Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Is A "Fox News Contributor And NJ Democratic Strategist" Hatikvah's Spokeswoman?

Before the suburban charter backlash gained momentum, a handful of suburban charters managed to open their doors.  We have seen the kind of dramatic upheaval this has caused in community after community, when parents and residents realize that local tax dollars are diverted to charters that serve only a small fraction of a town's children.  More often than not it is the lack of local control over these decisions that really gets everyone's blood boiling.

In the case of Hatikvah, we have seen lawsuits back and forth between the district and the charter. The district initially sued claiming that Hatikvah had not met enrollment requirements, and the courts said, "Meh."

And then two East Brunswick women (full disclosure, I know both well as we are organizers for Save Our Schools NJ) appealed the East Brunswick Zoning Board's decision to allow Hatikvah to relocate their charter to a warehouse in a light industrial zone. The appeal was successful, and now the Eisenreich Family Foundation, which purchased the warehouse for well over $2 million dollars, is suing not only the Township Council but Cornavaca and Rampolla as well.

It seems that the Eisenreich Foundation and Hatikvah have hired a talking head to barrage the local press with press releases.  The latest, an attempted smear of Cornavaca and Rampolla, is priceless.  Here's the whole thing.  It's really just too good to only let you read part of it.
For Immediate Release:                                                       Contact: Julie Roginsky

Tuesday, February 19, 2013                                              (201) 222-8282

Hatikvah Opponents Caught Illegally Colluding with Council Members, Despite Denials

Emails Released Under OPRA Demonstrate Troubling Pattern of Collusion

(East Brunswick) – Despite claims by an opponent of the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School that she never engaged in any “anti-charter communications” with members of the East Brunswick Council, emails released under the state’s Open Public Records Act clearly demonstrate that Deborah Cornavaca was repeatedly in contact with Councilman Michael Hughes to express opposition to Hatikvah.

Last week, Cornavaca told the East Brunswick Patch that Hatikvah’s press release accusing her and fellow Save Our Schools member Christine Rampolla of lobbying Hughes and Councilwoman Nancy Pinkin was baseless. “This press statement is making accusations without any supporting evidence of either their claims as to our position on charters or any influence that we had on the council's decision. The claims in this press release of anti-charter communications are false and demonstrate the desperation on the part of the school to make an appeal to the courts.” [Eastbrunswick.patch.com <http://Eastbrunswick.patch.com> , 2/15/13]

Emails between Cornavaca, Rampolla, Hughes and Pinkin, however, prove that Cornavaca’s comments are blatantly false.  On January 28th, 2012, Cornavaca wrote to Hughes: “As a follow up to our conversation with us on the Patch regarding charter school advocacy, Chris Rampolla and I would very much like to meet with you to discuss our work and the ways in which you and the town council can be supportive. Please let me know what times/days might be best, so that we can get a meeting in the books.”

On February 13, 2012, Rampolla wrote to Hughes that she wanted to follow up after their meeting to ensure that he would “share the resolution, which supports the legislation of local control of charter school openings, with the other council members.”

On February 27th, 2012, Hughes wrote to East Brunswick Schools Superintendant Joann Magistro is response to her inquiry regarding a charter school resolution the town council was voting on that night.  “In favor of the bill putting it to a public vote. Deborah Cornavaca and another woman from Saves our Schols (sic) here in EB is pretty hyped about that bill.  Any concerns on your end? I probably should have asked but figured this is an easy one.”

In response, Magistro wrote: “No concerns at all – Deborah said it was going to be on – just wanted to confirm.  I think some school people may come but not to say anything – just to show support – we are in litigation so we think it best to just let SOSNJ speak at the council meeting. Do you think it will pass?”

Under the law, the council had the responsibility to act as an independent judge and jury in considering the variance granted by the Zoning Board on Hatikvah’s move to its new facility on Lexington Avenue.  The emails between Cornavaca, Rampolla, Hughes and Pinkin prove that there was inappropriate and illegal coordination to oppose Hatikvah at every turn.

“Despite her increasingly desperate denials, Ms. Cornavaca clearly colluded with East Brunswick council members to deny our school and its students due process,” said Danna Nazaria,President of the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School Board of Trustees.  “What is especially troubling is that she now blatantly denying this, despite the trove of email evidence we have uncovered to the contrary. Ms. Cornavaca, Ms. Rampolla and Council members Hughes and Pinkin would do better to come clean about this illegal collusion, so that the township and its taxpayers can finally move on once and for all.” (all emphases mine)
What is so completely insane about this is that the press release actually acknowledges that the emails in question were from last year.  Cornavaca and Rampolla were emailing their council members about a resolution regarding Assembly Bill 1877 which would require a local vote on charter schools.

It is not a secret that Save Our Schools NJ has been lobbying for this legislation for quite some time. It didn't require Columbo like investigative skills to unearth that Cornavaca and Rampolla were lobbying their Council to approve this resolution.  It was clearly printed in the Patch for all to read.  Hell, I lobbied the Highland Park Borough Council to pass a similar resolution, which they did.  That is my right as a citizen. It is my council's right to tell me to go float. But to call this "illegal collusion" sounds more like code for sour grapes that in fact 73% of NJ residents think charters SHOULD be put to a vote.

Nonetheless, somehow the press release jumps from year old emails about a local control resolution to Hatikvah's lead founder Danna Nazaria concluding that "Ms. Cornavaca clearly colluded with East Brunswick council members to deny our school and its students due process."

