Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paterson Embraces Charter School Growth

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Paterson Embraces Charter School Growth

Article excerpt

A growing Paterson charter school on Saturday celebrated the opening of a new location for middle school students in the heart of the city's downtown.

The building -- the former City Hall Annex on Ellison Street -- will house 300 students from the Community Charter School of Paterson.

The preschool and elementary school buildings are on Spruce Street; the total enrollment this year will top 800, and there is a waiting list that is particularly long in the lower grades, school officials said.

In many cities, including Newark, charter and traditional schools coexist uneasily, with critics complaining that charter schools siphon resources from the school district. But in Paterson on Saturday, the city's school board president and mayor came out to celebrate the opening.

"It's not us versus them," said Keisha Smith, a school board employee whose daughter attends the charter school. "There are a lot of detractors of charter schools but what people have to understand is that we all have to be proponents of educations."

At their best, charter schools are supposed to be incubators for innovations that can be adopted by the traditional public schools. There are about 90 charter schools statewide, mostly in poor neighborhoods; the schools' track records, as measured by improved test scores, have been mixed.

Paterson Mayor Joey Torres said school choice is key in improving Paterson's struggling schools. He noted that the traditional high schools have been broken up into smaller academies that focus on specific interests, like public safety or the arts.

"This is all about school choice. I embrace the Community Charter School and I embrace the academy model in district schools," Torres told the crowd gathered across the street from the back of City Hall. "Parents and students need to put themselves in an environment where they succeed. …

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