Hebrew charter gives it a fourth try

Hebrew charter gives it a fourth try

Organizers of what would be the state’s first Hebrew language charter high school have applied for a charter for a fourth time, this time leaving Highland Park off its list of target districts.

Sharon Akman of Highland Park refiled the application for Tikun Olam Hebrew Language High School on Oct. 17, two weeks after the NJ Department of Education rejected an application from Tikun Olam and 55 other proposed charters.

Unlike previous applications, the latest one lists only New Brunswick and Edison as sending districts, according to the application, which was sent to NJJN by Darcie Cirmarusti of Speak Up Highland Park, a group opposing the school.

The application includes a letter from Akman indicating that the school was awarded a planning grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant provides $200,000 for the “planning period” and an additional $200,000 a year for the school’s first two years. The grant is conditional on approval of the application.

Akman did not return calls from NJJN seeking comment.

Although Highland Park is not designated on the most recent application, opponents of the previous applications centered there continued to object.

The new application represents “a false sense of security for our community and unfortunately is not a victory in any capacity for our district,” said leaders of Speak Up in an e-mail.

Cirmarusti suggested the change was a strategic move to quell criticism from her group and other opponents.

Critics of Tikun Olam and similar charter schools say the charters divert local school funds for specialized instruction. Speak Up charges that the Highland Park district was charged $64,000 when the Hatikvah International Academy in East Brunswick, a Hebrew-language charter elementary school, did not fill its roster with East Brunswick students last year and was allowed by state law to enroll a small number of students from surrounding districts. This year there are five Highland Park students at the school.

The state DOE works with applicants who have previously been denied to help them improve deficiencies.

The DOE did not return calls from NJJN for comment.

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