Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Breaking News: Riverbank Charter School Of Excellence Withdraws Expansion Application

Earlier this evening the following letter was posted on the Facebook page of the Riverbank Charter School of Excellence by Lead Person/Principal Beth Kelley:

February 12, 2013
Dear Parents,
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.

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
Principal/Lead Person
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."  

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.


  1. Congrats! Your bully tactics worked! Yeh you!!

  2. Care to illuminate what my "bully tactics" are? If providing information is bullying, then we have a real problem...

  3. I think its time for this “crusader” and others who joined this fight to shift their energy and improve OUR schools. ANYONE who feels that our schools are good enough is a fool. Everyone has room for improvement! For example, the 2010-2011 test scores show (8th grade):
    Only 8.7% of OUR students are advanced in Language Arts and Literacy
    vs. a 19.3% state average. 20.9% Partial proficiency vs. 17.4% state average.
    People are not busting into town to join OUR “good enough” schools!
    This is not a reflection of our teachers, but on the residents of OUR town who seem to focus on other things then academics for OUR kids.
    What is your plan now “crusader” to make OUR Schools and OUR town better?

  4. Thanks for asking about my plan, Anonymous! I agree with Senator Allen that the Florence Public Schools have strong leadership, so what I am going to do is let them do the jobs they were hired to do.

    I'm sorry you seem so bent about test scores. They mean less than nothing to me, so I can't help you there. I plan to opt my kids out of state standardized tests when they reach third grade. Kids and schools shouldn't be reduced down to these meaningless numbers. My hope for my kids and ALL kids in NJ is a comprehensive, balanced education where they are encouraged to be creative problem solvers and to think for themselves, not taught to fill in bubbles.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Thank you Darcie for all your help in getting the facts out in a clear, intelligent manner! The 1700 students of Florence Township thank you! This is what it is all about, isnt it? Some people don't want to face the truth, so they must resort to insults. You are a class act and definitely not a bully.

  6. Children do well in school and on standardized tests because they come from a family who values education. These families make sure that their children know what is expected of them in school in order to be successful in life. Teachers give students the "tools" that they will need to succeed. It is up to the student to take advantage of that. I'm talking about teachers in public schools as well as charter schools (which are public schools - many people tend to forget). I am glad about the decision especially since I have 2 children who attend Florence School District.

  7. There are so many factors that play into standardized test scores. My son, who has some learning issues, did not perform well on the NJASK, because of these issues. He is very bright, has a high IQ, and works hard in school. I have been his biggest supporter since day one and worked with Florence Township School District, especially the reading specialist to get him the help he needed. To say his family doesn't value education, is clearly wrong. Definitely cant make such sweeping statements.

  8. Unfortunately, it is all about the test scores, so to say you don’t care about then tells me that you don’t really understand how the system works. THE TEST is the discussion in every faculty meeting, department meeting and all meetings in-between! Schools that don’t do well are threatened with losing funding. Teacher’s whose students do not do well on the test will soon be threatened with losing their jobs! THE TEST has become a HUGE part of the day-to-day operations of any school and has a huge impact on the school district. THE TEST scores are also what people look at when they decide to move into a town.

    I grew up in a small town like Florence and although I have done well in my career, I do believe I would have had more opportunities if I had attended a school district that was more academically focused. This is what I want for my children. So until there is TRUE reform in education, there will always be some TEST that will be required for students to take. So the test scores matter to me!

    As for letting the administration in Florence do their job, that is the worse thing you can do! When was the last time they were in a classroom? Teaching? When was the last time the Board Members spoke with the teachers to see how they can support them in their pursuit of academic excellence? It is only with parent involvement and accountability that the district will improve. It is our responsibility as parents to insist that the curriculum is rigorous and challenging so that our students can compete with students from other districts. Eventually they will be entering college and the work force. If we don’t insist on quality education now, they don’t stand a chance later in life! It is a solid foundation that will help prepare them for careers that don’t even exist yet! If the district continues on the path they are on, the children will be lucky to find jobs at all!