Newark Charter School Deserved to be Closed: Editorial

June 18, 2013

The Christie administration made the right call to shut down Adelaide L. Sanford Charter School in Newark.

We are all in support of charter schools provided that they are good charters. Such as the TEAM schools, or North Star Academy. 

But we've got to weed out the bad ones, and this is a classic example. Adelaide Sanford is one of the lowest performing charters in Newark, and its students' math and language arts test scores have barely inched up.

The school has long failed to comply with state regulations, refusing to release even basic information about its finances. Its founder, Fredrica Bey, has shown clear conflicts of interest, according to state investigators, using the school for her own financial purposes at the expense of students.

Closing a school is a tough choice. But Adelaide Sanford was given its chance to reform, and didn't. Each day it stayed open, its students were being cheated of the kind of education they deserve. 

Bey used state dollars for this school to fund her nonprofit group, Women in Support of the Million Man March in other words, grabbing money from kids to fund her own organization. She rented out large spaces in a building leased to the charter school for profitable events, using the money for her nonprofit while students at the charter were taught in crowded, noisy classrooms.

Even after she stepped down as head of the school, Bey still attended board meetings and nominated two people to the board whom the state Department of Education deemed to be ineligible. State officials said they "lost confidence" in the board because it repeatedly did not comply with their requests for documents and information, The Star-Ledger's Jessica Calefati reported today. 

The community lost confidence, too. Parents complained and removed their children from Adelaide Sanford, en masse. Nearly all of the charter's two dozen teachers resigned last summer, and top school employees urged the state to intervene.

This chaos had gone on long enough. Charters get more freedom than traditional public schools, in order to encourage more innovation. But in exchange, they must be held to high standards. And it is clear that Adelaide Sanford didn't measure up.