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Quest Charter High School Proposal Rejected Yet Again

Quest's fifth application was rejected for unknown "deficiencies"

 

The founders of the proposed Quest Academy Charter High School in Montclair have been rejected a fifth time by the state Department of Education.

One of the Quest founders, Tracey Williams, said she was told by state officials that there were deficiencies in the application submitted by Quest in the fall.

"I don't know what those deficiencies were," Williams said.

Williams said the letter from the state said that the Quest founders would find out on Jan. 24 why their application was denied.

The Quest application had been strongly criticized by Montclair Superintendent Dr. Frank Alvarez, as well as by many parents in Montclair. They feared the school would siphon money away from the public high school.

At an anti-charter school rally in Maplewood earlier this month, Montclair resident Stan Karp spoke about how Montclair schools had often been cited as a national model of quality integrated public education.

An application to open the Quest charter school had been a finalist after being rejected four times in the past.

Karp and other critics said that, if approved, the charter school would have drawn over $2 million from the district budget.

But Williams and other Quest supporters said that the charter school would offer smaller class sizes and individualized instruction and would give Montclair parents a choice when it comes to their kids' education.

Although the state denied the Quest application, the Department of Education on Friday  announced the approval of eight charter applications eligible to open in September 2012. These eight options will help to ensure that every student in New Jersey, regardless of zip code, has a high-quality school option available to them, state officials said.

"Since Governor Christie took office, we have committed to being unapologetically impatient when students do not have access to the high-quality school options that they deserve," said Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf. "The applications we approved today have demonstrated a strong educational program and the capacity to implement that program, in addition to articulating a clearly defined need for the school in their specific community."

Among the applications approved were those for schools in Trenton, Camden, Newark, and Jersey City.

In addition, the charter school school application for Hua Mei in Maplewood was denied by ‪Cerf‬ Friday afternoon, school officials confirmed with Patch.

The long-awaited decision comes after by residents in West Orange, Maplewood and South Orange.

The Mandarin-immersion school, proposed to be located in Maplewood, would have drawn students from the South Orange-Maplewood School District and West Orange School District.

Hua Mei, though, is no stranger to rejection as the school was when only four of 55 charter school applications were approved. Hua Mei , no longer listing Millburn, Livingston and Union among the "in-district" school districts from which they would draw.

Laura Lab, West Orange board of education president, praised the news, "I'm very happy the commissioner made this decision, it just makes sense."

Maplewood Board of Education President Beth Daugherty told Patch in an email that the decision was "great news." She said all of the suburban charter school applications were rejected, and eight urban charter schools approved.

West Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. Anthony Cavanna said he was pleased with the decision but worried the charter could reapply in the spring. Cavanna said he hoped the legislature would "look at alternate ways of funding charter schools."

This is a breaking news story, continue to check Patch for more information.

