The Christie administration renewed 14 charter schools for another five years, but placed half of them on probation in what is becoming a tough balancing act of both supporting the alternative schools and holding them to tougher standards.
The administration this week released additional information in the latest cycle of charter approvals and renewals, which included notifying seven schools that they would be renewed but under probationary status.
Lagging academic achievement was the reason cited for putting many of the schools on probation. The administration also delivered prescribed steps for “school turnaround.”
Earlier this week, the state approved one new charter, while rejecting two Camden district schools that were the first in the state to seek to convert to charter status.
The state also ordered two others to close.
The leaders of the one approved charter, the Hudson Arts and Science Charter School, sent self-congratulatory emails noting that what started as a small North Jersey charter network is now moving into its seventh school.
Meanwhile, one of two schools ordered to close — the 10-year-old Central Jersey Arts Charters School in Plainfield — released a statement saying it was “deeply disappointed” with the state’s decision but indicating it would likely not appeal.
The school had been on close watch for several years. In the past two years it reconfigured its board and hired an outside charter management company.
“In the last two years since a professional management company was hired and a new governance body appointed, remarkable turnaround progress has been made in operations, finance, and academics; especially with last year’s math scores,” read the statement from Raj Menon, the board chairman.
“It is for these reasons we are sure that this decision by the Commissioner and his staff was a difficult one to make.”
The leaders of the two Camden schools denied their charter bids declined to comment yesterday, according to a spokesman for state-appointed superintendent Paymon Rouhanifard. But the superintendent praised the two school’s principals.
“We respect the NJ DOE’s decision, just as we respect our principals’ desire to increase their autonomy,” said Brendan Lowe, a district spokesperson. “We will continue to work with them and all of our school leaders to make sure they are best positioned to help their students and staff be successful.”
And the state’s charter school association gave a mixed verdict to the announcements.
“Today’s NJ DOE announcement on the various charter public school renewals and applications was a mixed bag,” said Michael Turner, a spokesman for the New Jersey Charter Schools Association.
“While disappointed that both the charter public school conversions in Camden were denied, we remain encouraged that this is the beginning, not the end of district-to-charter conversion in our most troubled communities.”
The full list of schools renewed, rejected, and placed on probation is as follows: