public pressure, does what it says is best for kids and community

The Times of Trenton - Vineland BOE unanimously OKs school uniform policy

 

NJ Spotlight - Newark Superintendent Turns Attention to Revamping High Schools…District-wide choice program to be key component of plan to improve 9th-through-12th grade academics

 

 

 

NJ Spotlight - Florence Township Charter Withdraws Application to Expand…After much hue and cry, Riverbank charter bows to public pressure, does what it says is best for kids and community

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By John Mooney, February 14, 2013 in Education|Post a Comment

With only two weeks before the state was to announce its decision in the matter, a Florence Township charter school has decided to pull its expansion bid due to rising local opposition.

Related Links

Riverbank Letter Withdrawing Application

Open Letter from Sen. Allen

Podcast: Conflict Over Charter Schools Flares Up Anew in Florence

In Local Battles Against Charters, Florence Township Joins the Fray

The board of trustees of the Riverbank Charter School for Excellence on Tuesday night voted unanimously to withdraw its application to the state to expand from a K-3 school to one that ran through the fifth grade.

In the latest such tussle in the state, the four-year-old school’s proposal touched off a tempest of opposition both from the local district and from increasingly organized parents in and outside the town. Much of the concern had focused on the financial burden that the expansion would have placed on the small K-12 district, which must pay the charter for every child who attends at roughly 90-percent of per pupil costs.

Beth Kelley, Riverbank’s principal and a nonvoting member of the board, yesterday said the tensions had grown beyond what anyone at the school expected. The board decided to do what she said was best for the students and the Florence community as a whole.

“It just got to be too much,” she said, citing the public outcry and a petition drive against the school’s proposal. “We just put the kids first and thought about how this was affecting all the students in the township.”

Kelley said the board’s vote coincided with a family night at the school on Tuesday, and spurred considerable talk and concern.

“There were lots of discussions, phone calls, emails, and then stopping in today,” she said. “Families were understanding of our situation, but hoping it didn’t have to happen this way.”

She said decision to pull back on the expansion meant 35 students who would have conceivably stayed at the school next year will no longer have that option.

When asked if the school might try expansion at a later date, she said that had yet to be considered.

“We’re thinking in the present, and what is best for the community,” she said. “We’ll stay a K-3 school, and make it the best school it can be.”

The decision also came the same day that state Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) had written an open letter to both the Florence and Riverbank communities opposing the expansion as unnecessary and divisive.

Allen, a member of the Senate education committee, commended both the local Florence schools and Riverbank Charter, but said the expansion plans were “tearing the town apart. I think it would be in everyone’s best interest if the expansion application did not move forward right now.”

“I know this would be a huge concession by the Riverbank Charter School; however, I believe doing so would bring the community back together,” Allen wrote.


NJSpotlight (http://s.tt/1zLGX)

 

The Times of Trenton - Vineland BOE unanimously OKs school uniform policy

By Don E. Woods/South Jersey TimesThe News of Cumberland County on February 13, 2013 at 9:00 PM

VINELAND — Residents came out to Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, where the board members voted unanimously to approve school uniforms.

"Glad to see we have a lot of public participation tonight, we have a full house," said Eugene Medino, school board president.

According to the new policy, students in all 18 schools inside the district will now wear their choice of red, black and white shirts and khaki pants.

Girls have the option of either wearing khaki pants or skirts.

According to Board of Education member Thomas Ulrich, the school district has been discussing the uniform policy for the past a year and a half.

"There was a lot of discussion and there appeared to be a lot of support from the community, from the principals and the board members," Ulrich said before the meeting.

During the process, the board contacted parent groups and school officials about the uniform policy change.

"It appears that, everything we've done through surveys, the majority of the people, principals and staff see the upside of having school uniforms," Ulrich said.

Ulrich, who is also a city police captain, stressed the importance or consistency between the two high school buildings — the north and south building — and explained the safety aspect of uniforms.

With uniforms, security can now easily keep track of kids in school and see who doesn't belong.

"Our police officers in our schools will appreciate this greatly," Ulrich said.

Before the final vote, board member Scott English brought up questions about specific concerns a few students have asked him about the proposed uniform policy.

"If (the policy) gets approved, all of these questions will go to the principals," said Eugene Medio, board president.

Board Vice President Susan Morello, however, explained that an exactly worded policy will reduce confusion.

"Just cut to the chase and make it clear and concise from the beginning," Morello said.

The board solicitor, Robert DeSanto, assured the board members that the meeting's decision sets the basic framework for the policy and the "nuts and bolts" can be worked out later.

"I'm sure there will be meetings between staff and principals well before September," DeSanto said.

An exact uniform policy will be ready for parents by May 1, according to Medio.

