Proposed Montclair Charter School Changes Name, Files Phase II Application

The proposed French immersion charter school in Montclair has filed its Phase II application and has also changed its name from Fulbright Academy to Montclair Charter School. The group, headed by co-founder Darryle Bogan (Janelle Anderson is another founder), writes in its letter to Commissioner David Hespe that the name change is to better position the school, described as a STEAM/Dual Lanuguage School (English/French with Spanish as a core) at the center of the community and to follow the example of the Princeton Charter School. Edith Boncompain is identified as a possible principal for the school, she is a former principal of a French-American Charter School in Harlem.

No matter what name the group gives the proposed charter school, vocal Montclair parents have taken to social media to oppose the charter and are encouraging residents to send an opposition letter here.

Superintendent Ronald Bolandi had sent this opposition letter from the district in May, but the charter group has made it to Phase II.

Proposed location for Montclair Charter School at 151 Forest St. Photo: Google Earth.
Proposed location for Montclair Charter School at 151 Forest St. Photo: Google Earth.

Bogan, in the group’s Phase II Application attempts to refute claims from Bolandi’s letter.

Statement from Part 1 of Phase II application
Statement from Part 1 of Phase II application

You can read Phase II Charter Application Part I and Phase II Charter Application Part II.

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43 COMMENTS

  1. These former BOE and AGAP members should stop hiding, and come forward and be upfront about why they want a charter school in Montclair. This “new” application is not about immersion, but stopping parent activism and weakening the MEA. This seems to be a completely different school, besides the name. Say who you are, and why you feel it is necessary to disrupt and defund our school district, and what you hope to gain by doing this.

  2. There are accusations of “activists” threatening to burn down a house, that are part of the charter application, and that supporters are fearful to speak publicly. Oh, wait, haven’t we heard this organizational rationale before? Paranoia and innuendo should not be a basis for a school that will adversely impact the majority of Families in our school district. If Fulbright/Montclair Charter has a case to be made, let them come out and do so publicly.

  3. They are making their case to the party that matters at this stage–the state. If approved, they will make their pitch to parents possibly interested in sending to their kids to the school. The non-interested parents and hysterics don’t have a say because, contrary to your assertions, CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOLS DO NOT REDUCE FUNDING TO NON-CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOS ON A PER-STUDENT BASIS. If x percent of students transfer to the charter, x percent of funds follow them. Given that, other parents and kneejerk anti-charterists don’t have a say–they can vote with their feet.

  4. Are you talking aggregate per pupil spending or budgetary per pupil spending? Perhaps you should consult someone with an economics background before you make such sweeping statements.

  5. Aggregate v. budgetary! OMG, elcamino, run! Hide! You’re doomed! The 1st string is coming out.

  6. Elcamino,

    Here’s why your comment about funding (x% and x% funds) is bogus.

    Charters have a history of notoriously not having the same, all-inclusive nature of public schools which MUST serve ALL students. If this charter does not serve the same percentage of special ed students, or students with 504s, or emotional issues, funds will be taken away from the public schools that HAVE to serve these children. You are simply assuming that the make-up of this charter will be exactly like that of the public schools, when most know that they are often nowhere near the same. It’s not student-for-student, dollar-for-dollar as you claim.

  7. That building looks like a one room schoolhouse. Old school.

    Unintimidated, I’m talking aggregate spending per pupil. Charters and non-charters are both public schools so they get about the same funding per student, which means the non-charters get about the same per student. When Bolandi talks about the charter costing “district” schools $millions in state funds, I suspect he’s talking aggregate and not per student. If so, it’s disingenuous and has confused a lot of folks here. Coincidentally I do have an economics background, but please tell me if am wrong on any of this. I don’t even know what “budgetary per pupil spending” is! It’s a odd line item, is it an authorization or spending?

  8. Mntclsown, that’s true. If the proportion of high needs students at the non-charters increases, so do its costs per student. But that’s a rising cost story, not a declining funding story, as Bolandi and anti-charterists are telling. Let’s get the story right. My sense is that the selection/cherry picking story is second order, but I don’t know facts on that.

