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Resident: Council Was Accusatory Toward Hatikvah

Writer says it seemed as though the council was either contradicting the zoning board's decision, or questioning its own lack of trust and faith in the board's members.

Dear Editor,

Having taught in public schools for 32 years prior to my retirement, I tend to follow local school related issues.  As a 40-year resident of East Brunswick let me make it clear that I have no personal connection to the Hatikvah Charter School—neither through the students nor the employees. Nonetheless, I did attend the December town council meeting.

The purpose of the meeting was to address a request made by two East Brunswick residents that appealed the unanimous decision of the zoning board, which had granted approval for Hatikvah to relocate to a facility on Lexington Avenue.  Hatikvah has been renting space at the Trinity Presbyterian Church on Cranbury Road for the past three years.

It was made clear that the school had already held two public hearings, retained experts in various fields such as traffic engineers, environmental consultants, and planners, had successfully gone through the formality of the zoning board process, and ultimately received unanimous approval of the zoning board to build a permanent home for the school on the property in question.

To an objective observer, the tone of the council appeared accusatory.  Rather than acknowledging the validation and approval of the zoning board, the council appeared to be conducting a trial in an attempt to overrule the decision.

It seemed as though the council was either contradicting the decision or perhaps questioning its own lack of trust and faith in a board whose members were appointed by none other than the town council members themselves.

In either case, I was saddened to have witnessed what appeared to be an undermining of the political process.

