Fine Print: Newark Charter School Revocation

Despite warnings and promises, 100 Legacy charter to be shuttered at end of inaugural school year

What it is: The state Department of Education yesterday released its letter to the 100 Legacy Academy Charter School in Newark, informing the school that its state charter had been revoked after just seven months of operation. The April 11 letter cited a number of violations and findings concerning the school’s instructional programs, financial viability, and general operations.

What it means: Under pressure over the growth of charter schools in the state, the Christie administration has repeatedly said it has increased the accountability of the alternative schools. Now, eight charters have been closed or not renewed in the past two years, but this is the first to be shut down so close to its approval date. The revocation is effective at the end of the school year.

First probation: The middle school opened in August, 2012, with roughly 270 students, part of a partnership with the 100 Black Men of NJ organization. But by January it was placed on probation, after review found the school in violation of state statute in several areas, including special education and required criminal background checks of staff.

Didn’t get better: The state followed up in early February. According to the letter from assistant commissioner Evo Popoff, “This visit confirmed that school conditions had indeed deteriorated, putting at risk not only the safety, well-being and academic progress of students, but also the overall viability of the school.”

And again: The school submitted a remediation plan in late February, including pledges to improve its programs. But state officials said further visits found that “classrooms instruction had not sufficiently improved,” read Popoff’s letter. “Students were observed with their heads down, disengaged and frequently disruptive.”

Finally: The school submitted a long-term plan in March, and the state rejected that as well. “The department has no confidence that, given more time, the school will be able to improve its performance to the high standard the Department maintains for all charter schools.”

No comment yet: Efforts to contact the school’s leadership yesterday were unsuccessful, but the school made no mention of the revocation on its website. It said it was accepting applications for next year and also seeking a new principal.

Dissenting view: “The fact that the NJ DOE opened this school just last year and now is closing it speaks to the quality of their charter school approval process,” said Julia Sass Rubin, a spokeswoman for Save Our Schools NJ. “Clearly, the NJ DOE is not capable of making these decisions. They need to give local communities the final say in whether a charter school opens in their midst.”

Subject to appeal: The school may challenge the decision to the state appeals court.