    Look at that building above. Is that really going to destroy Montclair education as we know it? If someone wants to send their kid there to become tri-lingual, I say let em. If the school fail, we will be back to where we were in five years.

  9. elcamino, with your multiple repetitions of “charter schools are public schools”, as well as your SHOUTING IT AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS, there seems to be a digital Alzheimer’s thing happening on your end. If that’s the case, there are meds for that.

    Perhaps they’d help to uncloud your thinking, which seems kinda stuck.

  10. It’s true. I shouted for the first time after dozens of comments here. I did it in frustration at having to repeatedly correct a zombie idea that charters “drain” funds from non-charters on a per-student basis. But still, the ignorance of others is no excuse for shouting, so what meds would you prescribe? And of course, feel free to address the issue correct my demented facts or uncloud my thinking. You sound informed well beyond psychopharmacology.

  11. elcamino, people are unhappy about the charter implications because we expect the funding transfer to impact the level of service provided to the children who remain in the non-charter schools. Regardless of how much or little the per pupil spending changes, the reality is that programs and services will be cut if we transfer 300 students (and their funding) to a new school.

    If this transfer happens, the BOE has a choice, pull those students from every school equally, or concentrate the reductions in one school track.

    If you pull students evenly, you’re taking about 50 from each elementary school, spread over all the grades. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to cut a few classroom teachers from Nishuane and Hillside, with every other cost virtually unchanged. Every cost reduction beyond that, needed to meet the reduced budget, will result in a service cut of one sort or another. This is obviously the worst way to accomplish the reductions, yet is the most likely outcome of a new charter school.

    The other way is to concentrate the transfers in a single school track, the only options here are Edgemont or Nishuane/Hillside. Edgemont would just be closed entirely, and remaining students transferred to other district schools. Nishuane/Hillside is large enough to cut 2 classrooms out of each grade and not inherently need to be closed, since they are starting with 6-7 classrooms of each grade. Of course if you go the N/H route, you don’t save a thing on facilities, so more cuts would have to come from elsewhere.

    No matter how you slice it, even with the same $$ per pupil, an approved charter would cause a huge impact to children in our district. A district that, for all its faults, is not a failing district that can’t properly educate children.

    Frankly, if the BOE proposed taking millions of dollars out of the existing budget to open up a new 300 pupil school, I would open a pop-up effigy supply store. Business would be booming.

  12. “No matter how you slice it, even with the same $$ per pupil, an approved charter would cause a huge impact to children in our district.” Sorry, but that makes no sense to me. Same $ per pupil yet “huge impact?” No doubt resources will get reallocated if charter opens, but that is not always bad (some call in disruption) and is not the same as reduced resources as so many here are claiming. BTW, I am agnostic on Montclair Charter School-I’m just trying to keep facts straight on charters generally.

  13. Elcamino,

    Rising costs (and de-funding) do go hand-in-hand. You think taxpayers are going to want to increasingly pay more and more to make up for the services lost due to the charter? Especially if the public schools are taking on the EVERY student, while the charter gets to cherry-pick…this is going to be a conversation of a lack of funding for the public schools and the services their children (the wide variety and diverse set of students the charter won’t likely have) receive.

  14. Sorry…and as a continuation of my previous post, you’re missing the bigger picture Elcamino.

    What the charter will do is force the hand of the district to cut costs elsewhere to maintain services without increasing the taxes multifold. When it comes down to it, teachers/staff will most likely face the secondary impact (kids being the first)…cutting staff and costs across the board so as to save elsewhere. This then puts strain on staff/teachers, teaching larger classes with less…and this is just the first of the trickle-down effect. So risings costs/defunding, to my eyes, go hand-in-hand, in a district that already believes it’s paying too much for everything.

  15. elcamino, same $ per pupil, spent less efficiently, does indeed result in an impact to the quality of service provided to each pupil.

