Four New Charter Schools to Open in Newark
DOE's final approval comes on heels of tumultuous city school board vote
Read this article as it originally appeared in The Patch.
Nine charter schools, including four in Newark, received final approval Monday by the state Department of Education to open in September.
Paulo Freire Charter School, 100 Legacy and virtual charter schools Merit Preparatory of Newark and Newark Prep will open their doors this upcoming school year, bringing the total number of charters in the state to 86 and joining nearly two dozen already existing schools in the city.
The just-approved schools, as well as existing ones, will be measured against new Performance Frameworks designed to improve oversight and accountability for the schools by setting clear expectations, DOE said in a press release. The schools will be evaluated in three comprehensive areas: Academic, organizational and financial performances.
"Charter schools are granted autonomy in exchange for accountability, and we at the state level will continue to hold all charter schools accountable for results to ensure that they offer all students a high-quality education and an equality of opportunity," said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf in a statement.
Two Newark charters, NJ Virtual Academy Charter School and Forest Hill Charter School, were granted a planning year which they will use for continued academic and operational development.
Meanwhile, three Newark charters, Lillie Mae Jenkins, New Day Charter High School and Spirit Prep, were denied approval by the state because "they failed to demonstrate sufficient progress towards readiness," according to the press release.
Mashea Ashton, chief executive officer of Newark Charter School Fund, a nonprofit foundation that supports city charters through grants, welcomed the four new schools to Newark's "thriving public school community."
"Each one of these schools approved by the state offers Newark families public school options that were previously unavailable in the city," said Ashton in a statement. "As part of our mission, we will work to ensure these schools have the resources to provide a high-quality education to Newark's children."
Each year, the DOE conducts a preparedness review to assess whether a charter applicant, approved in a previous round, are academically and operationally capable of providing a strong educational program. This year, applicants were required to submit documentation of compliance with state regulations to the DOE by June 30, at which point the staff conducted a site visit of the school facility. The information is then reviewed for approval by Cerf and DOE officials.
NJ Virtual Academy and Newark Prep, as well as Spirit Prep, are managed by K12 Inc., an online education contractor, with NJ Virtual Academy having started enrolling students in April. Students at Spirit Prep and Newark Prep will take classes in a brick-and-mortar settings as well as online under the schools' "blended learning" model, NJ Spotlight reported. Newark Prep will be placed in the historic former First State National Bank building at 570 Broad St. in downtown Newark.
The state's approval comes on the heels of the Newark Schools Advisory Board vote earlier this month to overwhelmingly deny leases to four of five charter schools. One day later, state-appointed Superintendent Cami Anderson overruled the board's vote, approving the short- and long-term leases for Newark Legacy, North Star Academy, 100 Legacy and Team Academy Charter School, as well as Paulo Friere Charter School, the only contract approved by the board.
Several board members at the time lambasted Anderson's decision as being "disrespectful" to community stakeholders and the board as elected officials. Members said they were in discussion to see what, if any, legal action the nine-member advisory board could take against the veto.
Come September, Newark Legacy will occupy space within Madison Avenue School, North Star Academy within Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School, 100 Legacy within West Side NAF and Team Academy within 18th Avenue School. Paulo Friere will share space with existing Great Oaks Charter School at Burnet Street School.