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6-18-13 Charter Schools - Increased Scrutiny and Action
NJ Spotlight – Christie Administration Censure Another Batch of Charter Schools…State’s latest move means nearly 25% of New Jersey’s charters are on watch list

Star Ledger - Christie administration closing Newark charter school founded by city activist Fredrica Bey

By John Mooney, June 18, 2013 in Education |Post a Comment

Without much -- if any -- fanfare, the Christie administration yesterday said it has put another three charter schools on probation and issued warning letters to 11 others as it seeks to further raise standards for the alternative schools.

The decisions came after a statewide review of charter performance, an effort that is expected to culminate in new assessments for each school this summer.

There are more than 80 charter schools in New Jersey; the new list means that close to a quarter are now on some form of state watch. Ten charter schools had already been on probation.

"We take accountability seriously -- whether the school is a charter school or a district school -- and this is what accountability looks like," said Justin Barra, the department's chief policy and external affairs officer. "We expect that all schools on probation will address their deficiencies and improve. But if they don't, we will close the school and ensure that any option we offer to a New Jersey student is a high-quality one."

The following schools were placed on probation or notified of problems for a variety of academic, governance, and financial reasons, officials said.

New probation:

·         D.U.E. Season Charter School, Camden

·         Environment Community Opportunity Charter School, Camden

·         Galloway Community Charter School, Galloway

Warning letters:

·         Union County TEAMS Charter School, Plainfield

·         Burch Charter School of Excellence, Irvington

·         Dr. Lena Edwards Charter School, Jersey City

·         East Orange Community Charter School, East Orange

·         Great Oaks Charter School, Newark

·         Jersey City Charter School, Jersey City

·         John P. Holland Charter School, Paterson

·         Lady Liberty Charter School, Harrison

·         M.E.T.S. Charter School, Jersey City

·         Renaissance Regional Leadership Charter School, Browns Mills

·         Sussex County Charter School for Technology, Sparta

Meanwhile, the department also announced yesterday that it has advanced 13 of 34 applicants for the next round in the charter process, for schools opening in 2014. Among those not moving ahead is a virtual charter school proposed for Lakewood.

With decisions to be announced in September, those moving to the second phase:

·         Center Oak Charter School, Pemberton

·         Community Advancement Charter School, Camden

·         Creative Visions Charter School, region consisting of Glassboro, Pitman, Wenonah, West Deptford, East Greenwich, Harrison, Mantua, Deptford, and Washington Township

·         Great Futures Charter High School for the Health Sciences, Jersey City

·         International Academy of Trenton, Trenton/Ewing

·         Mathematical Innovation Generates Higher Technology (MIGHT) Leadership Charter School, Paterson

·         New Jersey Institute of Fashion and Technology Charter School, Newark

·         Ray Lesniak ESH Recovery Charter High School, Elizabeth / Roselle

·         Regional Pneuma Academy Charter School, Asbury Park / Neptune Township

·         Rivergate Academy Charter School, Bridgeton, Fairfield Township

·         Science, Business and Technology, Irvington

·         The District Charter School, Winslow/Chesilhurst

·         Trenton STEM-to-Civics Charter School, Trenton.

 

Star Ledger - Christie administration closing Newark charter school founded by city activist Fredrica Bey

 By Jessica Calefati   The Star-Ledgeron June 18, 2013 at 6:30 AM, updated June 18, 2013 at 6:33 AM

The Christie administration said Monday it will shut down Adelaide L. Sanford Charter School in Newark next week because of its repeated failure to comply with state regulations.

In a letter to school officials obtained Monday by The Star-Ledger, assistant Education Commissioner Evo Popoff also cited the school’s poor academic record as a reason for closing the school.

State officials "lost confidence" in Adelaide Sanford’s school board because school officials repeatedly did not comply with Education Department officials’ requests for various documents and information over the past year, according to the letter.

"A charter school must demonstrate to the Department not only an ability to provide students with a quality education, but the capacity to effectively govern and manage the school’s finances," the letter states. "The Department has lost confidence in (Adelaide Sanford’s) ability to meet the basic requirements to serve its students’ best interests."

Opened in 2007 by longtime activist Fredrica Bey, the K-7 school had been on probation for more than a year before the Christie administration announced its plans Monday to revoke the school’s charter before it is up for review, a rare move that has only happened once before in the last five years.

