Five charter schools got the green light Tuesday night to move into Newark - but the approval didn't come without a debate among the city's public schools advisory board members.
Lease agreements were approved for charter schools Great Oaks, People's Prep, North Star Elementary III, North Star Elementary II and TEAM Academy at the advisory board meeting held at Science Park High School. Three board members - Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, Alturrick Kenney and Marques-Aquil Lewis - consistently voted against the co-location plan, which calls for charter schools to share space within Newark public schools.
Shavar Jeffries, who voiced support of the co-location plan unveiled on Superintendent Cami Anderson's , said charter schools give Newark children much-deserved options. He rattled off statistics like graduation rates and test scores that proved the success of charter schools.
"We have so much space [in school buildings] because the parents are dissatisfied with the quality of education we've been delivering for a long time," said Jeffries, noting the success of the charter schools that will enter Newark.
Schools, like Camden Middle School, were not given an option when they were forced to consolidate into others, charged Lewis. He accused the charter schools hiring process of being fixed and leaders at those schools having political ties to Mayor Cory Booker, the state's Acting Commissioner of Education Chris Cerf and Anderson.
"The process was fixed," said Lewis. "I believe that key people did not get the opportunity to really apply to be in leadership roles in these schools."
Baskerville-Richardson admitted she was not a proponent for co-location charter schools and said she didn't believe the logistics behind shared campuses would pan out by September.
"I do not see how we will be able to facilitate the co-location without taking something away from the existing schools," she said.
The shared campus plan was the result of a "collaborative effort" between the board and school district in an effort to close the budget gap, Business Administrator Valerie Wilson said Tuesday night.
"What we tried to do was to … to ensure the district received fair and equitable compensation for both its services and facilities," said Wilson, adding that the deal inked with charter schools was a separate issue from school consolidation. "That was premier to us and that, at the same time, our programs were not compromised."
The charter school leases are expected to bring in a minimum of $300,000 in annual revenue, according to Wilson.
Under the shared campus plan, comprised of lease agreements which were , the following buildings will be shared:
- Burnet Street Building — Burnet Street Elementary School and Great Oaks (charter)
- Camden Middle School Building — People's Prep (charter) and Bard High School Early College (new school)
- 13th Avenue Building — 13th Avenue Elementary and North Star Elementary III (charter)
- 200 Washington Street — YEES Center and Newark Hybrid High (new school)
- Newark Vocational Building — Newark Leadership Academy (new school) and Newark Vocational HS
- George Washington Carver Elementary Building – TEAM Academy (Charter), George Washington Carver Elementary (which also consists of Bruce Street School)
Charter school North Star Elementary II will be the sole location at 15th Avenue School. for a list of consolidated schools.
After further review by the state, New Day charter school, which was originally planned to share space with Camden Middle School, will enter a planning year for school year 2011-12, according to Anderson. Newark Leadership Academy, which was originally slated to share space with Newark Vocational High School, will be moved to Camden Middle School.
The board eventually voted 6-3 to approve a sole location lease for North Star Academy II and co-location leases for North Star Academy III and Great Oaks. A co-location lease to TEAM Academy was approved by a 5-3 measure, with Jeffries recusing himself. A co-location lease to People's Prep also passed 5-3, with Shanique L. Davis-Speight abstaining.