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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.

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?

LynNell Hancock October 01, 2012 at 02:02 PM
No. The town has spoken -- now four times. Montclair does not want or need a privately-run charter school taking public dollars away from our high school students who so desperately need it. Why don't the Quest charter applicants pour their passion for preparing children for college into a program in the high school--where all our children are?
Double D October 01, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Competition is always a good thing.
Montclair Public October 01, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Our high school principal, Mr. Earle, has begun to address the needs of creating additional small-school settings in the overall environment. A large majority of Montclair residents and public school families do not want this school, as they know that few -- if any -- will benefit and it will mostly be parents looking to game the system: by creating a private school atmosphere with public school dollars. Enough already. We can't afford it and the town at large doesn't need it.
profwilliams October 01, 2012 at 04:47 PM
If at (what is this?) 4th you don't succeed, try, try.... Let's be honest here-- it's time to move on folks. LynNell Hancock speaks the truth!!!
Montclair's Own October 01, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Oh boy...and wait to Mrs. Williams gets on this here blog and starts discussing how the Montclair taxpayers should have to pay for this boutique school. Guaranteed her and the other founders were first in line to see "Won't Back Down", which was funded by privatization backers.
dherron October 02, 2012 at 12:06 AM
A point of clarification: It is my understanding that Quest founders have already filed an appeal with the Appellate Court. The Appellate Court rejected Quest’s appeal, in May 2012. So Quest has already filed an appeal with a higher court. It cannot be determined by the Montclair Patch article, when Quest filed a petition with the New Jersey Supreme Court, such action must be done 45 days after the Appellate Court’s final decision. Appellate Court decisions are not routinely heard by the Supreme Court, except where there are glaring errors in the decision, and seldom heard in cases where there is no dissention in the Appellate Court’s decision. Would love to know when this appeal was filed. Perhaps it is time to move on, and forget about any charter school in Montclair. Of special interest, the Appellate Court expressed concern that an additional high school “could undermine the district’s integration efforts.”
carols October 02, 2012 at 01:49 AM
here's the link to the appellate decision from May 2012 - makes for interesting reading http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-unpublished/2012/a3005-10.html there are some very specific reasons in the decision about why they were rejected as well as a good explanation of the role of the court in reviewing these. It's absurd that there is no limit to the number of times a group can apply for a charter. I wish they would put their energy into making the schools we have the best they can be.
Butterfly October 02, 2012 at 01:55 AM
two links: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133991.html http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-therapy/200907/the-definition-insanity-is
WC October 02, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Isn't Mrs. Williams a teacher at MHS?
carols October 02, 2012 at 04:08 PM
no, Tracey Williams was co-pres of the PTSO a few years ago. One of the other quest founders is one of the teachers in CGI at the HS.
tryintosurvive October 02, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Quest Academy sounds a lot like Renaissance school at the high school level. It seems that many think that Renaissance is great and provides opportunities to students and parents who want that type of environment. Why then, would a similar option on the high school level be looked upon differently?
WC October 02, 2012 at 04:41 PM
My bad. She was a sub teacher. And a class parent. I guess that qualifies her to run a school.
thewayitis October 02, 2012 at 05:00 PM
For anyone who wants more info on charter schools and on education in general, please check out Diane Ravitch. Here's a link to her excellent blog. http://dianeravitch.net/category/charter-schools/
A. Gideon October 02, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Thanks for the URL; it was interesting reading. I was especially intrigued by "contained countless spelling, grammar, and typographical errors." I confess to that as a personal peeve: I find it very disturbing - almost offensive - when a school sends out content in a form that would, if written by a student, be subject to a reduced score for its quality. ...Andrew
A. Gideon October 02, 2012 at 06:26 PM
That is an excellent question. I can provide a small bit of the answer from my own perspective. I hope that others will choose to add to this. Seeking an answer to this requires that we look at how a charter would differ from how our magnet schools operate. One obvious difference is the mechanism involved in placing children. Of course family requests play a - predominant, ideally - role in this. But the district, in its planning, also seeks to satisfy both "fairness" (which I'll simplistically interpret as economic balance) and the desegregation court order. Having some distinct "choice" process involving only a single school threatens the sought balance. Another consideration is efficiency of resources. It is entirely possible that, in today's economic and ecological environment, we might not opt for the structure we've inherited which involves so many small schools. If SLCs can offer similar benefits while saving on the overhead of separate and dislocated buildings, then someone building our district anew might opt for a smaller number of SLC-enclosing schools. That is the form taking shape in our HS today. To understand the third consideration, one must note an oft-heard phrase around the schools and the BOE: "We all come together at the HS". That provides for a sense of cohesion in our district and community even as we're spread over so many schools. It would be unfortunate to lose this. ...Andrew