    Yes, we can demand that the district spend more efficiently, but we’re proposing the removal of students from a physical system that is not overburdened. That means underutilized resources. Resources that cannot all be cut when they are less utilized. You can only make cuts in resources that allow for short term reductions.

    For example, if we don’t close a school, our facility costs don’t go down, yet we’re giving a portion of our facility budget to the Charter. That money has to come from somewhere, from a resource that we can cut. That alternate resource (whatever it is) is already giving a portion of its budget to the Charter, so it needs to be cut more deeply.

    Net result is the same $ per pupil, but that spending is skewed more towards facilities and other hard to cut items, and less towards easy to cut items, like teachers and aides.

  16. elcamino – the aggregate cost per pupil is an average cost of all costs, both fixed (eg. administration, facilities), step-variable (eg. teachers, buses), and variable (eg. books, supplies). Removing 250 students from the non-charter public schools does not automatically remove the average cost for those 250 students from the budget. The result is the average cost per student for the district will increase. A charter school with only 250 students will have a much larger overhead burden per student since there are fewer students over which to spread the facilities and administration costs. I seriously doubt that a 250 student school will be able to function at the same cost per student as an entire district unless the charter will receive some shared services from the district. The cost per student at both the district and charter will be higher than what we pay today, which means aggregate costs will rise.

  17. elcamino, you’re embarrassing yourself by holding onto your easily disproven argument. Let it go, champ.

  18. Since the charter school’s proposed location is in my nabe, I just want to point out that adding another ~450 cars every morning and afternoon for drop off and pickup, right across from the Co-op school and around the corner from both Renaissance and the High School, will be an unmitigated traffic disaster. It is difficult to navigate at best, and at worst it’s impossible. The street is too narrow, with train riders and co-op staffers parked on both sides; and just too congested, since Forest is like a beltway for North Fullerton in the morning; and when school buses come through that block becomes impassable. In addition, I would be very surprised if 450 students will even fit into that building, and the parking lot doesn’t look big enough for staffers. How many times must we keep rolling over for people who want to stuff 10 pounds of donuts into a 5-pound bag??

    As far as the costs per student and all that mathy stuff, I am not smart enough to know; but I do wonder, *why* ?? Why such a specialized focus, in a town where the schools aren’t all *that* bad?? I almost feel like there’s some ulterior motive (wearing my tin hat now)? Does Essex County have a large contingent of Canadian ex-pats? What am I missing here?

  19. Montclair does have a large contingent of charter funders, and according to the Montclair/Fulbright application, charter supporters, including former BOE members, who must remain anonymous at this time, due to their fear of “anti-parcc and anti-njdoe activists”.

  20. I’ve never seen such a bunch of well-funded cowards. If you believe in your cause so much and you think it’s “the way”, own it.

  21. Look folks, I’m merely trying to correct a common falsehood levied against charters-that they “drain/rob/cheat” other public schools of funds per student They do not, and no one above has come closing to proving otherwise. It might be true that average costs per student rise at the non-charter when enrollment declines due to fixed costs (see Spicoli above) or because charters “cherry-pick” the low cost students (see mntclsown) but those are arguments about increased cost not decreased funding and no, they do not go “hand-in-hand”. Furthermore, the cost concerns seem second-order (i.e. small) compared to first-order fear that charters directly drain/rob/steal funds from non-charters. Charters do not reduce funding per student for the other public schools in district. If you want to inveigh against charters, at least do so for legitimate reasons.

  22. I wonder about the proposed location and what evidence the promoters must provide that it is available. One can take a photo of any building in Montclair and call it a proposed location.

    I ask because this is a fully occupied building and the rumor is that a prominent local developer has plans for it that have nothing to do with a school. It all has a pie-in-the-sky feel to it. You fill out some forms, gather some signatures, attend some meetings, and voilà, money flows, a school is built and is operational.

  23. Surprised, in a town reportedly with an intractable achievement gap, that there’s a negative attitude toward this project focused around a poor financial argument, instead of a positive outlook toward whether doing something differently might result in a better outcome for those children who are apparently not being successfully instructed at early ages. As with elcamino, I don’t have a horse in this particular race, except the successful education of and learning by the children of Montclair.

