LOCAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN AND LATINO PARENTS TO MARCH ON NEPTUNE TOWNSHIP CITY HALL DEMANDING CITY OFFICIALS STOP BLOCKING ACCESS TO BETTER CAMPUS
College Achieve Greater Asbury Park families are questioning why elected officials are working to prevent the school with a predominantly minority student population from having a proper campus.
Neptune, N.J.—Hundreds of minority parents, students, teachers and staff of a college preparatory public charter school will march on City Hall Wednesday, Jan. 8 to demand that city officials stop blocking the school’s move to a better facility. College Achieve Greater Asbury Park families and school officials are raising questions about Neptune Township’s continuous efforts to prevent the school from opening at the Holy Innocents Church campus with 300 students, the majority of whom are low-income African-Americans and Hispanics.
“We just have one question for the elected officials of Neptune Township,” said Dale Caldwell, president of the board of College Achieve Greater Asbury Park Charter School. “Why did you roll out the red carpet for the Academy of Allied Health & Science magnet school years ago—which is not open to all students—but now you’re forcefully blocking low-income minority families from moving to a church facility that has served as a school for decades? This school will offer a quality public education for all Neptune students.”
It is unclear why Neptune Township officials have worked so hard to stop College Achieve Greater Asbury Park Charter School from having access to the church site and previously to a facility in Asbury Park. Before denying the charter school use of the church—even when the church itself is welcoming the opportunity to provide long-underserved families a proper school facility—Neptune Township officials attempted to block the school’s move into a facility in neighboring Asbury Park. The Asbury Park zoning board denied Neptune’s arguments and granted College Achieve Greater Asbury Park the right to use the facility, which currently serves as the school’s elementary campus.
College Achieve last year signed a lease to relocate to Holy Innocents Church campus, but Neptune Township denied the school the use of the church. College Achieve appealed the decision to the Zoning Board, which denied its appeal in June. College Achieve sued in State Superior Court. The case is scheduled to be heard on Feb. 22, 2020.
“These delays have cost our children—who are mostly African-American and Hispanic —the quality educational facilities they deserve,” said Michael Piscal, founder and CEO of College Achieve Public Schools. “We would hope that our elected officials would rather that we direct already scarce funds to our classrooms and educating our students instead of on legal fees, particularly as the state grapples with closing a large and persistent achievement gap between white and minority students.”
College Achieve Greater Asbury Park signed a contract with Holy Innocents Church to lease its education facility on Route 33 and West Bangs Avenue in Neptune Township. The college prep school planned to open in August at the new school facility, which offers many amenities that the school’s current campus does not have: larger classrooms, a library, science labs, a full-size multipurpose gymnasium, a cafeteria and playing fields.
“Due to the actions of the Neptune Township Zoning Board and town officials, students who would have had access to larger classrooms, playing fields, and a full gymnasium are now being deprived of a significantly better learning environment,” said Jodi McInerney, the Executive Director of College Achieve Greater Asbury Park. “Many of our students don’t have adequate outdoor space where they can safely play and do those things all kids deserve to be able to do. Their parents are working hard to provide a better environment and the town is preventing them from getting something that other students in this community take for granted.
“We are not going away and we are not giving up. Our students have a right to a college preparatory education, and our families are here to fight for their children.”
The last time a new school opened in Neptune Township was in 1998. The city fast-tracked the permits and funding for the Academy of Allied Health and Science on Heck Avenue, which serves a predominantly affluent, white and Asian population.
“Academy of Allied Health and Science is an asset to this community and an important part of offering parents a diverse educational landscape. I don’t think anyone would deny that families in our community are better for having the Academy of Allied Health and Science as an option,” said Stephanie Esdaile, a parent at College Achieve Greater Asbury Park Charter School. “But this community will also be better served for having College Achieve Greater Asbury Park Charter School as an option for our children, particularly when many of our families don’t have the school options or resources more affluent families have. When communities offer more public school choices to their families, parents are able to find the school that is the best fit for their kids, and in the long run, that uplifts the entire community.”
College Achieve Public Schools
College Achieve Public Schools (CAPS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing all students with the best of what we know about education. CAPS mission is to prepare its students to excel in and graduate from the top colleges and universities in the nation. CAPS currently operates seven campuses and schools in Plainfield, North Plainfield, Paterson, Asbury Park and Neptune, NJ serving over 2,250 students. To learn more, go to www.collegeachievepaterson.org.