Judy Mischne

Skip January 04, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Liti - I think Ms. Morris must've been referring to Hatikvah's attorney, who is both paid to represent the school and is also on the township's payroll as the planning board attorney.
debbie morris January 04, 2013 at 07:06 PM
exactly skip. Lawrence Sachs is township attorney on the planning board.
Skip January 04, 2013 at 07:06 PM
If, by "accusatory," you mean the council addressed the conflict created by the school's personal attorney also being on the township's payroll as a planning board attorney, then, it's about time some one "accused" them!!! How much longer is this going to go on for? Or, by "accusatory", did you mean they accused them of having a record of breaking to township law's? How long will the school continue to endanger students being in non-compliance for how many months? What you call "accusatory," I would call doing their job!!!
Liti Haramaty January 04, 2013 at 07:34 PM
sorry for my mistake. of course this should be investigated...
EBtalloaks January 04, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Regardless of whether or not the variance is approved, these charter school students and the hundreds more that follow need a permanent academic facility. They can’t be expected to continue in trailers and the back of a church for much longer. The school is now in its third year and is here to stay. We all need to put aside our differences and find a permanent school building for these children.
Norman January 04, 2013 at 10:19 PM
@ Rob, you are kidding right? Football is a GAME and Borden quitting deserves no more coverage than what is is getting.
EBHS Graduate January 05, 2013 at 12:16 AM
Anne, you seem to write things as if you have an extensive background in land use law. Could you please provide your credentials below so we can weigh in on whether you are speaking with knowledge of the law, or just speaking. The planner who gave testimony was an older gentleman, maybe mid-60's. But you probably weren't at the meeting. Since you know better than the zoning board, maybe you should seek an appointment, and take the continuing education courses that are required by the DCA to serve. As far as the principal issue goes, your review of the record, if you actually reviewed it was not as you state. The board asked the attorney; should they have questions about the operations of the school would someone be able to answer and he replied the principal was in attendance. Then, the board did not request to hear from her. The issue of non-compliance at the existing site is a play on words. The town granted approval to use the church for two more years. The testimony was that they add 44 students each year. Simple math shows that in year 2 there will be more students. But the resolution only had wording about year 1. So the school took the high road and rather than fight the town, applied to the zoning board to provide more traffic data for the 2nd year.
Fred January 05, 2013 at 06:08 AM
There is a large empty school building just over the border in South River that you can use.
Anne January 05, 2013 at 06:30 AM
Really? A play on words, EBHS Grad? From Page 68 of the minutes of the June 16, 2011 Zoning Board Meeting: Mr. Sachs (township planning board attorney, representing Hatikvah charter school) states: "Mr. Chairman, I think as we indicated even during my opening statement at the last hearing, frankly, we will have to vacate the site in order to expand after 152. We just don't have the room to go beyond that. So that's just the simple fact." That was unclear to you? Mr. Sachs was pretty emphatic about the fact that it would be unsafe for there to be more that than 152 students at the current location and that the school would not exceed 152 at that location including the trailers. Would you like me to keep quoting from the minutes? Mr. Sachs goes further. But, to you, its just a play on words... Wow! The lack of honesty by some of the supporters of Hatikvah is astounding.
Anne January 05, 2013 at 06:41 AM
EBHS Grad, Your lies keep going... I've taken your advice and looked at the minutes. June 7, 2012 Zoning Board Meeting Minutes: (Page 54-55) Board Member Klein asks: "And it will only be brought in box trucks? It's not going to be any sort of tractor trailers?" Mr. Sachs responds: "There are no tractor trailers. I actually have the principal who can clarify that. And we'll put her on next. With respect to the height of the fence, there's a question about the height of one of the fences on the property. What is the height of that fence?" And, with that, the subject was changed, the principal never testified and the Board members just allowed the question not to be answered by anyone under oath. How many more examples would you like?
Merle Lipman January 05, 2013 at 08:04 PM
I agree with EB Tall Oaks===========Did we have all this Hullabaloo passing a site for the Mosque?????????????????????? 43 year resident who is disgusted with this town's politics. In the scheme of things in this crazy world can't we become kinder and more caring to join TOGETHER instead of this petty CRAP!
TallOaksAlso January 06, 2013 at 12:50 AM
This is a PUBLIC SCHOOL trying to move into a WAREHOUSE in an industrial park. Surely, you can see why this is an issue. The school can not claim it is not religious in nature, and then also turn around and claim that anyone who isn't on board with this plan must have religious objections. So, which is it? You can not have it both ways. And, your comparing this to a mosque says quite a bit.
Norman January 06, 2013 at 01:20 AM
I blame this school 100% for dividing this community. There was a time when our children went to school together, and we all put in an effort in to make the schools better because we all had a vested interest. Whatever the merits of this school are, I don't know, but this town is suffering for it.
EBtalloaks January 06, 2013 at 01:32 AM
Fred, I believe the charter is written for East Brunswick. I'm uncertain of the rules, but I doubt the school can simply take space in another township.
Kevin Wyman January 06, 2013 at 01:41 AM
Norman, You really shouldn't blame the school. They are just using the system that allowed them to come into existence in the first place. Rather the blame should be addressed to the current flawed charter school laws that allowed Hatikvah's existence in the first place. Given similar public policy issues with a proposed Hebrew language charter in Highland Park (you know the one that got federal grant money despite never having been approved), and zoning issues in South Brunswick regarding the Chinese language Charter School wanting to convert a warehouse to a school (it was denied), I think East Brunswick residents and the Town Council are more than justified in examining this issue thoroughly.