  24. elcamino, you’re the only person in this discussion who brings up the idea of per student spending. You are hyper focused on correcting a falsehood that nobody has asserted.

    There is an interesting quote regarding theory and practice. “In theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice, they are not.”

    In theory, the local schools are unaffected by a charter because their per pupil funding remains the same.

    In practice, the local schools are impacted greatly by a charter, because the actual spending cuts needed to close the budget take money away from student programs.

  25. Taking up Maureen’s point for the moment that change offers both opportunities and challenges and overlaying yngdaniel’s post above about the Nishuane/Hillside scenario, wouldn’t it be an opportunity to lease the space in Nishuane/Hillside for the 300 charter students? This is putting the cart before the horse of whether a charter will be approved, but the idea does mitigate the possibility the world would end if it is approved. As to the financials, I have to say the elcamino’s sole voice here is running rings around the financial naysayers.

  26. And as far as utility, the Superintendent has stated on many occasions that classroom space is essential max’ed out now. So, if we have growth, or want smaller class sizes, or want to pursue public pre-k, I hope the opponents are not considering building another school or expanding the existing ones to meet these needs..

  27. Maureen, you write, “Surprised, in a town reportedly with an intractable achievement gap, that there’s a negative attitude toward this project focused around a poor financial argument, instead of a positive outlook toward whether doing something differently might result in a better outcome for those children who are apparently not being successfully instructed at early ages.”

    I think this has not been addressed here as it is becoming rather well known that charter schools, on the whole, are increasing racial segregation in the schools. In fact, the HOLA charter in Hoboken that is supporting/helping the Montclair charter proponents is currently defending itself from legal challenges for racial discrimination by the Hoboken Public Schools, the NJCLU, and the Education Law Center. It doesn’t appear to be capable of closing the achievement gap as it does not serve close to an adequate proportion of Hoboken’s families of color.

    Charter schools, in addition to not servicing special needs students, English language learners, and low-income students at the same rate as the public schools, have serious issues when it comes to race:
    https://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/school-closings-new-apartheid.html?m=1

  28. flynnie, These are interesting citations. I wonder if you have personal experience with charter schools? My personal experience is that high-quality charter schools can help save children’s lives by providing sound discipline and education when their traditional public schools fail them; and that poor-quality charter schools (or those that are structured for goals other than education) are an abomination in society. Would you deny the former because the latter exists? I know people in town who would say yes. That is a difference between us. Vive la difference. Let’s be good neighbors.

    yngdaniel, ‘take away money from student programs’ is a questionable conclusion if the MPS goal is educating students. A sound, experienced institutional leader with a can-do attitude focused on the health & mission of the institution — let’s hope it is to educate the community’s children — in this situation (presumed reduction of both resources and customers) would seek to cut overhead before cutting programming, and use the new constraints in a new day to creatively deliver an improved service. If the goal is something else (‘diversity’ is one other concept has often been called our district’s goal), then, your conclusion might be valid. Don’t forget, though — the charter school concept is a market-based concept: if parents are happy with the education their children are receiving in their traditional public school, they won’t choose the charter, and it would close for low enrollment (letting kids cross district lines is a whole other story).

    Frank Rubacky, do you have insight on the superintendent’s talk about being maxed out on space, and do you have confidence in his enrollment numbers & rationale for the statement? The enrollment 3-year moving average has been declining for the past 3 years. In raw numbers, with the exception of 2007 as an outlier, enrollment for the past ten years has been in a very narrow range of 6613 to 6678 students – basically two, at most three, classrooms of students district-wide, or a 1% variation in enrollment.

    Given these numbers, especially if some of our buildings are actually underutilized, I like these ideas of using our existing township educational assets smartly…including regular Joe Walsh concerts at the MHS auditorium…the Montclair Public Schools’ very own ‘arts district.’

    Agreed, Frank, the sky will not fall for the parents, citizens & taxpayers of Montclair in general. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball of healthy, united community with a well-educated citizenry.