Dude January 20, 2012 at 11:32 PM
YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! however, the battle to defeat nefarious disproven "reforms" masked as "choice" is not over - additionally, cerf and christie have callously sent the message that urban kids can be the guinea pigs for this misguided charter nonsense while they draw the line at suburban charters - it has deepened the divide between urban and suburban schools/areas/families/students and it's awful
sgyaft January 21, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Yea!!
Montclair's Own January 21, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Just wait until Tracey Williams gets on here to try and dictate how she "the children" were screwed.
Mary Beth Rosenthal January 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Montclair Public -- whoever you are -- That's cheap and unfair. And if you're going to malign people, you should use your real name. The BOE members all speak for themselves & I'm not going to put words in their mouths. But so far as I am personally aware, none of the current members of the Board, including Leslie, are in favor of this application or of establishing charter schools in our town. Leslie Larson has been working hard for all of Montclair's children for decades. Since she's been on the BOE, she has been tireless in her advocacy for more transparency, more accountability and more innovation in our schools and school administration.
Mary Beth Rosenthal January 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I don't know Tracey Williams personally. But she lives here too. I think we can disagree about people's ideas -- I certainly disagree with her ideas about MHS and the need for a charter school in our town. But we can disagree with someone's ideas without maligning someone personally. This town IS changing. But the challenge of change is to adapt to new needs and new ideas and still maintain the character and values of our community. Diverting our energy in ad hominem attacks if a wast of time. All of us have more important work to do -- and if we don't do it together, we are all going to be losers.
Shelley Emling (Editor) January 21, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I have deleted Montclair Public's comment because it was a personal attack and those commenting should stick to discussing the issues... not going after someone personally.
Montclair Public January 22, 2012 at 01:11 AM
but the attack on Tracey Williams is OK? Why are we so protective of board members but Ms. Williams, is fair game. Seems to me this board's defenders only want to remind people of how tireless its members are but the fact is that its policies and actions have hurt a lot of people (the aides, in particular) and have adopted a Christie-like position of demonizing the teachers. Watch what happens next with the $150-an-hour consultant leading the way.
Mary Beth Rosenthal January 23, 2012 at 09:23 PM
No, it's not OK. And I said so. Under my real name. I do not think that demonizing anyone is a productive way to get things done. I think that Gov. Christie's unrelenting attack on teachers is short-sighted, pursued as political retaliation, and has seriously set back the cause of real ed reform. I've said elsewhere that it's funny how bankers get to help write banking regs, and corporate farmers get to help write farm legislation, and drug companies get to help write drug regs -- but when teachers want to help write education reform legislation, they're just union tools. It's not right to let political hacks, corporate education companies and religious organizations dictate education reform. But to suggest that our BOE "has adopted a Christie-like position of demonizing the teachers" is patently untrue. And equally unproductive. I think that policies and actions have consequences, and that those consequences should be weighed carefully. I think decision-makers should take responsibilities for their actions and for the consequences. I don't know anything about the inner workings of BOE discussions with the MEA last year. But I would note that there were two parties at that table -- and one of them was responsible for representing the aides. Let's stop insulting and insinuating, Montclair Public, and talk about how best to educate all Montclair's students.
Montclair Public January 24, 2012 at 04:40 AM
once again, and once and for all, it was not the union that took away the benefits, it was the board. and it is the board that tried to convince people that it would be open to restoring the benefits -- but that would require the contract being reopened. and now that we know that isn't the case it is back to the excuse of sustainability. Ms. Rosenthal, yes, there are consequences to actions and the board's has hurt a lot of good, committed people, who have served this district for many years. i have my reasons for remaining anonymous but i will not stop saying what i believe needs to be said.
A. Gideon January 24, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Perhaps I missed something in a removed comment, but I don't see anything maligning Tracey Williams; merely a comment that she'll likely be discussing how this decision is a poor one for the children. That she'd have that opinion seems pretty likely, so perhaps I'm missing the point. I hope that this latest decision will cause her and the others advocating for the charter school in Montclair to redirect their efforts. Though my children are still in elementary schools here, I've had the opportunity for a couple of conversations with our HS Principal. His passion for educating the students in general, and the benefits of the Small Learning Communities specifically, is clear (and not a little infectious *grin*). Perhaps the charter advocates can redirect their efforts to support enhancing our HS's education of all our children. That could turn this decision into a very positive one, even from the perspective of those charter school advocates. ...Andrew
