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Hua Mei Charter School Application Denied

Mandarin-immersion school will not open in suburbs

The charter school school application for Hua Mei was denied by ‪Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf‬ Friday afternoon, Patch has confirmed with school officials.

The long-awaited decision comes after by residents in West Orange, Maplewood and South Orange.

The Mandarin-immersion school, proposed to be located in Maplewood, would have drawn students from the South Orange-Maplewood School District and West Orange School District.

Hua Mei, though, is no stranger to rejection as the school was when only four of 55 charter school applications were approved. Hua Mei , no longer listing Millburn, Livingston and Union among the "in-district" school districts from which they would draw.

Laura Lab, West Orange board of education president, praised the news, "I'm very happy the commissioner made this decision, it just makes sense."

Maplewood Board of Education President Beth Daugherty told Patch in an email that the decision was "great news." She said all of the suburban charter school applications were rejected, and eight urban charter schools approved. On Saturday, Daugherty sent this statement on behalf of the Board of Education:

"We are very pleased that the Hua Mei Charter School application was denied for the second time and grateful to all of the 1,000 plus community members who signed petitions and contacted the Department of Education and legislators to voice their objections. We would also like to commend Dr. Osborne and his staff for a very thorough and insightful statement outlining the many reasons for the District's opposition. However, our work is not done. We must all continue to push for charter school reform legislation that includes local  control in the charter school approval process."

West Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. Anthony Cavanna said he was pleased with the decision but worried the charter could reapply in the spring. Cavanna said he hoped the legislature would "look at alternate ways of funding charter schools."

When reached for comment, South Orange-Maplewood Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Osborne said simply, "We appreciate the decision."

In a release from the Governor's Education News Service, Cerf expalined the decisions:

"The applications we approved today have demonstrated a strong educational program and the capacity to implement that program, in addition to articulating a clearly defined need for the school in their specific community," said Cerf, who reaffirmed the Christie administration's commitment to the use of charter schools to "expanding the number of high-quality charter schools so that every student can choose the school option that is the best fit for them."

In the release, Cerf noted that applications were held to benchmarks that included "whether an application proposes an educational program that integrates the school's mission and clearly indicates how it will educate all students, regardless of any theme or other specific focus."

The list of approved charter applications includes charters proposed for Camden (3 schools), Millville/Pittsgrove/Vineland, Jersey City, Newark (2 schools) and Trenton.

Besides school officials, other town leaders were also expressing their satisfaction with Cerf's decision.

Maplewood Democratic Committee Vice Chair Garnet Hall sent a message to elected and appointed town leaders thanking local resident Marian Raab and others for "all the time and effort it took to make sure Maplewood's and South Orange's voices were heard. We salute your commitment, organizational skills and dedication."

Hall added, "In addition, the charter school application for Montclair was also denied. I hope this is a trend and a fight we will keep on winning."

This is a breaking news story, continue to check Patch for more information.