Neither Bey nor officials from the school board responded to requests for comment on the state’s decision.

Parent Keisha Seagle said the state’s decision seems like the best thing to do considering the school’s problems, but she said the timing of the announcement hurts Adelaide Sanford students like her 6-year-old son, a kindergartner. It’s too late to enter other charter school lotteries, she said.

"I’m not sure where my son will go to school next year," Seagle said. "I don’t want him at a regular public school, so I may enroll him in a Catholic school where I know he’ll be safe and receive a quality education."

The worst part is that the closure could have been prevented had the school’s leaders had complied with the state Education Department’s requests, Seagle said.

"This is all about someone’s ego," Seagle said. "Fredrica Bey could have walked away and done what was necessary to fix the problem. Instead, now she ends up with no tenants and that huge mortgage to pay. She loses and the kids lose, too."

Much of the state’s concerns, according to the letter, centered on conflicts of interest among Adelaide Sanford’s leadership and the school’s agreement to lease space from Women in Support of the Million Man March (WISOMMM), a non-profit community group Bey founded in 1995.

Over the past year, state investigators determined the school spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent space from WISOMMM even though a valid lease between the two groups did not exist and some of the space the school paid for was not used for classroom instruction.

Bey brokered the lease agreement, the investigators found. When state officials asked Bey and her daughter Amina Bey to disclose their ties to WISOMMM and remedy any conflicts of interest, the Beys provided conflicting accounts, the letter states. They resigned from their positions at the school months later.

Amina Bey had served as Adelaide Sanford’s school board president. Both women continue to work for WISOMMM and serve on its executive board.

In an accompanying report released Monday and referenced in the state’s letter, state investigators said they also found Adelaide Sanford’s board violated its own charter when it allowed black studies professor Leonard Jeffries and Elizabeth Councilwoman Patricia Perkins-Auguste, two of Fredrica Bey’s longtime acquaintances, to join the school’s board earlier this year without proper board approval.

On top of the compliance issues, a plan the school submitted to the state last year to improve its academic performance has been "unsuccessful," the letter states.

Adelaide Sanford is the fourth lowest performing charter school in Newark and its students’ math and language arts test scores have only grown marginally in recent years, state education officials found. "By all measures used by the State of New Jersey to assess the academic quality of a charter school – absolute, comparative and growth measures – the data demonstrate that (Adelaide Sanford) comes up short in delivering on the fundamental objective of providing a high-quality education to its students," the letter states.

The state’s decision to close Adelaide Sanford comes six weeks after The Star-Ledger reported that millions of dollars in state and federal aid the school received have helped finance real estate holdings controlled by Bey. Parents quoted in that report described a chaotic school with too few textbooks, insufficient classroom space and rowdy, sometimes violent students.

Bey already faces two civil lawsuits filed in federal court.

A complaint filed last year by the U.S. Attorney’s Office contends Bey took $345,325 in federal grant money earmarked for programs to keep "at-risk" youths off the streets and instead used much of it to pay WISOMMM’s bills, then falsely reported how the money was spent.

De Lacy Davis, a former Adelaide Sanford administrator and a co-defendant in the fraud lawsuit, used some of the grant money to pay other bills, the Justice Department said. But last month, Davis, a retired East Orange police officer, filed a lawsuit of his own that pits him against Bey, his former longtime friend.

Davis’s suit against Bey and members of the school board alleges Bey favored employees who helped her raid Adelaide Sanford’s coffers and fired others who threatened to expose her illegal and unethical behavior. Neither Bey nor an attorney for the school had comment on Davis’ lawsuit.

Adelaide Sanford is the second charter school state officials have closed in the last five years whose charter to operate was not up for renewal. Typically, charter school performance is formally evaluated by the state every five years, and Adelaide Sanford’s last renewal came in 2011.

Last year, Department of Education Commissioner Chris Cerf shuttered Schomburg Charter School in Jersey City because of budget problems, declining enrollment and low academic performance. That school had been open more than a decade before the state moved to close it.

Since 2010, the Christie administration has placed 21 charter schools on probation and has closed 10 schools, including Adelaide Sanford and Schomburg. The other schools closed were scheduled to have their performance reviewed and did not measure up.

 


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