A. Gideon January 24, 2012 at 04:23 PM
"i have my reasons for remaining anonymous" So do I. For example, I've had to deal with neighbors and friends not too pleased with opinions I've expressed here (and in other fora, both virtual and real). I dare say that this is true for most people that are willing to stand behind their opinions on any side of an issue. The difference is that we are willing to stand behind our opinions. ...Andrew
Montclair Public January 24, 2012 at 09:29 PM
The difference, Gideon, is that you are actually on a committee that has influenced some of the decision-making by the board. and at least we finally agree on something, against the charter school. the comment about Tracey Williams -- who fortunately did not get her charter approved -- was nonetheless harshly worded ("dictate" and "screwed") while mine simply pointed out that the board's Leslie Larson seems to be pro-charter school, based on her asking the union president to accompany her recently to observe best practices at a charter.
A. Gideon January 25, 2012 at 02:09 AM
"The difference, Gideon, is that you are actually on a committee that has influenced some of the decision-making by the board." That makes me more of a target, which in turn provides additional motivation for staying anonymous where possible. Still, I don't. Just as I'm willing to participate in person, I'm willing to fully participate - letting people know who I am as I state my opinions - virtually. Another factor occurred to me as I corrected some blatent fiction expressed as fact in another thread. Using my name, I become responsible for any mistakes I may make. That in turn encourages me to be careful. The fiction I was correcting was from another of the anonymous posters here. I wonder if he or she would be as willing to express such non-fact were his or her name known. Similarly, any agenda I might have is out in the open for all to see. I'm not secretly a union member or administrator or such. I'm not even secretly a parent of young children in the school system and a tax payer. I'm openly a parent of young children in the school system and a tax payer. Finally, someone posting anonymously from one ID may be posting anonymously from others. Two or more anonymous posters agreeing could very easily be one person agreeing with him/herself. Two or more non-anonymous posters agreeing actually represent two or more people. ...Andrew
A. Gideon January 25, 2012 at 02:14 AM
"Leslie Larson seems to be pro-charter school, based on her asking the union president to accompany her recently to observe best practices at a charter." I'm not sure that that is true. I don't know her particularly well, but the impression I gathered was that she - and other BOE members - are interested in learning new possible solutions from any available source. It is commendable that, even if they're against charters in general or against one charter in particular, they remain open to learning from what charters have done. Conversely, I find it disturbing that the MEA representative refused to take the same approach. One approach puts ideology first; the other puts the children first. ...Andrew
Montclair Public January 25, 2012 at 08:19 PM
The MEA rep's job is to protect and promote the teachers she represents, not to look into charter schools that would ultimately reduce their ranks. and as she stated at the november meeting, if board members want to explore best practices, let them find out exactly what is going on their own schools first. they would be pleasantly surprised by what the principal is doing at MHS
A. Gideon January 25, 2012 at 09:49 PM
"The MEA rep's job is to protect and promote the teachers she represents" True. However, she likes to claim that she is also mandated with working for the benefit of the children. This event made it clear which goal is subordinate to the other. It's also rather silly, though. Learning from charter schools in no way threatens the teachers. If anything, it works against a charter school (and therefore for the teachers) by reducing the motivations for introducing a charter school. So it wasn't really about protecting/promoting the teachers, but about protecting/promoting a particular ideology. That this is a higher priority than the benefit of the children (or even the real benefit of the teachers) is disturbing. "let them find out exactly what is going on their own schools first" That's another silly idea, in that it adds no new practices to our district. Nobody claims that there aren't good practices in use here. But neither is that a reasonable excuse to ignore more that may be learned from elsewhere. ...Andrew
Montclair Public January 26, 2012 at 04:49 PM
you're an apologist for the board. i get that. you are entitled, of course. i am also sure you support its two-faced turnaround on the aides' benefits, from its stance in November (oh, we contacted our attorneys right away in the interests of exploring whether we could restore the benefits in light of the surplus) to sorry, we can't/won't (at the advice of their $150-an-hour consultant, who could give a shit about the damage unnecessarily done to people's lives). all along, the board could/should have granted the aides their benefits while notifying the union that the coming negotiations would require a greater contribution from all in the next contract for the sake of "sustainability." in that way, yes, the teachers would have had to be accountable to the aides but the aides would not have been cast aside this year like pounds of flesh. with a little nuance and respect for the aides it would have never come to this. petty and mean-spirited from the start.

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