The College Achieve Paterson Charter School received its final charter on Monday to open with an enrollment of 276 students in September. Charter will open its doors at a mill building at 21 Market Street.
The school will focus on writing as well as science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) curriculum. Its students will spend twice as much time as other schools on learning science.
“Our schools are focused on inspiring our students to believe in their futures and preparing them to not only graduate from high school, but to excel in and graduate from the best colleges,” said Michael Piscal, founder and chief of College Achieve. “Everything we do from our emphasis on creating a thinking curriculum to the lengths we go to hire and train the best teachers is done with this focus in mind.”
Piscal started a charter school in Plainfield in 2015. He received approval to open another in Asbury Park on Monday. The Paterson school will open on August 28th, 2017 with 276 students in grades K, 1, 5, and 6. Its enrollment will increase to 961 students in K-9 by 2020.
Longtime school board member Jonathan Hodges expressed alarm at the number of students the charter will take from the Paterson Public Schools. He has criticized charter schools for taking millions of dollars from the district’s budget.
“I don’t have a problem with charter schools per se. I have a real problem with the funding the state uses to finance charter schools. They are an absolute detriment to the vast majority of our students in Paterson,” said Hodges.
When millions of dollars get siphoned to charters, the district ceases to have the funds needed to provide basics like nurses and teachers, he said. The district is sending $46 million to charter schools from its 2017-18 budget.
The College Achieve Paterson Charter School was among five granted final charters by the New Jersey Department of Education on Monday.
The charter has selected Gemar Mills, a city native, to serve as principal. “It will be my personal and professional goal to ensure every single student in our care gets into and successfully graduates from college,” he said in a statement issued by the charter.
“College Achieve’s program is strong and their results show students excel with this type of model, which is focused on preparing them to think critically and succeed in college,” added prominent local attorney and city resident Kenyatta Stewart, who is on the board of the College Achieve Paterson Charter School.