We sat down with Meredith Pennotti, Principal of the Red Bank Charter School who told us that she has taught in many roles and understands traditional public education, private schools, and parochial schools.
While working as an Assistant Superintendent at Shore Regional High School she was approached to work at the Charter School. “I realized that many of the things that they were writing in their business plan were things I thoroughly believed in as an educator, especially fostering the child’s education as a whole person.” She is in her nineteenth year with the Charter School.
What is a Charter School?
In 1995 New Jersey passed the Charter School Act that allows parents to have a choice of what public school might best serve their child. A Charter School is part of the public-school system and must follow all mandated State rules. The difference is that they must find their own facility (rent or own) in order to apply for authorization from the Department of Education (DOE), and how they are going to fund that commitment and maintenance costs. In addition, they are not governed by an elected board which bring politics into the system.
The building now located at 58 Oakland Street was first noticed next to (Meridian) Riverview Hospital sitting vacant. They approached the hospital administration about using it as a school and they agreed. Fast forward a year and a half and after renovations made to the school, Riverview decided to build a new oncology wing and needed the school space for parking. Pennotti said "Our goal has always been to be a community and comprehensive elementary school, K – to 8.”
Approximately 100 applications are submitted for Pre-K through grade eight. Numbers are assigned and students are selected via a lottery. Those not selected are then placed on a wait list. Typically, the only openings are in Pre-K with thirteen spots open last year. A recent change by the State DOE is that now schools could weight their applications based on evidence of economically disadvantage families.
Pennotti said that they realized that the old Oakland School (which had been several restaurants throughout the years) was for sale. “It was actually Tim Hogan (now President of Riverview) and Dr. Gene Cheslock who said “If you can find some place to put it, you can have it.” This had the effect of satisfying the hospitals’, the schools and Red Bank’s Preservation Commission concerns.
The move was pretty extraordinary. After getting all the permits, clearing the overhead wires, making sure the local businesses were minimally disrupted, the house was raised and floated down Broad Street in the early morning. Only one hitch was that a corner of the house could not make the turn and a small section was chained-sawed off.
Summer Series. This is a series to keep children sharp academically and not to fall into what some refer to as the “summer slide” where their skills regress. Tiffany Stevenson, a third-grade teacher and leading the Summer Institute said that “This is a wonderful enrichment opportunity for children to have remedial chances to build their academics and keep them on their game when they come back in September.”
Julissa Fraser works with the students going from the third into the eighth grade and “We work on the little things they learn throughout the year such as a small guided reading group where we’ll talk the big things that happened, make predictions and that’s part of their summer packet.”
Nevin Salem is the Middle School Math teacher works with the incoming third through eighth graders with different levels of math skills. She is charged with keeping these students sharp in their math skills and said “We have a class that gets them working with real life work problems which instills math concepts and makes it more interesting for them.”
The Charter School recently purchased the building next to and behind them (where Prown’s use to be), on Monmouth Street. STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) classes are taught there and the additional space is being converted into a gymnasium.
Education is the foundation of a society and the Red Bank Charter School offers parents a choice for their child. Diversity is one of the reasons Red Bank thrives.
The Charter School will be launching a fund-raising effort in the near future and they hope you will consider opening your heart and your wallet.
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