Charter school taps principal; others plan religious options

Charter school taps principal; others plan religious options

Colin Hogan
Colin Hogan

East Brunswick’s Hebrew-language charter school has hired a principal, while some local religious schools are making plans to establish alternative programs for students who will be enrolled when the school opens as scheduled in September.

The Hatikvah International Academy Charter School announced April 19 that Colin Hogan, an educator with a background in public, charter, and private schools and experience studying and volunteering in Israel, will become its founding principal in July. A release announcing the hire said Hogan is already involved in finalizing school curriculum and hiring teachers.

The state has approved the charter for what would be New Jersey’s first Hebrew-language charter school, pending approval of requirements for curriculum and staffing and obtaining a suitable facility. Final approval is expected some time in June.

The school will rent a space from the Trinity Presbyterian Church next year, and has reached an agreement with the Campus for Jewish Life to build a facility on its Dutch Road property at some point in the future.

Meanwhile, the Conservative East Brunswick Jewish Center and Orthodox-based Torah Links of Middlesex County in East Brunswick, which runs a religious school, are developing alternative programs for their youngsters who will attend Hatikvah, whose Hebrew skills would presumably be too advanced for the traditional curriculum.

As public schools, charter schools are prohibited from teaching religion. Hatikvah, which is open to students of all backgrounds, can teach only Hebrew language and culture.

“Clearly we would have to wait until the charter school comes into existence,” said EBJC Rabbi Aaron Benson. “I believe Hebrew is essentially a Jewish language, but one of the things these students would be lacking is a strong background of Jewish knowledge. I think if there is going to be a population of students out there with strong Hebrew skills who would require Judaic training, we would be remiss not to meet the need.”

While EBJC’s initiative is still in the planning stages, Benson said, the synagogue would develop a religious school program for Hatikvah students, focusing on religion, “much as we offer specialized classes for kids who went to Schechter and transferred to public school.”

The Solomon Schechter Day School of Raritan Valley is located inside the EBJC.

Rabbi Shlomo Landau of Torah Links is looking to starting the after-school JUMP (Jewish Upbringing Matters Program), modeled after a Hollywood, Fla., program that began in 2008 to serve students of the Hebrew-language Ben Gamla Charter School there. The daily after-school Jewish studies curriculum would be open to students of varying backgrounds.

“I have been approached by JUMP to assist in replicating their success in Florida right here in New Jersey,” said Landau. “There has been a lot of interest locally as people follow Hatikvah’s progress.”

Landau also plans to establish a before-school program in East Brunswick, where students will have the opportunity to pray and learn before classes begin, he added.

Hogan has taught at the Academy of Communications and Technology Charter School in Chicago, the Princeton Charter School, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago, and the Highland Park Middle School, where he redesigned the sixth grade social studies curriculum and earned the Teacher of the Year award in 2007.

He spent his junior year of college studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After graduation he participated in the year-long Otzma volunteer program, working and teaching in schools and social service agencies throughout Israel. Upon his return to the United States, Hogan worked for several years as a recruiter for Hebrew University in New York City.

“Leading Hatikvah is one of the greatest job opportunities of my life,” said Hogan in the statement. “I have always envisioned starting my own school and working with a group of like-minded teachers and parents to develop a school that is not just a place where children are educated but a place where their experiences are transformative.”

Hatikvah board president Danna Nezaria said the school was excited about Hogan’s selection. “We were extremely selective in our choice for our new principal,” she said in the statement. “In Colin, we found someone with the perfect combination of experiences and skills for our school.

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