dherron October 02, 2012 at 10:18 PM
"The Quest Academy Charter School of Montclair will be open to any interested students in grades 9 – 12, residing in Montclair Township, NJ, starting with grades 9 and 10 in September of 2011."-- Incorrect, a charter school cannot restrict enrollment only to students residing in Montclair. According to New Jersey Charter Law, "New Jersey’s charter schools will accept applications from students who live “out of area” with a few caveats. Charter schools first accept applications from students living within the charter school’s local school district and if places are unfilled can then accept out-of-district children."
Montclair's Own October 03, 2012 at 12:12 AM
How one of the founders is a teacher at the HS currently boggles my mind. Her school would essentially prevent many of those who pay her salary currently, from sending their kids to this school. She also called out the ex-Superintendent in an article about the impact the school would have on taxes. http://www.nj.com/news/local/index.ssf/2010/06/montclair_superintendent_dismi.html
tryintosurvive October 03, 2012 at 12:53 AM
I think that the founder who is a teacher at the HS believes that Quest Academy will provide significant benefits to students who attend. It would seem that she should know what the current HS is and isn't providing pretty well.
Tracey Williams October 03, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Just to clarify a few points: 1. We filed a petition to the Supreme Court within time, asking them to review this decision for several reasons that are included in the petition. We are still waiting for the Supreme Court to render a decision on this petition. If you are interested in learning why, the petition is now posited on our website. Just go to www.Questacademynow.us and click on the news link. 2. The state reviewers scored the third application very highly. One reviewer even wrote, “.this is a very impressive application”. Why would they do that if it was so poorly written? This review can be found on our website. BTW, Carly Bolger, Director of the Office of Charter Schools, happened to have been one of the reviewers that gave the application a high score. Unfortunately, we cannot talk to her about it because she is no longer with the department. She resigned before this appeal was decided. 3. I never said that I was going to run the school. The application states that the school’s board of trustees would hire a qualified principal to run the school.
Tracey Williams October 03, 2012 at 02:36 PM
Just to clarify a few points: 1. We filed a petition to the Supreme Court within time, asking them to review this decision for several reasons that are included in the petition. We are still waiting for the Supreme Court to render a decision on this petition. If you are interested in learning why, the petition is now posited on our website. Just go to www.Questacademynow.us and click on the news link. 2. The state reviewers scored the third application very highly. One reviewer even wrote, “.this is a very impressive application”. Why would they do that if it was so poorly written? This review can be found on our website. BTW, Carly Bolger, Director of the Office of Charter Schools, happened to have been one of the reviewers that gave the application a high score. Unfortunately, we cannot talk to her about it because she is no longer with the department. She resigned before this appeal was decided. 3. I never said that I was going to run the school. The application states that the school’s board of trustees would hire a qualified principal to run the school.
L. Dallas October 03, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Minor correction, the teacher involved in Quest Academy is no longer a member of CGI and acted independently of the Institute.
L. Dallas October 03, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Minor correction, the teacher involved in Quest Academy is no longer a member of CGI and acted independently of the Institute.
tryintosurvive October 03, 2012 at 05:03 PM
She is still listed on the Montclair HS website under the CGI program.
Tracey Williams October 03, 2012 at 05:41 PM
D-Zone, My efforts are not meant to fascinate or captivate you. I don’t even know who you are. And you making mocking and/or insulting remarks don't make me want to engage in any kind of conversation with you either. So if you want me to talk to you, kindly dispense with that kind of behavior. Can you do that? If you respect me, I will respect you.
A. Gideon October 03, 2012 at 06:09 PM
"who will be financing the charter school?" Charter Schools are, by definition, taxpayer funded. The comment about being "tuition free" is interesting in that context, no? How often do we hear about Nishuane or Mt. Hebron being "tuition free"? To me, it suggests that this effort is directed not at families currently in the public schools but instead families attending private schools. ...Andrew

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