Charter School Founder Urges Cooperation on City Education System
Sunday, May 20, 2012 • 8:14am
There has been a great deal of talk in Paterson lately regarding the district’s school transformation plan. Earlier today I attended the community forum called by Dr. Hodges, PEF, and the local NAACP to learn more about the reasons behind the opposition to the plan. I was also interested because a significant concern is about the role of charter schools in Paterson, and as founder of the Community Charter School of Paterson, that keenly interests me. Additionally, I genuinely feel an obligation to be aware of and sensitive to community concerns about charter schools, and to be open-minded about change.
I am glad that I went to the meeting because after listening intently, I realized that there is significantly more agreement than disagreement between myself and those who were present. For example, one of the concerns about charter schools is that there is not a level playing field, that charter schools accept far fewer poor and classified students than the traditional public schools. I agree that this is not fair, and CCSP has always swung our doors wide open to ALL students in Paterson. As a result, we have very large numbers of low-income and classified students, and we will continue to do everything we can to include, and not exclude, students who may have special needs.
I learned today about the state’s intent to establish Regional Achievement Centers (RACs) and those of us who live here need to fully understand the intent behind them and stay involved to make sure the local voice is always prominent with respect to individual schools that are low-performing. I learned that there is the potential to redirect Title I dollars away from our schools and that is something that concerns me. And I learned that there is a real need to learn more about “virtual charter schools” before they become operational.
As someone who cares passionately about the quality of education for Paterson students, and as founder of CCSP, I am glad that I went to today’s meeting. I believe that there is a place for charter schools in Paterson—especially ones like CCSP that are “home grown” in that they are founded and operated by local residents and parents. But I also understand better the concerns of those who correctly feel that charter schools are not the entire answer to improving the educational landscape. I sincerely look forward to working with the leaders of today’s meeting, as well as those who were in attendance, to do everything we can to promote educational excellence in Paterson.
Robert F. Guarasci
Chief Executive Officer
New Jersey Community Development Corporation