At last night’s Board of Trustees meeting, the latest shot was fired in the battle over the Hua Mei Charter School application as Trustee Deborah Davis Ford came out against it. The proposed Hua Mei Charter School would be located in Maplewood and would also serve South Orange and West Orange.
Speaking at the end of last night’s Board of Trustees meeting, Davis Ford said she was “bothered by the fact that they are targeting Maplewood-South Orange and excluding Millburn and Livingston.” In September, Hua Mei was not one of the charter school applications accepted by the New Jersey Board of Education.
Hua Mei, as well as a school proposed in Livingston, which would have drawn from Millburn and South Orange-Maplewood and other nearby districts, failed to meet the new criteria at that time. The Hua Mei organizers applied again and removed Millburn and Livingston as districts they would serve. They did so due to successful lobbying from the Livingston and Millburn districts. The school has now added West Orange as a source for students.
Davis Ford brought up that this “so alarmed West Orange, they are now gearing up to fight the application.” Recently, West Orange School District Superintendent Dr. Anthony P. Cavanna sent a letter to acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf opposing the application. The letter was signed by Cavanna and other local officials including Superintendent Brian Osborne of the South Orange-Maplewood Public School district, and South Orange Village President Alex Torpey. Osborne sent a letter of his own last week.
“I’m not against charter schools; I do think they do good work in certain areas, especially if the schools are under-performing,” Davis Ford said last night, echoing comments she has made in the past. “I’m not even against a charter school being in South Orange. What I’m against is charter schools being established without the opportunity for residents to vote for it, to vote up or down for the existence of charter schools in an area where the schools are performing well.”
Currently there is a bill in the New Jersey Assembly that would allow either voters or a district’s board of school estimates to vote on charter school applications. Assemblywomen Mila Jasey (D-South Orange) is the co-sponsor of this bill. The measure has passed the Assembly and is awaiting consideration in the Senate.
“I encourage all the residents who feel the same way I do to continue to express through petitions, through e-mails, your opposition (to charter schools not being voted on),” said Davis Ford. “I encourage the President of the Board of Education to lobby aggressively.”
To read the letter sent to Cerf by South Orange-Maplewood School District Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne, read here.
To read the letter sent to Cerf by West Orange School District Superintendent Dr. Anthony P. Cavanna, read here.