Asbury Park Parent: ‘Why Won’t the Murphy Administration Do the Right Thing and Honor Our School Choice?’

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Desiree Whyte of Asbury Park is the mother of Nick Whyte, a student at College Achieve Greater Asbury Park School. She writes of the decision by the Murphy Administration’s Department of Education to deny the public charter’s request to add a grade so 36 ninth-grade students could attend 10th grade in the same facility. 

Imagine if you were told — after a year of uncertainty and trauma — that your child may not be able to continue attending the high school they attend, and your only choice would be to enroll at one of the worst performing schools in the state? Imagine hearing about these six weeks before school begins.

I am the proud parent of a ninth-grade student at College Achieve Greater Asbury school in Asbury Park, and this is our reality. The College Achieve community is like a second family to us. During the pandemic, they went above and beyond, putting our kids and families first by offering increased support services and a focus on mental health. Now, our kids may be forced to attend a school with safety issues and an administration that is not open to parent feedback or concerns.

Earlier this year, College Achieve Greater Asbury sought an amendment to its charter that would enable students in grade nine to progress to grade 10 in the 2021-22 school year. While the state renewed their charter to operate a K-9 school — validating the strong work they were doing to improve academic outcomes for its students — they didn’t grant the request to allow the students to complete high school at the school in which they started. Allowing 36 students to complete their K-12 journey where they started should have been an easy decision, but the school was forced to quickly file a charter amendment request to find a solution that wouldn’t leave these students stranded.

We are one of 36 families whose kids’ futures are at stake here. All of us made the decision that College Achieve Greater Asbury is the best fit for our kids. For me, it was about safety and the knowledge that my child will thrive in a small environment that offers personalized attention. For others, it was about strong academics and putting their kids on a path toward college. Now we are scared that the choice we invested in for the past five years could be pulled out from us at the 11th hour.

As any parent will tell you, ninth grade is not a natural transition year. They have already started on an academic path unique to this school’s mission to get every student to college. But he’s also formed deep friendships during his years at College Achieve. Transitioning from middle to high school is already challenging for most, but to force my son and his classmates and friends to start when others have already formed bonds is unnecessary. Adding to that a year of distance learning where they had little social contact and forcing them to start a new school at this stage borders on cruel.

School starts in less than a month and my family does not have the luxury of options. We feel trapped. As a family, we had made a choice not to send our child to Neptune Township High School and that choice could now be taken away from us.

Families living in more affluent communities have the choice to send their kids to a high performing school district or private school based on what they believe is best for their children. We respect that choice.

Shouldn’t our choice be respected as well? Our family has also made a decision we believe is best for our child, and we expect those who represent our educational interests to honor that choice as well.

My family and other families have sent letters pleading to Gov. Murphy, State Sen. Gopal and the state Department of Education to grant the school expansion. Five months after our school submitted the charter amendment, we still haven’t heard if they will allow our kids to stay at the school we know and love. We can’t help but wonder if this type of delay would have happened somewhere else?

College Achieve Asbury Park has demonstrated massive gains in academic outcomes, far outpacing nearby schools.

It’s safe and has a strong community. Those are qualities every parent looks for in a school. Allowing my son and his classmates to move on to the next grade at their school is a no-brainer. I urge Governor Murphy to do the right thing and allow these kids to finish what they started and go to a school that will offer them a future.

 

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