Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ti-i-i-ime, is NOT on my side, no it's not...

On December 20th I sent the following email to the Charter School Office, Carly Bolger, soon to be ex-director of said office, and I cc:ed Acting Commissioner Cerf:

Hello Carly,
Applicants submitted their addenda responses on Friday 12/16 to the Commissioner and to the districts.  The Application Review and Approval Process Document in the New Jersey Department of Education 2011 Charter School Expedited Application states:

  1. The districts identified in the application will have the opportunity to review applications and addenda, if applicable, and submit comments to the Commissioner.  The comments of these district boards of education and/or state district superintendents must be forwarded by the district(s) to the Commissioner within 60 days of receipt of the applications and within 30 days of receipt of the addenda.

This is also found in 6A:11-2.3 (f): The district boards of education or State district superintendents of the districts of residence of the proposed charter schools shall review the applications and addenda.

2. The recommendations of these district boards of education or State district superintendents shall be forwarded to the Commissioner within 30 days of receipt of the addenda.

However, 30 days from the receipt of the addenda, which was received by districts on Friday 12/16, is Monday 1/16.  According to the timeline in the application this is the day before the final decisions are announced by the Commissioner:

Application Timeline

  August 17, 2011   Technical Assistance Training at NJDOE    
  October 15, 2011 4:15PM   Application due    
  December 9, 2011   Request for Addenda released to qualified applicants    
  December 16, 2011 4:15PM   Addenda information due back to NJDOE    
  January 3, 2012 – January 13, 2012    Applicant interviews    
  January 17, 2012   Final decisions announced by Commissioner

If the districts are afforded 30 days by law to respond to an addenda how can the decisions can be announced on the 17th?  As you know, new information is often submitted in an addenda, and it is crucial for the districts and communities to have a chance to respond.  It is also imperative that district and community comments receive a substantive review from your office before the commissioner makes his final decision.

Please advise.

I have gotten no response...

Here is the relevant page from the application:


In response to Occupy the DOE on December 16th, DOE spinmeister Justin Barra said:

“In addition to evaluating the quality of the proposed program, we also take into account feedback both from districts and the general public. We take seriously all public comment that we receive in the review process,” Barra said. “We welcome an open, honest, and productive dialogue about proposed charter applications.”

I already called Mr. Barra out on how "open, honest, and productive" the department's dialogue with districts and communities about proposed charters is, but this is far more outrageous.  

Please Mr. Barra, explain to me how the Acting Commissioner is going to be taking district and community responses to addenda "seriously" when they are due at 4:15 the day before he is announcing his decisions?  Are we to believe that the Acting Commissioner will be pulling an all nighter on the 16th pouring over district responses?  Doesn't it stand to reason that the decisions will already be made on the 16th, the day the community responses are due, by law, if the formal announcement is on the 17th?

So forgive me if I remain skeptical that the NJDOE is taking district and community feedback into account when the Charter School Office has created a timeline that completely negates the opportunity districts are afforded, BY LAW, in the charter school application process.

Even time is on the side of charter applicants...

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