Wendy January 20, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Sherley Jean-Baptiste January 20, 2012 at 09:11 PM
West Orange Public Schools: What a Great Place to learn!
Gary Englert January 20, 2012 at 09:35 PM
And a victory for common sense!
Brian January 20, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Awesome news!
Cynthia Cumming January 20, 2012 at 09:45 PM
So happy to hear! Now I'm off to another great family event sponsored by the WOCPTA for the students of our wonderful school district.
Stephanie Kennedy January 20, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Susan1 January 20, 2012 at 10:17 PM
I'm somewhat reluctant to be relieved by this decision; they're likely to re-apply and all the angst will begin anew. Fingers crossed that they refocus their efforts, preferably to a private school.
Xavier January 20, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Great news!
Marian Raab January 20, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Susan--we have a fantastic shot at reforming NJ's broken charter school law this year so that Maplewood/SO and every other NJ community has LOCAL control of the charter school approval process. (Bi-partisan legislation passed the NJ Assembly last year, but stalled in the Senate.We're gonna get it through this year.) Please sign this important petition to support giving LOCAL districts and voters control over what schools open in their towns! Then we'll NEVER have to deal with Hua Mei again :-) http://www.change.org/petitions/new-jersey-communities-want-local-control-over-new-charter-schools-2 (And pass it on!)
Susan1 January 20, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Thanks Marian. Of course, you are right. I am hopeful that the Legislature will pass the bills that will reform this terrible policy. Just sick of this monster that keeps rearing its head and threatening our schools. Thanks for all of your hard work!
Marian Raab January 20, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Education Commissioner Chris Cerf definitely made the right calls by approving charter schools in districts that really need them. Here's a link to the press release listing the 8 schools that were approved: http://www.nj.gov/education/news/2012/0120chart.htm
a friend2education January 21, 2012 at 02:59 AM
i am sorry that the application was denied although i have absolutely no vested interest in it. if yu look at those chater apps that were approved, it should be obvious that chrities' administration is more intent on improving inner city public education. the fact that maplewood,south orange millburn and west orange districts would have been the target student base shows the sad reality that these towns are on the fringe. this fact would have me very concernd if my children were in these districts
Cynthia Cumming January 21, 2012 at 03:17 AM
That is simply not the case! But certainly, taking money out of an already depleted financially school district to fund a charter school that would target a very limited audience could impact that district negatively, especially if it is not a failing district.
Adam Kraemer January 21, 2012 at 12:20 PM
A government monopoly on education wins a battle. Unfortunately parents children and taxpayers loose the battle.However, charter Schools will have their day even in suburbia.. To the opponents of charters enjoy over paying in taxes for schools that are good but because of a lack of completion will not be pushed to an optimal level of academic performance. I for one as a resident in West Orange don't enjoy paying school taxes significantly above state and national averages for mean SAT scores in at West Orange High School that are only about average for the state. Without competition from vouchers or charters tax rates and mean SAT scores will not change much. I still think parents not high paid educational administrators should have the power over educational spending. If parent want some specialization in education linguistically or culturally it should be a publicly financed option as parents have better knowledge then government officials as to what is right for their children. Why do we have pay taxes to Washington DC, Trenton, and the Board of Education (179 Eagle Rock Ave) to have governmental officials decide how to spend our educational dollars? Why can't parents decide directly?
Amy Higer January 21, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Adam--It's sad that you equate public education with market principles. "Higher taxes must result in higher SAT scores." What an impoverished view of education. Although we have privatized so much in our society, there are still institutions that should be free from the Chicago School of economics. Those dedicated public servants who work in our schools every day are not motivated by competition, but by the desire to make this community, and this world, a better place. As idealistic as that sounds, it's true. They don't need to "compete" with anyone to do their jobs better. There are 1000 things I'm sure they would love to do to improve their schools, but it's lack of resources to acquire and pursue these ideas, not a lack of ideas or motivation, that gets in the way. And, of course, "parents deciding directly" about district schools is what this local anti-chater effort was all about!
Adam Kraemer January 21, 2012 at 02:36 PM
@ Amy - Your are that right most teachers are good and most teachers do care about children. However, a teacher does not have to teach in a school directly run by the government to be good a teacher. Respectfully I will indicate that you line of thinking is flawed because taxes and costs in education do matter and are an issue. I would argue that doubling school taxes would not make students twice as smart but would make for less family wealth and income. Also in public schools money flow to many other place then the classroom and that is a big issue in West Orange. I am not better of nor our my children if money goes to 179 Eagle Rock but does not flow down to classrooms. Also, like it or not measurable results in education do have meaning and are important for the community as reference point on school performance. Also, I think society is better off because brilliant ideas that have come out of the Chicago School of Economics and from its Nobel Prize winners.
Lindsay January 21, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Adam Kraemer said "Why can't parents decide directly?" They can. It's called voting for your local BOE. Let the BOE decide if it wants a mandarin charter school. Local control of local dollars. Sign the petition that Marian posted above.
Patricia L. Schall January 21, 2012 at 03:25 PM
The school budget is the only budget residents can directly vote on. Therefore, they should be able to vote for or against the establishment of a school that will have an impact on the school budgets in their towns. Leave it to the voters to decide the kinds of school they want for the children in their towns. I value my own public school education and believe in supporting the public education of future generations. I gladly signed the petition, and I was pleased to see the defeat of the proposed Hua Mei Charter School.
Gary Englert January 21, 2012 at 05:58 PM
@ Adam Kraemer: What's amazing to me is the absolute hypocrisy of one of the usual suspects (who regularly complain of every penny spent on the schools) supporting creation of a charter school, without a care in the world as how it would be paid for. To suggest that there would be any savings/economies/expense reduction by taking 18 students from our schools (in year one) and sending them to Hua Mei (let alone 78 students at its maturity) is disengenuous. Neither those numbers nor the distribution of the students (by neighborhood and grade) would serve to save us a dime, while sending them to Hua Mei would result in a new unfunded mandate (+/- $18,000 tuition per student, plus transportation). Anyone not understanding this absolute reality is living in dreamland.
Susan1 January 21, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Public schools are a cornerstone of our society. They are not "government monopolies" but socialist entities (yes, I said it) that provide for their community members. While I think we can all agree that schools can be improved in many ways, including curriculum and teaching strategies, sub-dividing our school systems into individual units with narrow missions (e.g. focus on one language) is not the most effective way to use our communal tax money.
KLF January 22, 2012 at 01:54 AM
Schools are not run by the government -- they are run by the local community. The superintendent reports to the Board of Education.
KLF January 22, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Parents DO decide. The Board of Education in every district is made up of local representatives elected by the resident taxpayers of the district. These directly elected individuals make decisions on educational spending. There's no monopoly if a) the people are democratically deciding who should represent them, and b) private schools are permitted to operate and families can freely opt for them
Xavier January 22, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Interesting comment by the former president of Harvard in the NY Times: "English’s emergence as the global language, along with the rapid progress in machine translation and the fragmentation of languages spoken around the world, make it less clear that the substantial investment necessary to speak a foreign tongue is universally worthwhile. While there is no gainsaying the insights that come from mastering a language, it will over time become less essential in doing business in Asia, treating patients in Africa or helping resolve conflicts in the Middle East." http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/the-21st-century-education.html?pagewanted=2
Gary Englert January 22, 2012 at 05:24 PM
@afriend2education: The geographic proximity of South Orange-Maplewood, West Orange and Millburn to Newark (and all the challenges therein) is nothing new and I've been hearing doom and gloom scenarios (and, let's face it, thinly veiled racist rants) such as yours for the fifty years I've lived here. Our demographics have changed in that time, not the quality of life nor the basic character of these communities or the people living int them. If you were one of them, the only thing you need truly fear would be your own prejudices.
m January 22, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Mary Mann January 23, 2012 at 04:52 AM
I can only hope you're not using profanity or making a personal attack! ; )
Gary Englert January 23, 2012 at 04:55 AM
@Mary Mann: Loosely translatedn it means "This is good news!"
Mary Mann January 23, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Phew! Thanks for the clarification, Gary!
Lisa Rodgers February 03, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Too all our friends up north.... please continue to support our efforts in Central Jersey. Fight for South Brunswick, West Windsor Plainsboro and Princeton in our effort to halt Princeton International Academy Charter School and The Thomas Edison Energy Charter School and continue to support the legislation for a local vote..........Congrats on your efforts!!!........


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