Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Laura Waters and Kathy Mone; New Jersey's Own Reformy Dynamic Duo!

Below is my response to yesterday's bizarre blog post from Laura Waters about a charter panel discussion in Highland Park.  The best part is that the panel was last week and Ms. Waters didn't even attend!  Kudos to Ms. Waters for her journalistic integrity!  

I helped organize the event that was co-sponsored by Speak Up Highland Park, Save Our Schools NJ and Education Law Center.  (I may not have been blogging lately, but I am still in the game!)   

Notice that Ms. Waters "source" regarding the event is Kathy Mone, who she describes as the Business Administrator for Elysian Charter School of Hoboken.  On NJ Spotlight Ms. Mone is none other than elysiankathy.  Some of you may recall that Ms. Mone came to Ms. Waters' defense on NJ Spotlight when the comments section EXPLODED in reaction to Ms. Waters' opinion piece, "The Charter Controversy -- Much Ado About Nothing".  

If the "charter controversy" is "nothing" then what are these two ladies so riled up about?

To Ms. Waters and Ms. Mone:  How about you guys organize and host a charter panel discussion?  You can have it in Hoboken, Lawrence Township or Camden, you decide.  I will be happy to travel anywhere to attend.  Heck, I'll even participate and blog about it.  Give me a date and I will mark it on my calendar.

Without further ado, here is my response:

Ms. Waters,
Have you read Bruce Baker's recent post about how "public" charter schools really are?

You may want to pay particular attention to this passage:

"Those who casually (belligerently & ignorantly) toss around the rhetoric that “charters are public schools” need to stop. This rhetoric misinforms parents, teachers and taxpayers regarding their rights, assumptions and expectations."

Last week's event, which I organized on behalf of Speak Up Highland Park, in conjunction with Save Our Schools NJ and Education Law Center, was videotaped. I will gladly send you a copy for your review so you can hear the responses to Ms. Valentine's question for yourself. You will then also have the framework of the entire evenings discussion to inform your understanding of the event. Although, from my experience with your blog, you are more than happy to write without full knowledge of your subject matter. 

Until I can get you the video, here is a New Brunswick Patch article about the event that you may find informative and less challenging than Mr. Braun's piece.

Your mischaracterization of the event is unfortunate. First of all, Carlos Perez was invited and declined to participate, and a charter founder was on the panel. Every attempt was made to be inclusive and represent all sides of the debate. Panelists tripped over themselves to talk about charters, like Emily Fischer, that serve kids that represent their host community. 

And not only was Ms. Valentine not the only person of color in the audience, the audience was not "composed completely of NJEA top brass, Rutgers professors and a few others." I spoke with several graduate students and parents as they left the event and said they walked away with a fuller understanding of how the charter school debate is tied to the current push to undermine local democratic control of public education. 

I find it endlessly fascinating that the school board president of a wealthy suburban district has anointed herself the "Champion of Camden" and then casts aspersions on Save Our Schools and ELC for a supposed "absence of inner city stakeholders." 

Ms Waters, the moderator of the event, ELC's Stan Karp, was a teacher in Paterson for 30 years. What experience do you have in Camden that makes you more of an authority on the wants and needs of inner city public school students and parents? 

Perhaps your recent experiences in Lawrence, after having your budget defeated and slashed by your council, will give you a taste of what districts like Highland Park have been facing. Not having control of your district's budget is a frustrating experience, and clearly not one that you are enjoying based on this quote from The Lawrence Ledger:

School board president Laura Waters pointed out that the school district budget, which failed by about 200 votes, was already $500,000 under the state-mandated cap. Cutting the budget by an additional $700,000 would bring it to $1.2 million below the cap, she said.

”That’s a really hard hit for us,” Ms. Waters said.

Well Ms. Waters, how's it feel to lose local control?

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