As one of the East Brunswick residents who filed an appeal challenging the use variance granted to Hatikvah charter school to locate in a warehouse in an industrial zone, I am writing to address the persistent mischaracterization of both my position and myself by supporters of the school.
Few people attended the Zoning Board hearing to hear my position in my own voice. If you are interested, you can read the attached document. I have consistently pointed out that, especially given my own elementary education at a Schechter school in Chicago, I respect the goals and motives of the Hatikvah school. It remains a great frustration and sadness to me that my motives and sincerity are questioned in light of my own background.
Disagreeing with the choice to locate a school in an industrial zone does not make me anti-charter, anti-Zionist, anti-Hatikvah, anti-East Brunswick or divisive in the community. It makes me a participant in the democratic processes established in this town to ensure all residents can participate in important decisions regarding our town’s future.
I do not believe that a warehouse in an industrial zone is the right place for a school. The reasons I enumerated in my testimony remain. Beyond my reservations that our town would see fit to make this precedent setting decision to place school children between two warehouses on a dilapidated road, the Zoning Board meeting itself convinced me that public participation was viewed as a necessary nuisance rather than a valuable addition to the process.
I have been excoriated for believing this school location is a bad idea. I have been attacked in print, in public, and in emails by a well-organized, small group of people who support the school. I am often asked that if the parents of Hatikvah feel this is an adequate location, then what right do I have to challenge the decision? But this is not just about those parents who currently use the school – this is a public school open to all East Brunswick children, present and future. And it is part of the East Brunswick Public School System that we all contribute to – so we all have a stake and a say.
Despite knowledge of the appeal, a private foundation has spent $2.7 million to purchase the warehouse on Lexington Avenue for the school, and the Friends of Hatikvah have entered a rental agreement for the building with the school. If they want to continue to receive public funds for their school, amidst these generous private backers, then I respectfully suggest they need to adjust to the reality that public participation will be part of their decision making processes. If they had acknowledged that at the outset – before choosing this location – we could have had community discussions before the appeal process not during and after.
Deborah E Cornavaca