Three Dozen Applicants Submit Bids for Charter Schools

Most would be located in state’s urban areas, aiming to open in fall of 2014

With interest hardly abating, nearly 40 applications were filed this week to open new charter schools in New Jersey – a vast majority in cities and one with a notable political name in its title.

The state had received by Monday’s deadline for the latest round of charter bids, all for schools seeking to open in the fall of 2014.

The decisions on initial approvals for this round of applicants will come in September, with the final approvals in the summer of 2014. After an initial big push, the Christie administration has been stingy in its charter-school approvals of late, endorsing only two in each of the last two rounds.

Almost a third of the latest applications came from Essex County, including seven in Newark. Another five are out of Camden County, including three from the city of Camden, and there were multiple bids out of Trenton, Paterson and Jersey City as well. The suburban proposals were few, including two in Bergen County in Hackensack and Bergenfield.

Maybe the most recognizable bid is for the Raymond Lesniak ESH Recovery Charter High School in Union County, named after the county’s powerful Democratic state senator.

Contacted yesterday, Lesniak said he’s not behind the proposal for the school proposed in his native Elizabeth, but said he had been approached by leaders of the Roselle-based human services organization Prevention Links to get involved.

Under the proposal, the school would serve up to 125 high school students with substance-abuse problems, offering a regular curriculum but also providing recovery programs and monitoring. And given his work as a state senator with treatment and recovery issues, Lesniak said the group asked him if his moniker could be on the school.

“I had been supporting them through the process, and they said their polled their founding members and felt that it should be the Raymond Lesniak Recovery Charter High School,” Lesniak said.

“I have never wanted anything named after me, but I saw this as a living organism, a growing thing, one of the reasons I stay in public life,” he said.