What, what, WHAT?

Note to Danna Nazaria, if these are not actually your words, but words put in your mouth by the writer of the press release, it would seem to be wise to proofread them more carefully in the future. This is more than a bit sloppy when the emails contained in the press release are clearly regarding another matter entirely and Hatikvah is not even mentioned. Advocating for local control legislation does not deny your "school and its students due process."  That's sensationalistic at best, and an outright lie at worst, and it's simply not what is revealed in those emails.  Not even close.

The photogenic and versatile Roginsky
So who did write the press release and likely put those words in Nazaria's mouth?  Meet Julie Roginsky.  

She has been identified in recent articles as a "Hatikvah spokeswoman" but she has a pretty interesting resume. Currently she is more often referred to as a "New Jersey-based Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor."

Yup, that's right. Somehow Hatikvah, a small, local charter school which some supporters like to call "homegrown and organic," can afford to hire a nationally recognized political strategist who regularly appears on Fox News, to write press releases smearing local residents. 

Stay classy folks.

So what's the connection between Roginsky and Hatikvah? Not sure, but my money says it's through the Eisenreich Foundation that purchased the warehouse for Hatikvah. The foundation is headed by wealthy nursing home owner Avery Eisenreich, who is often noted as a significant political donor in New Jersey. His donations go to democratic politicians, many of whom Roginsky has worked for. Stands to reason that this is how Roginsky is linked to this huge mess.  But that's just my guess.  If anyone involved would care to divulge what the connection is, I'm all ears.

It's also worth noting that Avery Eisenreich is a bit of a controversial figure himself.  Check out this article that questions how Eisenreich has made his fortune. Note that somewhat ironically this is from the Jewish Labor Committee, the "voice of the labor movement in the Jewish Community."
Workers at four nursing homes in New Jersey, members of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, have been working without a contract for two years. The nursing homes’ owner, Avery Eisenreich, has steadfastly refused to come to the table and negotiate a fair and mutually-acceptable contract. “Workers make as little as $7.90 an hour,” said Denise Bowden, a worker at the Harborview facility for 24 years. “We cannot take care of our families on what little he pays.” 
Eisenreich, a significant donor to politicians in New Jersey, is reputed to receive a $10,000 per hour salary from one of his many nursing facilities. According to the State of New Jersey ’s Department of Health and Senior Services, he is listed as an officer of at least 13 facilities in New Jersey.
Protestors picket outside of Eisenreich's home
So why am I writing all this and risking these folks setting their sights on me next? 

Because Eisenreich, Roginsky and Nazaria shouldn't be able to use the press to bully East Brunswick residents with evidence that is thin at best. Why has no one in the press questioned their motives? Why did Eisenreich shell out all that money to buy Hatikvah a new facility? Why is Roginsky barraging the local press with nonsense press releases?  (Seriously, there was a press release that they WOULD be suing, one that they DID sue, and another smearing Cornavaca and Rampolla, all within a month's time.)  

This is what the current state charter law inflicts on local communities. It allows people like Eisenreich and Roginsky to insert themselves into a local situation and use their power, money and influence to force an unpopular agenda down the throats of the majority in a community.

Can you imagine the likes of Eisenreich and Roginsky rolling into your town and calling the shots, suing and smearing anyone that dares to stand in their way?  If not, best be on your guard, because this is the kind of joy the Christie/Cerf education agenda has brought to districts across New Jersey.  

(Fair warning - If Hatikvah supporters want to comment on this post, you are more than welcome, but I will not respond to anonymous and/or vicious posts. This is my blog, and I will not allow the kind of free-for-alls that break out on the Patch site and that was brought to Diane Ravitch's blog. If you will not post with your real name, first AND last, I will not respond. If you post anonymously and it's nasty and unproductive, I will delete it.  If you use your full name and remain civil, then I'm all ears.)


  1. The correspondance between myself and Mr. Hughes in January of 2012 involved requesting that the council consider a resolution in favor of a bill that brings local votes for the approval of charter schools. Not anti-charter legislation but a means by which to involve communities and bring local democratic controll to the opening of schools.

    It is interesting to note that at a recent Democratic Committee meeting in East Brunswick, that I attended, the attorney for Hatikvah - Larry Sachs spoke publicly in favor of this very legislation when asked about his position on charter schools. But I do not see the PR people smearing his name or accusing him of being anti-charter.

    Double standards run very deep.

    I am immensely grateful to the Mother Crusader for pointing out what I would like to say more freely but cannot as I currently am being sued by the Eisenreich Foundation for my choice to appeal a zoning board decision granting the school a use variance to open a public school in a warehouse.

    Deborah Cornavaca

  2. Glad to become aware of your blog and efforts to stop privatization and "save" our public schools.

    We need to "clone" you. No offense, but if just 10% of parents thought like you, then the corporate education strategy would be stopped in its tracks.

  3. Thank you so much for continuing to detail what is going on in your neck of the world ... Shine a little lite ... keep shining the light ... as more and more folks are experiencing similar stuff all across the country .. .we may be able to stop this educationally destructive and counter-intuitive non-educators educating and pontificating about how much they know ... and they have 2 or 3 yrs teaching experience but a raft of connections with others who want some of the financial action of education ...

    Wake up America ... your schools are being given away ... your teachers are under attack ... your taxes are going to charter--schools which have no PUBLIC oversight ...

    Thank you and stay strong ...

  4. Charter schools are here to stay. Get used to it.