The Lacey Township School District has released a letter to the Commissioner of the State’s Department of Education in opposition to the Creative Studies Charter School application.
“There are so many concerns educationally, fiscally and operationally,” Superintendent Sandra Brower said.
Pamela Brown submitted an application to the state Department of Education for the on Oct. 15, aiming to open for the 2012-13 school year. The school’s philosophy is to increase student’s creativity and flexibility by integrating the arts with academics, she said.
The school district’s appeal points out that that Gov. Chris Christie has stated, “charter schools should be focused on those areas where there is failure.” Acting Commissioner Christopher Cerf emphasized in September that charter schools were to be offered where needs are not being met.
“While not opposed to choice, please know that Lacey Township is a high achieving school district that is meeting the needs of students academically, artistically, emotionally and socially through a wide variety of opportunities and offerings available to the students of Lacey Township,” the letter says.
Last week, the school district formed a Charter School Educational Review Committee which included: Sue Hutler, Jeff Brewer, Ann Dezendorf, Michelle Amos, Mary Esch, Vanessa Clark, James Savage and Brower.
“These are people who volunteered to participate,” Brower said. After reading the application front to back, the staff offered their “thoughts, feedback and concerns from their perspective.”
The curriculum fails to address New Jersey Core Content Standards, Brower said.
“The application reads as though the school is focused on art with academics infused,” she said.
The charter school lacks Common Core standards in math, language arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, world languages and 21st- Century Life and Careers, Brower said.
Creative Studies plans to utilize the Getty Museum’s approach to curricula, which addresses California State Content Standards.
“Getty does not provide an academic framework to curriculum,” the letter states.
The Creative Studies application states that the curriculum integrates art into all core subjects.
“Creative Studies Charter School offers a creativity-rich environment for the many children who do not learn best by 'traditional' methods,” Brown told Patch last week. “We use innovative, research-based learning methods based upon creative arts integration, an educational approach not available in the traditional Lacey Township public school classroom.
The Lacey Township School District exceeds the arts educational program, Brower said. Lacey schools are high performing and the interest in a charter school does not seem to be there, she said.
Last week,in Lacey Township. Out of 873 votes, 50 percent thought it would be good to have a choice between the public school district and a non-traditional education while 26 percent said the Lacey Township School District already provides a great education.
The presence of a charter school in Lacey Township would have an “inevitable impact” on the school district, as , school board President Jack Martenak told Patch last week.
The state's projected total budget for Creative Studies Charter School is $1,577,351 for a student enrollment of 150 students.
State aid is dependent on the number of students in the school district, Business Administrator James Savage said last week. For the first year, the Lacey Township School District could potentially lose $1.6 million.
Creative Studies has a projected enrollment of 150 students in grades three to five to start. If the school is successful, Brown anticipates an enrollment of 500 from kindergarten to eighth grade by year 11.
Since the school district faces a state-imposed 2 percent budget cap, Savage is unsure where that money would come from. “It would probably have to come from cuts,” he said.
Class sizes as well as supplies and materials could be impacted, Brower said.
“There’s very little discretionary money,” she said. “The board would have to prioritize. It will be a big challenge to divert those funds from the local schools.”
The state will approve or deny the charter school in January. If the school is denied, the applicant may apply again.
Brown was not immediately available for comment.
Other concerns mentioned in the letter include:
- Pamela Brown’s residency: She is required to be a Lacey Township resident and the school district found a discrepancy.
- The facility: Brower said the Charter School Educational Review Committee does not find Murray Grove Retreat and Renewal Center an atmosphere conducive to education.
- Segregation of students who are in the school district in grade two, switch to Creative Studies and have to return to the school district for grade four.
- The school day provides less instructional time than the Lacey Township School District.
- The applicant inaccurately reports several 2010 report card scores for Lacey Township School District.
- Lack of provision of maintenance and repairs or custodial cleaning services.
- Creative Studies has a high ratio of administrators to students at 1:50 while Lacey operates with 1:287.
- The Treasurer has School Business Administrator duties that require certification.
- The teacher evaluation structure does not adequately provide supervision and feedback.
- The application identifies staff positions of a Director of Education, an Operations Manager and an Instructional Manager but these are not listed on the Organizational Chart or in the budget plan.
- There is no provision for hiring special education teachers or paraprofessionals to support students with special needs.
Continue to follow Lacey Patch for more on the charter school application process.
The letter from the school district and the Creative Studies application are attached to this story as a PDF.