M.E.T.S. charter school welcomes students today at new Newark campus

M.E.T.S. CEO Ian Fallstitch hands over the scissors to Governor Chris Christie as Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington and M.E.T.S. instructional leader Diamesha Harris look on. Credits: Elana Knopp
M.E.T.S. cheerleaders perform at the official opening of M.E.T.S. Charter School yesterday Credits: Elana Knopp
Governor Chris Christie gives the keynote address at the ribbon cutting of M.E.T.S. Charter School in downtown Newark Credits: Elana Knopp

M.E.T.S. Charter School welcomed 250 students today to its new Newark campus, hoping to expand on its success at its Jersey City campus.

Since 2011, the school has been lauded for its rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, standout student achievement and perfect graduation rate.

M.E.T.S cut the ribbon on the new school Monday, as Governor Chris Christie, faculty, parents and community members looked on.

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The Newark campus, located on Broad Street directly across from city hall, represents the first expansion of the M.E.T.S. network and will follow the philosophy and curriculum of the original school in Jersey City.

The Newark campus, which will serve students in grades 9-12, will be led by founding instructional leader, Diemecha Harris, who was born and raised in Newark, graduated from Science Park High School and earned her degree at Duke University.

“The ultimate goal is that by the time freshmen graduate, they will have 60 college credits or an associate’s degree,” Harris said. “It makes a lot of sense. We have a 100 percent graduation rate in Jersey City, and we’re planning on doing that in Newark as well.”

M.E.T.S. Charter School (Math, Engineering, Technology, Science) is an Early College Preparatory School that utilizes research-based instructional practices to achieve student proficiency in mathematics, engineering, technology and science. 

The school, which boasts a 100 percent graduation rate and a 97 percent four-year college acceptance rate, prepares students to take college-level courses and graduate from high school within four years and with up to 60 college credits or an associate's degree. 

M.E.T.S. currently partners with Essex County College, Hudson County Community College, New Jersey City University, Rutgers University, and the University of Texas, as well as Liberty Science Center and the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning. In addition, ninth and tenth graders take engineering courses in conjunction with the National Science Foundation.

The opening of the school represents a victory for charter schools. Just months ago, the state ordered three low-performing Newark charter schools to close at the end of the school year.

Michele Mason, executive director of the Newark Charter School Fund, noted the significance of the new school as it sets out on its inaugural year in Newark.

"The launch of M.E.T.S continues to define a very special moment in our city right now," Mason said. "Newark city officials, community leaders and families are working together to serve one purpose—to provide Newark’s children with opportunity and hope. We are seeing the results every day with the launch of new public schools and the important efforts taking place to ensure local control."

In his keynote address, Christie—who has been a proponent of charter schools—noted that the number of charters in the state has doubled in the last eight years under his administration, bringing the total to 89.

“There are 34,000 kids on waiting lists for charter schools in New Jersey, 11,000 of them in Newark,” Christie said. “Families should have the opportunity to choose the education they believe is best suited for their child.”

Christie approved the expansion of 22 existing charter schools back in March, which added hundreds of new charter school seats across the state.

Charter schools are public schools that operate as their own district under a charter granted by the state's education commissioner. As independently-run public schools, charters are granted greater flexibility and autonomy in its operations in return for greater accountability for its performance.

In exchange for freedom from some of the regulations imposed on district schools by the New Jersey Department of Education, charter schools are held accountable for academic results and must demonstrate performance in the areas of academic achievement and financial management.

Charters are operated by private or nonprofit operators and are not subject to oversight by the local elected school board. 

M.E.T.S. Lead Administrator and CEO Ian Fallstitch noted the focus of the school.

“It’s all about STEM and all about college,” he said. 

In her address, Harris noted the life-changing impact of her own teachers throughout her academic journey.

“They were instrumental in making me who I am today,” she said, stating that one of those teachers was in the audience.

After completing her teacher training, Harris taught at First Avenue Elementary School and later at Elizabeth High School. She later pursued an Educational Leadership Master’s Degree and received her first STEM Vice Principal assignment last year at M.E.T.S. in Jersey City.

Christie, who noted that he was born and raised for a short time in Newark, said that the new school was providing a lifeline to students by offering 21st century skills and innovation.

“I’m a firm believer that no matter where you come from, your potential is limitless,” he said. “By enrolling in this school, each and every one of you—just by walking through the door on the first day—you’ll be fulfilling the dream of your parents. To the parents—my hope for all of you is that the dreams you have for your kids come true.”

Mason expressed the NCSF's commitment to seeing all of Newark's students succeed.

"Rather than focusing on our differences, like we have in the past, we are all focused on building bridges and strong public schools," she said. "M.E.T.S has an outstanding track record in New Jersey of academic achievement and we hope their opening will provide another valuable public school option for Newark families. While there are many great Newarkers involved in the launch of M.E.T.S, NCSF will work closely with them to ensure they serve as strong partners to Newark Public Schools and become a neighborhood focal point within our city."

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