Group Submits Application For Third Charter School In Township

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Township resident Randal Pinkett is part of a 7-member group seeking to establish a third charter school in the township.

A group including the management team of Oak Crest Day Camp and a township resident who in 2005 won “The Apprentice” television program has submitted an application with the state to open a charter school in Franklin.

If approved, the Ailanthus Charter School would be the third in the township. The school would be targeted to students in Franklin and New Brunswick, according to the application, because those towns “possessed academic challenges that would be remedied by the chosen school model.”

The school’s founders want to serve a “socioeconomically diverse population,” according to the application. The group is asking state permission to use a weighted enrollment system that would give a better chance of admission to students who live in Section 8 housing, who qualify for SNAP/TANF benefits or who already qualify for free or reduced-price lunch in their public school.

The 7-member group making the application includes four township residents: Randal Pinkett, a business consultant who won season four of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” reality program; Mukesh Patel, CEO of the Juice Tank, a township-based technological business incubator; Jonathan Gold, owner and director of Oak Crest Day Camp on Cortelyous Lane, and Melissa Sherman, a pediatric nurse with Summit Medical Group.

The group making the application also includes Danielle Griffith of Point Pleasant Beach, assistant director of Oak Crest Day Camp; Leigh Kermizian of New Brunswick, the ceramics specialist at Oak Crest Day Camp and an art teacher at Bound Brook High School, and Elizabeth Azar of Montville, principal of Wildwood Elementary School.

According to the application, Patel and Pinkett would be partners in the charter school, Azar would be its principal, Sherman would be its school nurse and Griffith, Kermizian and Gold would be board members.

The group’s submission is one of 24 charter school applications submitted to the state Department of Education at the end of March, according to DOE spokesman David Saenz. The applicants will be notified in May if their proposal was chosen to move on to Phase 2 of the process, which, he said, involves a more comprehensive application.

Charter Schools approved this year would be able to open next fall, according to the state DOE web site.

There are currently two charter schools in Somerset County, both of which are located in the township: Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School on Cortelyous Lane and Central Jersey College Prep Charter School on Schoolhouse Road.

Charter schools receive funding from the school districts which send them students. In its projected budget for the 2016-17 school year, the Board of Education expects to transfer more than $9 million to those two charter schools and several others in the region.

In the 2015-16 school year, the district transferred $7,487,080 to five charter schools enrolling 588 township students. That averages out to $12,733 per student.

Ailanthus Charter School would occupy the Cortelyous Lane space that currently houses Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School. In November, 2015, the school won Board of Adjustment approval to renovate a 60,000-square-foot building on Pierce Street and move into it, probably sometime next year.

If approved, the Ailanthus school would enroll 60 students each in Kindergarten and 1st Grade in its first year, 60 students each in Kindergarten through 2nd Grade in its second year, 60 students each in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade in its third year and 60 students each in Kindergarten through 4th grade in its fourth year, for a total of 300 students by the fourth year, according to the application.

The school’s focus, according to the application, would be college prep and entrepreneurship education.

The school plans to use “project-based learning” to help students “apply problem-solving skills across the curriculum,” and “Universal Design for Learning” to teach teach an expected diverse student body, according to the application.

“Students will be required to master basic skills of mathematical computation, reading comprehension, and writing conventions,” according to the application. “In addition to traditional literacy skills, students will develop skills in the new literacies that have emerged. Developing technological and media literacy skills have become as critical as traditional text­based literacy skills.”

‘Universal Design for Learning” will allow the school to cater its curriculum to the diverse students it expects from the township and New Brunswick, according to the application.

The school will also use co-teachers, with one co-teacher assigned to two classrooms in grades Kindergarten to 1, and one co-teacher to reach classroom from grade 2 to 5, according to the application.

“Different from the traditional teacher’s assistant or para-professional roles, our co­teachers will be responsible for leading small group instruction, and providing instructional support to the lead teacher as he or she plans and implements lessons using the UDL framework,” according to the application. “Teachers will have time built into their schedules to collaborate on the design of interdisciplinary projects, review data, and work as a team to design high-quality lessons.”

The school will also emphasize the study of Mandarin, and Chinese culture, according to the application.

The school will offer a 185-day school year, and the school day will run from 7:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., according to the application.

The Board of Education is expected to address the school’s application at its April 28 meeting.

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