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School District Submits Appeal of Charter School to State

Super: Charter school lacks Common Core standards

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.

‘Inevitable Impact’

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.

Tim O'Connor December 13, 2011 at 05:10 AM
I was one of those who believed in the charter school as a solution. For the last year of reading and research into the Lacey School District and can not see the benefit of a charter school here, now. Over the next ten years this proposed charter school will switch 10% of our students out of the Lacey School district into what? Will there be a second school board? Are we going to build new facility? Will we have to pay a second administrator? Are we just duplicating jobs driving our tax rate up? What will we do with the school building we will no longer need The questions go on! Right now the people of Lacey have spoken and we have made huge changes in the way our district will be doing business. Shouldn't we give these changes an opportunity to take shape? Lacey has it's problems, but it is not Jersey City, Newark, Trenton or Camden.
Joe Stewart December 13, 2011 at 04:12 PM
I am usually a Christie fan....surprise surprise..lol. But this time his quote in the article is exactly what charter schools do and it stinks. Take it from me I sent my kids to one for a year. Gov. Chris Christie has stated, “charter schools should be focused on those areas where there is failure.” Yes, what ends up happening is parents that blame the schools for everything, especially ones that don't parent very well and have children that get into a lot of trouble. Bail out of public schools and send them to the charter school because it is like a small private school that they don't have to pay for. The people that run these schools have a gripe with the public schools and will tell you ANYTHING to get you enrolled. They will tell you that they have a curriculum for gifted children and your child might misbehave because he is so smart that he is bored and not challenged in school. Maybe that your child does not respond well to conventional teaching methods. No, he/she is an obnoxious brat because his/her parents blame everything on everyone else, they get away with toooooo much and they are not disciplined at home. "oh, my child has a personality conflict with the teacher." That's because the teacher has to take the role of parent because no one else does, and they shouldn't have to. Get over it and call Supernanny if you can't handle it....lol
tr December 13, 2011 at 05:24 PM
I think that from what is being said in these comments, that an ADULT CHARTER SCHOOL should be opened in Lacey to teach the parents of troubled children how to parent. Or maybe just arrest them for "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" and have the Juvenille and Family court system mandate these behavior correction classes and rehabilitation methods.
Tim O'Connor December 13, 2011 at 07:49 PM
If the charter school idea is going to benefit the children then we should take one of the three elementary schools in town and incorporate the principals or methods of teaching under the control of the BOE. If it truly works we should adapt the entire district to incorporate these principals. The Lacey School District is in need of improvement, as all districts do. But we have a good School System now. Our children are getting a excellent education. Let's give Dr. Brower an opportunity to at least submit here recommendations for improving our existing system.
Al Dente December 13, 2011 at 08:22 PM
Tim, you seem to be a jack of all trades. What expertise to you have in education? Why would you want to take one third of our elementary school kids and gamble on 'if it truly works'? Don't gamble on our children's education. If you wan to gamble go to AC.
Tim O'Connor December 13, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Al, so you are saying take that one third of the students and remove them from the control of the BOE? Our tax dollars will still be used taking money away from the district to make payments on one of the schools in town. My point is that in the case of Lacey, if the charter school methods are so great, then we should incorporate it's principals through out the district. Are you saying that our district is so horrible that we need to move 10% of the students into a school totally exempt from Lacey residents control? We just get the bill for it with no accountability.
Pamela Brown ♥ December 13, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Local Parents' Charter Update: Hi I hope this finds you all well and happy and ready to enjoy the Holidays!! I do want to let you know Creative Studies did not receive approval. We will meet with the reviewers in January to find out why. Here is our reply letter: Dear Commissioner Cerf: We appreciate the opportunity to submit a proposal for Creative Studies Charter School, a year round arts based program, as we believe a parent led charter is preferable to an "for profit" or sectarian initiative. We believe innovation in education is more likely to come from the suburbs than chronically impoverished urban districts who struggle daily to meet the overwhelming academic, social and emotional needs of their students. Many more parents are now engaged in the discussion about the local public schools, which only benefits students in the long run. Thank you again for your consideration. Pamela Brown for Creative Studies Charter School. ________________________________________ Thanks to everyone for their great ideas and reviews~ We need more parents and communities involved in education. Email ideas and questions to CreativeStudiesCS@gmail.com. Thanks again for the great support ♥. Pamela Brown for Creative Studies.
Joe Stewart December 13, 2011 at 10:07 PM
@Pamela....Children of this age do NOT need a school that focuses them on one thing. They need a school that will round them out for their future education. We already have the Performing Arts Academy at Lakehurst, that my daughter attended. It is a joke. the only performing arts anything without a stage for these children to perform on and if your not a dancer, you don't really get any show time until you are a senior. In fact, three of my kids are involved in the Lacey arts programs, which are very good. Why would you try to dilute this program? The talent is great and Mr stykes and Miss L are awesome teachers. Usually people like you have kids that didn't get the lead in the play or something like that. There is NO problem with the Choral, Art or Acting programs in Lacey. Now, if they put the money into the Lacey arts program that they would need to put into a charter school, that would make sense.
Joe Stewart December 13, 2011 at 10:09 PM
@tr...from your mouth to Gods ears. I find it hard to believe that you need a course to drive a boat, but you can pop out a kid and be expected what to do for the next 18 years.
Joe Stewart December 13, 2011 at 10:10 PM
Me, TR, Tim and Al....lets takeover the board of education!
Tim O'Connor December 13, 2011 at 11:35 PM
What our school system really needs is vocational studies. We have kids who will get a good education and a honorable career as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, mechanics or even surveyors. We have lost the entire next generation of trained skilled workers. However, we are generating a entire group of unemployed college graduates, because there are no jobs for them.
tr December 14, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Masonery, carpentry, electrical lighting systems, outdoor water fountain systems, park pathways, and chrome and paint detailing on vehicles are also "THE ARTS". So why aren't they included in your course of study? Try and convince me that the National Catheral, in Washington,D.C., is not a work of art in progress? Think OUTSIDE THE BOX!!!!!
Helen December 14, 2011 at 07:37 PM
A school focusing on math & science are what is needed. Let's model a school after the schools that the worlds top ranked students come from (do you think they focus on the fluff of the "arts"??)
Tim O'Connor December 14, 2011 at 09:37 PM
@ Helen, we need to provide an education that will prepare our next generation for a job to support their future generation. Not all are going to be mathematicians. I agree most defiantly with we don't want to focus on the arts only. Let's get back to reality and prepare this next generation for a real job as craftspersons or tradespersons. Not everyone is destined to be a CEO.
Pamela Brown ♥ December 15, 2011 at 04:05 PM
Some really good ideas here~ Parents need to be involved. Parents sharing ideas like these will get the ball rolling and stop corporations, politics and religious schools from taking over public education. Charters are in the suburbs, parents started one in Princeton in 1997 (Blue Ribbon in 2004). Feel free to send an email to: CreativeStudiesCS@gmail.com with your ideas and questions. Suburban parents deserve a voice in school choice.
Mike December 20, 2011 at 01:10 PM
This was defeated because the NJEA is out of the mix, plain and simple.

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