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OP-ED: PTA Presidents' Council Weighs in on Charter School Application

Council urges residents to sign a petition opposing the approval of the Hua Mei Charter School.

Dear Community Members,

You will remember that two charter schools were proposed last year that would have drawn students from the South Orange Maplewood School District. by the Department of Education in September.

However, one of the schools, the , a Mandarin immersion school, and the state is reconsidering their proposal. A decision will be made in January. Their application has made it past the first cut and is one of 17 being seriously considered for approval to open in September 2012.

Hua Mei’s new application names Maplewood, South Orange and West Orange as the districts from which it would draw students. Their last proposal named those three towns as well as Livingston, Millburn, and Union. There was a great deal of and Livingston in the last round. There was also a great deal of opposition from Maplewood and South Orange but the founders live in our community. Community members in our two towns sent emails, made phone calls, and signed petitions. And now, only a few short months later, we find ourselves in the same position once again. If the application is granted, Hua Mei would open in September of 2012 in a Maplewood location.

If you believe that public funding for a boutique Charter School in a district like ours does not make sense and that it will benefit a few at the expense of an entire community, then here is what you can do:

  • Please sign the electronic petition that has been drafted opposing the proposed Hua Mei Charter School. You can find it here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/somsdcharterconcerns2/
  • Please take a few minutes to call, email, and/or write to Acting Commissioner Cerf and Governor Christie (contact info below) and ask them to reject the Hua Mei application.
  • Please contact our state legislators to urge them to do whatever they can to get the Charter Reform bills moving again (contact info below).

Some background: Charter Reform bills were passed by the Assembly this year, and unfortunately, are now stalled in the Senate. Our legislators all supported these bills which would allow for communities to have a say in whether charters open in their districts. Without this legislation, our towns are, once again, vulnerable.

Superintendent Osborne has officially opposed the charter and the administration has pointing out five pages worth of problems and weaknesses in the proposal. However, as a community, we must also make our voices heard in the next few weeks.

Remember, the money to fund charter schools comes out of the school district’s budget. This means that the South Orange Maplewood School district would pay the costs for students in our district attending the Hua Mei School and if the distance is more than two miles away, the school district would also have to provide transportation. For example, our school district would have a per pupil cost of $12,000 per student. If 40 children left our public schools to attend Hua Mei, $480,000 would be taken out of the South Orange Maplewood School District’s budget (in addition to transportation costs, when necessary).  Additionally, since these students would likely be coming from a number of our district’s public schools, we would still have to carry the same number of teachers and all related costs at our public schools.

If you are concerned that public funding for Hua Mei would negatively affect our existing public schools, then please make your voice heard. Phone calls and emails are most effective. Please spread the word to friends and neighbors as well.

Sincerely,

Cecelia Cancellaro, Co-President  ccancellaro@verizon.net

Suzanne Turner, Co-President sturner99@verizon.net

South Orange Maplewood Presidents’ Council

 

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Contact Information

 

Petition:  http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/somsdcharterconcerns2/

 

Acting Commissioner Chris Cerf

Phone:  609-292-4450

Fax:  609-777-4099

100 River View Plaza

PO Box 500

Trenton, NJ 08625

Or email using this link:  http://www.state.nj.us/education/parents/contact.htm

Governor Chris Christie

Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
609-292-6000

Or email using this link:  http://www.nj.gov/governor/contact/

State Legislators:

  • Senator Codey (973-731-6770)
  • Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (973-762-1886)
  • Assemblyman John McKeon (973-275-1113)

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What is Presidents’ Council?

Presidents’ Council is an organization consisting of all PTA, PTO and HSA Presidents in the South Orange Maplewood School District, whose purpose is:

  • To discuss matters of interest to members including topics affecting the district as a whole, as well as individual schools;
  • To provide an interchange of ideas and concerns among the presidents of various schools;
  • To promote communication and a sense of unity among the schools.
STurner December 15, 2011 at 09:36 PM
We actually do have a world language program for our elementary students in SOMSD. Starting in 3rd grade, all students take Spanish. In addition, there is an innovative program offered to 3-5 graders through the world languages department. For a very modest fee (I think it is $60 for the year), students can choose to take French, Italian or Latin after school. The program uses advanced language students from CHS as instructors under the supervision of the language teaching staff. In my opinion, this is a great example of a creative way to offer more opportunities to learn world languages for SOMSD students. Both programs are open to all 3rd-5th graders, rather than only a select few.
Jingo December 15, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Fabulous! I think I was assuming that the idea was to start them earlier - at K. And yes, the $60 fee is VERY reasonable, but it is after school. I was more excited about the idea of being able to standardize it for all students starting in Kindergarten. There was a very motivated teacher in Montclair who single-handed created a program at Nishuane School, which is K-2, and all students are studying Mandarin twice a week there. Really very exciting - she found the funding for this, even in the down economy. My understanding is that she had to go and find the money. Let's find out more about how she did that! If language acquisition is easiest for most chidren up to aged 7, then seeking earlier introduction to these languages is ideal, don't you think?
unleb December 16, 2011 at 02:55 AM
I think my point was this: if even 10 students leave, that's $120,000 out of the budget, with no corresponding reduction in needs, even if 1 student leaves, that's $12,000 lost that we do not have to spend right now... unacceptable, in my opinion. Let's clarify... if you are suggesting that language education is important, and the earlier we start the better, then I agree, of course. I have traveled around the world with my children, and believe in cultural, as well as language awareness and diversity. But if you are suggesting that this charter school proposal is the way to achieve it, particularly now, then I think that is a terrible idea, and a disservice to our local education community.
STurner December 16, 2011 at 06:49 AM
I would love to see world language instruction offered from k on up for all SOMSD students. However, I have watched the BOE struggle with the budget each year, deciding what to cut that will do the least damage since costs rise higher and faster than the revenue to pay them. So not sure how we would pay for additional language instruction at the earlier grades. The teacher at Nishuane school sounds great. Perhaps you can talk to her about where she found the money for her program and submit the idea and info to the BOE. Many people would support enhancing world language instruction in our district schools if it could be done in a way that did not decimate important existing programs.
Nancy Heins-Glaser December 23, 2011 at 02:22 PM
Openness/disclosure for SOMSD's spending/budget priorities seems to be improving. I have read many sources on the charter school. I watched the BOE meeting from MMS. I was stunned to hear of a proposed million dollar "sate-of-the-art" acquatic center for SOMSD. Given massive layoffs of paraprofessionals (to assist kids in classroom) this seems out of this world. . This budget info from BOE for SOMSD was news to me, and I a fairly involved observer of loacl govt affairs. Was SOMSD's budget proposal given to our officials before budgets was presented at the public meeting or not? Its my understanding that budget data is to be presented/shared in advance with BOS/BOSE - those who are elected to serve as "trustees" of our public monies. If we are to hold our elected officials accountable, the budget date should be given in advance. I applaud efforts to increase public discourse about schools budgets thru being televised/web cast BOE meetings as schools costs make about 2/3 of our taxes. As I watched the 12/15/11 BOE meeting from MMS I could ONLY hear OFFICIALS comments - not the PUBLICs. It's a key responsibility of BOE and govt to inform the public about spending of their money. In order to be informed you have to be able to HEAR as well as SEE meetings. Based on my understanding there is outsourced high tech company is responsible for enhanced TV/web transmissions, is there no one monitoring audio levels during meeting tapings?

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