Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School, Praised By Christie, Cited For Lack Of Diversity By DOE

Christie at TEECS - 1

Gov. Chris Christie, left, and TEECS principal Olguz Yildiz during Christie’s May 16 visit to the school.

The township-based charter school praised earlier this week by Gov. Chris Christie is under a state-mandated limited enrollment plan to alleviate “concerns” over the school’s student population’s “lack of diversity.”

Thomas Edison EnergySmart Charter School on Cortelyous Lane was placed under a restricted enrollment plan for the next five school years by state education commissioner David Hespe as a condition of its charter renewal.

In a Feb. 29, 2016 letter to Ferit Ucar, president of the school’s Board of Trustees – in which he confirmed that the school’s charter had been renewed through June 30, 2021 – Hespe noted that prior attempts by TEECS administration to remedy what Hespe called the “lack of diversity” in the school’s Kindergarten to 7th Grade student body had not “significantly impacted the school’s student population.” Those steps included advertising in local media and distributing more than 5,000 promotional brochures in Franklin and North Brunswick, the two main towns from which TEECS draws its students.

“In order to remedy these issues, (TEECS) must develop a comprehensive school recruitment plan to further diversify the school that includes the implementation of a weighted lottery,” Hespe wrote. “This recruitment plan must demonstrate that the school is committed to serving a cross-section of the school’s community age population.”

Oguz Yildiz, TEECS’ principal, said in an email that the school is “just starting the weighted lottery process and will have one in the coming year.”

Student racial breakdowns provided to the state by TEECS in its charter renewal application show that in the 2015-16 school year, 70 percent of the school’s student population – 234 of the school’s 336 students – are of Asian descent. Another 15 percent of the student body is white, while 13 percent of the student body is black.

The school also has 13 Hispanic students, three native American students and two students of multiple races, according to figures supplied to the state DOE by the school.

By contrast, in the 2015-16 school year, the township’s Kindergarten to 7th Grade population was comprised of 14 percent white students, 36 percent black students, 30 percent Hispanic students, 17 percent Asian students, less than 1 percent each of native American and Hawaiian native students and 2 percent multiple races, according to statistics provided to the state by the district.

The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, collected in 2014, shows that whites comprise 46 percent of the township’s overall population, while black residents comprise 26 percent, Hispanics 11 percent and Asians 22 percent.

In its original charter, TEECS was approved as a K-8 school with a total maximum enrollment of 378 students. In its renewal application, the TEECS board of directors asked for permission to expand the grade offerings to include high school by the 2020-2021 school year. Specifically, the board asked for maximum enrollments of 540 students in 2016-17, 600 students in 2017-18, 660 students in 2018-19, 720 students in 2019-20 and 780 students in 2020-21.

Hespe said that “based on these findings” of the lack of the student body’s diversity, he was “limiting (TEECS) enrollment to the following configuration:


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TEECS will be moving into a Pierce Street building after this school year to accommodate the expansion.

During his May 16 visit to the school, Christie praised TEECS and sad the school is “inspiring the development of more cutting-edge classrooms in New Jersey.”

Noting that TEECS is a Tier 1 charter school – the highest rating that can be achieved – Christie said that “this kind of achievement is what we want to replicate in charter schools and traditional public schools throughout the state.

“Thank you for setting such an extraordinary example,” Christie said.

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