The board of education members even threw around the idea of having a fashion show for the new uniforms.

"We just wanted to thank you on behalf of all the principals," said Principal Mario Olsen of Vineland High School North.

The residents seemed in favor of the policy, with no opinions voiced against the policy.

With the board of education in agreement, it remains to be seen how closely the students will follow the dress code.

"I just think there will be some opposition with the older boys and girls," said Carol A. Deola, owner and director of All Kids First Preschool.

Deola has had children and grandchildren go through Vineland High School.

"I don't think they're all going to be in favor of it," she said. "They like to be creative, they're competitive with their dress."


Contact Don E. Woods at 856-451-1000, ext. 518 or dwoods@southjerseymedia.com

 

 

NJ Spotlight - Newark Superintendent Turns Attention to Revamping High Schools…District-wide choice program to be key component of plan to improve 9th-through-12th grade academics

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By John Mooney, February 14, 2013 in Education|1 Comment

 

A year after concentrating her focus on the district’s elementary schools, Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson is focusing attention this coming year on improving the district’s large comprehensive high schools. Related Links

Rough Start for Newark Super’s School Reorganization Strategy

Newark Schools Chief Pulls No Punches in Depicting District’s Challenges

And unlike the school closures of a year ago that roiled the community, Anderson’s remedy for the high schools will be in largely opening them up, with a new district-wide choice program that actually will add schools.

There are some closures planned -- this time of two very small elementary schools, including one for special-education students -- and those proposals have already sparked some debate.

Yet, so far at least, it is nothing compared to the controversial closures and overhauls of last year and even what was speculated for this year.

Anderson and her top staff have begun meeting with community leaders, educators and others to start rolling out the new high school redesign, under which families and students who do not get into the district’s selective magnet schools will still have options within the city.

The details of what special programs or approaches each of the comprehensive schools – including East Side, Weequahic and Malcolm X Shabazz -- will offer is still being developed, Anderson said. She said they could be thematic, focusing on different social and academic needs.

Some tangible changes will include the breakdown of Barringer High School into three separate schools and an almost certain turnover of staff and leadership at West Side High School, which will become the newest “renewal school” in the district.

The district is also adding an all-girls high school, Young Women’s Leadership Academy, to join the all-boys school that opened this year.

Anderson said a full campaign would start this spring to educate the public about the options, followed in May by an application process in which students will pick their top choices and the district will enroll them based on geography and other factors.

The superintendent said a lesson came from the expansion of the magnet application system this year, as 80 percent of eligible students applied for seats in magnet schools like Science Park and Arts high schools.

Those schools are academically selective and only 20 percent were admitted, but Anderson said it showed families want the choices.

“We have 1,000 kids leave between eighth and ninth grade in this city,” the superintendent said last night. “When they didn’t get in (to the magnets), they do what parents are apt to do and they find other options.”

With so much still to be developed, the verdict is still out on the plans, with some of those leaders apprised of the proposal saying they are still awaiting more details themselves.

But Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, chairperson of the local advisory board, said she was glad that the high schools were getting attention.

“I have always been a proponent of resources going to those schools,” she said. “People love their neighborhood schools, and I really hope her plans to be a success.”

Baskerville-Richardson also stressed that the public and the board need to be included in development of the plans. After last year, though, she said she was pleased that Anderson was at least stepping back from any major overhaul that would spark a furor.

“There were all kinds of rumors, and I’m just very glad none of that is taking place,” she said.

Separate from the high school proposal, Anderson’s plans for closing the two small schools are likely to spur at least some public debate. The two schools are Roseville Avenue School and the Samuel Berliner School.

Roseville is one of the district’s smallest, with just over 100 students, Anderson said.

“There are 120 students there, and a building that is maybe 120 years old,” she said. “That many students for a full faculty is not something any district can sustain.”

She said there had been some academic success at the school, but it was “erratic” and the school was subject to an ongoing investigation into testing irregularities as well. Anderson said there were no plans for a reuse of the building or leasing to a charter school.

The Berliner School serves just 38 students with special needs – specifically, behavior and emotional disorders. Anderson said she had real concerns about the segregation of those students, and that they would be better served in more integrated settings.

“Special education is not a place but a service,” she said. “I just don’t believe that segregated schools are the best settings for these kids.”

Still, any proposed closing stirs up the families, staffs and communities with a history and stake in those schools, and already the proposed Roseville closing has drawn criticism from the Newark Teachers Union President Joseph Del Grosso.

“We’ve always had a good partnership with that school, and we’re really upset about seeing that,” he said. “The community will not take that decision well.”


NJSpotlight (http://s.tt/1zLFB)

 

 


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