February 12, 2013
It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that the Board of Trustees voted to withdraw the application for expansion of our school.
This was not decided upon lightly and rest assured that all avenues were explored, but in the end, the Board and I have agreed that this would be in the best interest of our children, who are always in the forefront of any school decision making.There is just one thing I would like to point out here. There IS a way Ms. Kelley and the Riverbank Board of Trustees could have anticipated the "negative impact" their expansion request would have on their "small community."
When the renewal application requesting expansion was submitted, there was no way of anticipating what a negative impact it would have on our small community. The hostility and negativity generated has had an effect on families and children from Riverbank and the Township Public Schools. Our students will one day be reentering the Florence Public School District and in no way do I want to see any of them negatively affected by having attended the Charter School.
Riverbank Charter School of Excellence was established to provide an advancement of public school education and a choice for families here in Florence Township. It was never intended to be an adversary. Moving forward, we will continue to offer school choice and create a strong K-3 foundation on which to build 21st Century Life Skills that will follow our students through their journey of lifelong learning.
I would like to sincerely thank all of you who attended local school board meetings, spoke out in support of our school, wrote letters, made phone calls and/or who actively worked at dispelling rumors and untruths. Strong parental involvement and support are essential to making our school successful.
As always I remain, committed, and dedicated to the future success of all students who become part of the Riverbank Charter School of Excellence Family.
Beth K. Kelley
They could have engaged the district and parents in a discussion BEFORE they submitted their application. Had they done so they would have learned what a hardship the charter had become on the district, and what the loss of additional funds would mean to their small budget. And maybe, just maybe, they would have actually listened.
I don't blame the charter for not taking this crucial step. I blame the NJDOE. They do NOTHING to encourage charters and districts to work together collaboratively. Instead, they knowingly and purposefully pit districts and charters against each other, and only bother to pay attention to the inevitable discord if it finds its way into the press.
The Florence Township parents conducted themselves admirably, and did an incredible job getting the word out to their community, and keeping their message strong and clear. Their objection was to the expansion and the negative impact it would have on their budget. This was about protecting the educational opportunities of the 1,700 students left behind in the district schools, not about slamming the charter school.
After learning about the withdrawal of the application, Debbie Reyes, one of the Florence Township parents who led the charge against the expansion, posted something on the Speak Up Florence Twp. Facebook page that perfectly sums up what it means to be a public school parent:
To the parents of students who are currently in the charter school. When your children enter the Riverfront School, they will be welcomed with open arms by wonderful caring teachers, administration and very supportive parents and parents groups.Because that's what we do in traditional public schools. We embrace ALL children, not just those lucky enough to win a lottery.
ADDING: INCREDIBLE letter from Senator Diane Allen which addresses her opposition to the Riverbank expansion. Sounds like Commissioner Cerf got an earful on this one...
I will post a cleaner copy as soon as I have it.