  29. Could someone please tell me if I am understanding this correctly: the student’s sending district must pay the charter school for that student, in addition to providing transportation or an allowance for same? In other words, if 450 kids all came from one district, that indeed could be devastating for the sending district. However, there could also be 10 kids from one district, 20 from another, and 5 from a third… just because the school is physically located in Montclair wouldn’t necessarily mean all its students would be Montclairons, right?

  30. M.E.,

    I’m highly dubious we are approaching capacity. I have never heard numbers supporting the statement. My numbers show that over the last 20 years, decade over decade, K-5 avg grade has stayed almost flat as the overall K-12 total has risen 10%. The largest jump by far has been at MHS (27%) which obviously has done a better job retaining cohorts. Grades 6-8 increased 11%.

    Over the last 2 decades we have added capacity at every school and have more than replaced Southwest & Grove St schools capacities with Bullock. Yes, we are at historical highs, but back in the early Seventies, we had 7,000+ students with less capacity.

  31. Kay,
    You are right, which is why Bloomfield and Glen Ridge have also spoken out against the proposed charter.

    Maureen,
    You assume that closing the achievement gap through French immersion is, in fact, a real goal. Someone stating they want to the close the achievement gap doesn’t make it so. It simply gives them the moral high ground in case anyone opposes them (to say: well, if you don’t agree with this charter, you don’t agree with closing the AGAP…which is nonsense). As mentioned, HOLA is under investigation in Hoboken DUE to segregation. Look at the makeup of HOLA and then the HPS, and you’ll see the difference (and I’m sure HOLA used the achievement gap as a reason to support the charter). NO ONE believes in increasing the AGAP. It’s about how you attack the issue.

    A French immersion, for a language that isn’t in the top 5 used languages worldwide, isn’t it. My understanding, based on Supt. Bolandi’s report, is that there are 3 fluent French speaking students in the district. There is NO demand for this in Montclair. MPS had a wonderful world language program until the fateful year of 2010 when it was defunded and destroyed.

  32. “Look at the makeup of HOLA and then the HPS”

    Living in a glass house and throwing stones?

  33. Frank R., thank you, we’re on the same page.

    Mtclrsown, I hear your concerns, but you assume I’m assuming, and I’m assuming nothing about this charter proposal. What do you think is the real goal of the charter application?

    To discuss your other points about AGAP, segregation, integration, and French, would create the appearance of me endorsing this application, so I’ll sit out as a neutral party, if you don’t mind. But just to note: my kids each took 4 years of Latin at MHS — even less popular than French — and it has served them very well academically and professionally. The STUDY of subjects in becoming an educated person and citizen is different than what appears to be popular in the world.

    Besides, as another poster said (townie?) French is the language of Love, and you know I’m all in favor of more of that in Montclair.

    On that note, gratitude to Liz George & her team for maintaining the forum aspects of Baristanet.

  34. Thank you Baristanet for linking the application materials. After a quick reading, I suspect that this project is in fact a big H1B scam.

  35. Maybe, just maybe if Bolandi wasn’t spending so much time coordinating opposition to this application, the information systems updates this Summer wouldn’t be as messed up as they are. This self-proclaimed expert on all things schools appears to have trouble with the core things that matter most to parents and families, getting registration information right. Way to go Montclair. You missed the target again.

  36. Si certains parents veulent que leurs petits chéris de parler français , puis laissez-les payer pour des leçons privées hors de leurs propres poches , et non pas les poches des contribuables de Montclair .

  37. The Google Translate version:

    “If some parents want their little darlings to speak French, then let them pay for private lessons out of their own pockets , not the pockets of Montclair .”

    Personally, I would have replaced “French” with “a language other than English”.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with you that if MPS is teaching language skills the little darlings can’t make money from down the road, that expenditure is clearly a waste.

    Thank you johnqp, you have nicely summed up the anti-charter camp. I see the light now.

  38. ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.’

    – Mahatma Gandhi

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