Thursday, July 28, 2005

Charter schools in Plainfield

Plainfield’s three charter schools are the only ones in all of Union County.

One has been operating for five years, one will open in September and the third is planning for a September 2006 opening.
A charter school is a public school that operates independently of the district board of education under a charter granted by the Commissioner. Once the charter is approved and established, the school is managed by a board of trustees with status as a public agent authorized by the State Board of Education to supervise and control the school. A charter school is a corporate entity with all the powers needed to carry out its charter program.
--Source: NJ Dept. of Education
NJ charter school fact sheet
Queen City Academy Charter School won state approval in 1999. It opened in 2000 with 177 children in grades K-8 and had 198 students in the 2004-05 school year. Having won renewal of its charter this year, the school is moving toward a maximum of 234 students.

Just as the school was moving last fall from a downtown office building to the former Temple Sholom building on West Seventh Street, it lost its founder, Paula DiVenuto, to an untimely death. But despite the setback, Queen City held its third graduation in June and Lead Person Cynthia Cone said the continued expansion will permit activities including chorus, a band and sports teams.

“The critical mass of kids is necessary,“ she said.

The new campus has trees, grass and parking that were all lacking downtown, she said. And teachers had to pay $250 a year to park in nearby city lots. Now the staff of 19 includes music, art, computer, Spanish and physical education teachers. There is still a waiting list of about 100 children, Cone said.

She is pleased to have another school opening this year. A previous school, Career Academy for Lifelong Learning, had its charter rescinded, leaving Queen City the only charter school in Plainfield for a while.

Cone said having new schools boosts the charter school movement.

“It’s good to have company,“ she said. “I like to think that we had a good, solid run.“ More schools “put the charter school in a good light,“ she said. “Charter schools are a wonderful option for parents and children."

Union County TEAMS (Technology, Engineering, Architecture, Math & Science) Charter School will open in September, executive director Sheila Thorpe said.

The school [link] will operate within the brand new Shiloh Baptist Church complex that opened in March on West Fourth Street. It will have 180 students in grades K-8.

Central Jersey Arts Charter School projects a 2006-07 opening with 248 students in grades K-5.

The Plainfield school district can approve or reject a charter school application and rejected them in the past to protest the loss of state per-pupil funding from the district. Charter schools receive 90 percent of state funding for each child enrolled. But the state Commissioner of Education has the final say on approvals.

As of January 2005, there were 55 approved charter schools in 14 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

--Bernice Paglia

KEYWORDS: education