Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Final (Charter) Countdown

And the saga continues...

Let's break this one down a little:

Jeanine Martin of Voorhees isn't wild about public education dollars going to a church-run charter school. 

"We live in Voorhees because of the school system," said Martin. 

The mother of three has collected almost 2,500 signatures urging the Education Department to block Regis from opening.  Martin says she doesn't want her school to cut corners just so a new charter can open. 

"When Regis was approved, Voorhees was told to set aside $2 million of its budget for kids that may want to go to this Charter school. So, we knew that that was going to cut teachers and services," said Martin. "There's no way they could cover their costs and educate our kids to the way that they have."

Voorhees was asked to set aside 2M.  So how many kids from Voorhees have actually enrolled?  


Does anyone else see how messed up this is?  Why are charters not forced to do surveys BEFORE they even submit their application?  If the parents in Voorhees had been asked if they were interested in this charter they could have said, "Yeah, no thanks, we're good."  They could have saved the district, and Voorhees parents like Jeanine Martin a lot of time and aggravation and the Department of Education a LOT of embarrassment.  

But Amir Khan can spin just about any situation. 

Solid Rock Pastor Amir Khan says his kids and grand kids attend Voorhees schools, too. But just because schools are high-performing doesn't mean they're for everyone.  

"We believe that one size doesn't fit. We believe that every parent should be able to have school choice," said Khan. "There is room for growth, there is room for innovation. We don't believe that public schools should be a monopoly." 

Well, clearly Pastor Khan has his reformy talking points down, but how exactly is Regis Academy going to provide "room for growth" and "room for innovation?"

Rev. Amir Khan, the controversial head of the Solid Rock Worship Center, says students at Regis Academy will receive their own Sprint tablet. Every classroom will be equipped with Blackboard, a multi-media learning platform more prevalent in colleges than elementary schools.
"We believe we can bring innovation and technology to children starting in kindergarten,” says Khan, who ran a telecommunications company, among other entrepreneurial ventures, before becoming a pastor. "There are ways advanced technology can be taught in basic formats to make it very interesting, such as opening up devices to see how they communicate from one phone to another or opening up computers to see how they establish a network.”  (emphasis mine)  

Seriously?  This is the best example he can come up with to explain how Regis will "bring innovation and technology to children?"

Clearly Regis wasn't able to sell this to the families of Voorhees, so where are the kids coming from?  According to the chart above, it is taking 33 districts to fill the seats at Regis Academy (up from 25 at last count).  And currently the most kids are coming from Lindenwold, where Geraldine Carroll is the Superintendent.  

Lindenwold was not a part of the Regis application, so Ms. Carroll had no way to know her students would even attend this charter.  But if Regis' enrollment numbers are correct, and Regis is awarded their final charter, her district could be out almost 500K.  

Check out this video about Ms. Carroll, who was recently named South Jersey Superintendent of the year.

Ms. Carroll has worked to get grants so that Lindenwold students can have access to a Smart Board in every classroom, document cameras, laptops, iPads, iPods, digital cameras, digital video cameras, and instant responders, and technology has been integrated cohesively into the curriculum. 

And Regis will take tax dollars from Lindenwold public schools so that students at Regis can... take apart their Sprint tablets to "see how they communicate?"

And don't miss this...

Solid Rock is also involved in a dispute that could lead to it being evicted from the building it rents from the Catholic Diocese of Camden. But Khan says a deal with the Diocese has been struck, and will settle in the next few weeks.   
A decision from the Department of Education is due by July 15th.

I will hopefully have more on this soon, but not for nothing, the NJDOE did their walkthrough of Regis' facility last week, and all documentation was due to the Office of Charter Schools by June 30.  If eviction proceedings were underway when the NJDOE did their walkthrough and may not be resolved before decisions are made on final charters on July 15th, how can the DOE even consider giving Regis their final charter, even if a "deal with the Diocese has been struck?"

Regis was one of only four charters approved in September of 2011, and this application round was hailed by the NJDOE as a "rigorous review process" and was held up as an example of the best practices in the nation!

This year, the Charter Schools Office continued to improve the application evaluation to align with national best practices identified by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA). This included setting clear benchmarks around predictors of school success including a research-based academic program with a proven history, experienced school operators, high expectations for all students, a well-rounded board of trustees, and a strong capacity to implement program elements. These components, along with a number of others, were reviewed through a several stage process including an intensive interview with the evaluation committee.  NACSA also provided the Department with national charter experts to serve on the review committees in line with NACSA best practices.

Well guys, you all did a bang up job on this one...

1 comment:

  1. They're going to use BLACKBOARD for the =good= of the students?

    I survived a year of TAing with Blackboard, but that was only because the professor went our of her way to figure out the inner workings.

    And that's probably the most positive story you'll hear about it from anyone not trying to sell it--ask the people (professors, students, IT staff) at Kean or Rutgers Newark or almost any place else that uses it--Blackboard is value-destroying.

    Teaching kids about technology by using Blackboard is a way to prepare them for the word of Philip K. Dick or Brazil.