Quest Founders Fight On For Charter School In Montclair
The founders have filed a new appeal with the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Tracey Williams, one of the founders of the proposed Quest Academy Charter High School, said Monday that she and others have filed an appeal with the New Jersey Supreme Court to challenge the Superior Court's recent denial of their fifth application to open the school in Montclair.
Williams also said that she hopes to hear a decision soon on the group's sixth application.
In short, despite the fact that the state has rejected five applications, supporters of a charter school in Montclair say they are intent to fight on.
"We decided to seek the opinion of a higher court. We retained a law firm that specializes in appeals. Attorney and partner of the firm, Michael Confusione, filed a petition to the N.J. Supreme Court asking it to review the Superior Court's decision," she said. "We are waiting for the Supreme Court's decision on that."
In their appeal, the founders of Quest explained their reasons for wanting to open the school:
The founders sought to open the charter school because for several years Montclair’s public high school had failed to meet educational standards (persistently scoring poorly in standardized tests)—a failure visited most acutely on Montclair’s minority and economically-disadvantaged students. The Department of Education had previously found that Montclair’s public high school was “not functioning for all students." According to the 2010 New Jersey School Report Card, there was a staggering achievement gap at Montclair High School, with economically-disadvantaged and minority students scoring well below their white counterparts. 64 percent of economically-disadvantaged students failed to score proficient in mathematics, for example, as compared to 94.6 percent proficiency for white students.
Earlier this year, Williams was told by state Department of Education officials that there were deficiencies in Quest's application—its fifth—submitted in the fall of 2011. Officials claimed that the application suffered from an "overall lack of quality." For example, they said the application proposed a plethora of educational initiatives that are "disconnected" from the needs of students.
Yet Williams still insists that more needs to be done in the Montclair community to ensure that all students are college- and career-ready.
"We also know that these constant denials are politically motivated," she said recently. "I can say with much certainty that these rejections have nothing to do with the 'strength of the educational plan, the capacity of the founders to implement the plan, or even a clearly articulated community need'."
The Quest application had been strongly criticized by former Montclair Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez, as well as by many parents in Montclair. They have expressed fears that the school would siphon money away from the public high school.
Dr. Penny MacCormack, who takes over as superintendent on Nov. 1, also has expressed opposition to a charter school.
What do you think? Do you think the founders should continue their fight for a charter school in Montclair?