Kelly January 06, 2013 at 07:18 PM
EBTallOaks, the process of moving into Hatikvah into a new building is exactly same for moving into an out-of-town building or an in-town building. Verify it for yourself and call the New Jersey Department of Education.
Rob January 06, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Kelly, the school leaders don't want that. Follow the money trail. Ask Mark Spektor about the past land use deals Avery Eisenreich has been a part of.
debbie morris January 07, 2013 at 12:32 AM
I found Rob's post interesting. Why isn't their Board of Trustees listed on their website?
Norman January 07, 2013 at 02:10 AM
How many Normans do we have here?
Keep it Fair January 07, 2013 at 03:24 AM
The board of trustees isn't listed? So what. Look up board of trustees for the EB public library. Debra Cornavaca is the Vice President. That board is appointed by the township council. Mike Hughes was on the board of education. The same board that sued the charter school. What's your point?
debbie morris January 07, 2013 at 11:20 AM
I would like to know who is being paid with tax dollars. The Library board of trustees is listed (not salaried) and EB Board of Education is elected (also not salaried.)
Rob January 07, 2013 at 04:52 PM
"So what?" Of course you'd say that. The school's entire modus operandi is "turn over your school budget money to us and don't ask questions!" How dare taxpayers expect a public school (charter or otherwise) to be transparent or accountability to the people who pay for it. The leadership of this school has some nerve!
Paying Attention January 07, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Following up on Rob's suggestion to follow the money and Debbie Morris' inquiry about the Board of Trustees, I'd like to add. Mark Spektor was a board member and head of the facilities committee until he stepped down last fall. By that time, he had already negotiated the use of 7 Lexington purchased by the Eisenreich Foundation which leases the building to Friends of Hatikvah (EIN 45-2692359) which subleases to Hatikvah Academy Charter School.
Paying Attention January 07, 2013 at 05:48 PM
Mark Spektor is CEO of Bayonne Medical Center and has past business dealings with Avery Eisenreich, only listed Trustee of the Eisenreich Foundation and owner of OMNI Healthcare whose business dealings make interesting reading in themselves.
Paying Attention January 07, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Eli Schaap, who islisted on the Sublease for 7 Lexington as representative of Friends of Hatikvah, is also on the Hatikvah Board so he represents both the Lessee and the Sub-Lessee. The address listed for the Friends of Hatikvah is Schaap's business address at Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, where Schaap is a Program Officer. 6 East 39th Street, 10th Floor, NY, NY 10016 is also the address for the Hebrew Charter School Center, who founded Hatikvah.
Paying Attention January 07, 2013 at 05:57 PM
Sale price of 7 Lexington Ave from Plumrose USA Inc to Eisenreich Family Foundation on August 14, 12 days after the EB Zoning Board use variance approval, was $2,715,000. Note: These are not your tax dollars.... but it does provide some insight into how these charter schools are financed.
Norman January 08, 2013 at 01:17 PM
@ Paying Attention: This has some interesting undertones....would you mind elaborating a bit as to what you are trying to say here?
Paying Attention January 08, 2013 at 05:36 PM
Over the past few years as Hatikvah Charter School emerged in our community, I admit to not paying much attention. I assumed local residents had sought a charter out of a perceived need for their children not satisfied by our public schools (like full-day Kindergarten or free language training). After the use variance was approved by the EB Zoning Board, I began to pay more attention and wondered how this school, with but a few hundred students and fewer tax dollars per student than other public schools in our district, had the funds to lease space at their current location, purchase and renovate a new building, pay attorneys, engineers, other expert witnesses, and administrators and STILL pay teachers and educate children. A bit of research revealed that a foundation based outside East Brunswick spent $2.7 million to purchase property for the school and seems to be providing much of the financial support I wondered about. The interconnections of at least two of the school's Trustees/Board members with the Eisenreich Foundation, OMNI Healthcare, Bayonne Medical Center, Steinhardt Foundation, etc, ALL outside of East Brunswick, made me wonder why they have invested so much in a charter school in East Brunswick.
Paying Attention January 08, 2013 at 05:39 PM
Re Schaap and Steinhardt Foundation According to Wikipedia, the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life is a "New York-based non-profit which funds projects and programs aimed at improving Jewish education and identify" its founder is Michael Steinhardt, a former hedge fund manager. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steinhardt_Foundation_for_Jewish_Life Re Spektor linkages to Bayonne Medical Center and Eisenreich See Bayonne Medical: Fraudulent Transfer and Value Nov 30, 2011 http://www.assetprotectionbook.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=71&t=1634 Re Eisenreich, OMNI Healthcare and Bayonne Medical Center land deal See Campaign Records May Prove Conflict of Interest,Hudson Reporter Oct 19,'11 http://hudsonreporter.com/view/full_story/16089429/article-Campaign-records-may-prove-conflict-of-interest-Creditors-who-are-owed---by-BMC-hospital-management-want-more-money-for-land-deal-?instance=secondary_stories_left_column
Nga January 11, 2013 at 03:41 PM
How dare you say MY child is endangered!!!!!! As a parent of Hatikvah I make sure MY child is well taken care of and safe . When the school tries to continue to keep our children safe they are delayed by pety complaints about whats already been given. If residents were so worried about safety why dont they come with the facts as Hatikvah did----- ,with MANY EXPERTS.

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