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 months of opposition and protests 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 denied in September when only four of 55 charter school applications were approved. Hua Mei re-applied a month later, 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."
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