The founders of Tikun Olam, a proposed Hebrew-language high school, and the founders of Hua Mei, a Mandarin Chinese language high school, both bowed out of this application cycle after multiple attempts to earn state approval.
"We are happy," said Highland Park Superintendent Fran Wood, who has been a staunch opponent of charter school growth in the small town. "We feel there is not a need for the charter in this or surrounding communities."
Wood and a group of vigilant parents and teachers from the affected communities argued charter schools would steer money away from the high quality public schools already in operation.The story is much bigger than that: the parents of students affected by this charter banded together, put together a strategy, and stayed absolutely resolute in their fight. They documented the many problems with Tikum Olam's application. They brought the issue into the national media. They refused to be cowed by the NJ DOE or the charter cheerleading industry. They forced their local politicians to be held to account. They formed a true grassroots resistance to the plan to take funds away from their children's high-performing schools and put them into a questionable charter that was neither needed nor wanted.
This may not be over; it certainly isn't over for other districts that have no say in whether or not charters can be shoved down their throats. But the parents in Highland Park have demonstrated how the destruction of public schools will stop: when parents, educators, politicians, and the community come together and say, "Enough."
Save Our Schools NJ deserves great credit for organizing the resistance; Julia Sass Rubin of SOSNJ has been a tireless critic of unchecked charter expansion. However, if the parents of Highland Park ever decide to erect a statue to the woman who saved their schools, it will bear the likeness of Darcie Cimarusti. Tough, relentless, and fearless, Darcie is proof that one parent can make all the difference.
Julia, Darcie, Chris Rodda, Julie Woestehoff of PURE in Chicago, and parents all over the country - including, of course, the invaluable Leonie Haimson of Parents Across America - are showing the way. They refuse to be spoon-fed the pablum served up by the reformy movement. They resist giving into the parents-vs-teachers war the Billionaire Boys Club wants to wage.
The win in Highland Park is a victory for them all - and it's merely one of many to come. This one's for you, parents: