When the new school year begins in two weeks on Sept. 5, Jersey City’s latest charter school will open its doors for the first time.
The Beloved Community Charter School is set to open as a K-2 school this year, but will eventually add one grade level each year until the school expands into a middle and high school.
Former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, a consultant to the school, said its focus will be to teach children that “happiness in life comes from serving others.”
Like a number of charter schools, Beloved Community, at 508 Grand St., has a vision that its founders hope will guide the curriculum and student life.
“The theme comes from a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. He has a quote where he says, ‘Civil rights is only the first step. Our ultimate goal must be the creation of the beloved community,’ ” said Schundler, who is a former New Jersey commissioner of education.
‘You have urban kids who are doing much better than suburban kids because of this extremely effective education program.’ – Bret Schundler
In keeping with this vision, Beloved Community will have a strong emphasis on peer tutoring and the importance, he said, “of bringing others along.”
Urban community, educational success
The school’s curriculum will come from the Sabis Education Program, which has been touted in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and New York for helping low-income students meet and exceed average scores on standardized tests.
According to local newspapers in Springfield, Mass., where the Sabis International School is based, 100 percent of Sabis seniors have been accepted to either two-year or four-year colleges for the last 11 years in a row.
The school graduated its first class in 2001. Beloved Community’s own web site points to data showing that 10th graders at this same school achieved higher standardized test scores than their peers in the other public schools.
While there are already a number of Sabis charter schools across the U.S., and even throughout the world, Beloved Community will be the first Sabis school in the state of New Jersey, according to Schundler.
“They have extremely high success rates. And the demographics of the children at the Sabis school in Springfield, Mass., are very much akin to the demographics of our children,” Schundler said. “There, you have almost all the children passing all the state exams. So, you have urban kids who are doing much better than suburban kids because of this extremely effective education program.”
He added that this program is effective because it incorporates most of the education reforms that states are encouraging across the country, specifically what is known as “standards-based reform.” Standards-based reform curricula place a heavier emphasis on what students actually learn, rather than on the amount of material covered in the classroom.
Beloved Community received its charter from the state in September 2011. The state Department of Education said, “The department’s Charter Schools Office has invested in recruiting high-performing charter operators from across the country to expand into New Jersey, encouraging charter operators in New Jersey with a strong track record to grow, and conducting a needs analysis to identify other areas of the state where charter schools could offer choice in underserved communities.”
In addition to Schundler, the school has also benefitted from the assistance of Jersey City resident Kathryn Narramore, an assistant professor of English at Hunter College. Narramore served as the school’s qualifying founder and now serves as treasurer for the Beloved Community Charter School Foundation, an independent nonprofit that Schundler launched to support the work of the school.
Beloved Community’s board members include Gregory Corrado, Rev. Ronnie Calvin Clark, Salvatore Risalvato, David Robinson, Jessica Lisboa, and Richard Valdes.
On opening day Beloved Community will welcome 360 students.
Late last week, posters in spots around downtown Jersey City said there were still a few seats available for this fall.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.