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Hatikvah Property Owners Sue Township Council

The Eisenreich Family Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the township council.

The landowner for the new location of Hatikvah International Academy Charter School has filed a lawsuit against the East Brunswick Township Council.

The Eisenreich Family Foundation owns property at 7 Lexington Ave., the intended spot for Hatikvah to open a new, expanded location in September. 

The school hit a road block last month when the council overturned a variance granted by the zoning board last July that would permit the school to renovate a warehouse into a space for the school.

"The Eisenreich Family Foundation...has filed suit against the East Brunswick Township Council for violating its due process and tainting the application process through illegal coordination and illicit conflicts of interest," according to a press release issued Tuesday by Hatikvah.

Hatikvah has already announced its intent to sue the council for the decision.

Township council president James Wendell previously said that the variance was overturned because of a "land-use issue" in that the industrial zone in which 7 Lexington Ave. is located is not suitable to be used for a school.

Wendell did not return an email request for comment.

In the release, Hatikvah called out East Brunswick residents Deborah Cornavaca and Christine Rampolla, claiming that the two women who appealed the zoning board decision sent emails to township council members that showed "illegal coordination between members of the council and the appellants on the issue of charter schools in general and Hatikvah in particular."

The school claims that emails sent from the two women to councilwoman Nancy Pinkin and councilman Michael Hughes violate the council's "responsibility to act as an impartial judge and jury" regarding the appeal.

"Despite their responsibility to act impartially in this matter, the record clearly shows that members of the council illegally coordinated and colluded with opponents of the Hatikvah Charter School to overturn a unanimous ruling by their own appointed zoning board,” said Danna Nezaria, President of the Hatikvah International Academy Charter School Board of Trustees, in a prepared statement.

On Sept. 26, Rampolla sent Pinkin an email containing links to stories published on Patch and elsewhere detailing a variance denial for the Princeton International Academy Charter School in South Brunswick. She also sent links to stories about the A.C. Redshaw School in nearby New Brunswick, a grade school that is currently housed in a warehouse while the school district waits for a new school building to be constructed to house those students.

"I pointed to our neighboring town of New Brunswick where parents have been fighting tooth and nail to get their children out of a warehouse school. Keep in mind that the New Brunswick warehouse school was a brand new, never-been-used-before warehouse in New Brunswick so it doesn't even carry some of the safety concerns we have about this warehouse here in East Brunswick," Rampolla said, in the email. "Why would we allow here in East Brunswick a situation that our neighbors in New Brunswick have been fighting to get out of for seven years?"

Hatikvah also claims that a January 2012 email to Hughes from Cornavaca requesting a meeting in which Hughes reportedly responded with potential dates is also in violation of the expectation for the council to act independently. 

Hatikvah described the two women as having an "anti-charter agenda," accusations that Cornavaca said were baseless.

"This press statement is making accusations without any supporting evidence of either their claims as to our position on charters or any influence that we had on the council's decision," Cornavaca said, when reached for comment. "The claims in this press release of anti-charter communications are false and demonstrate the desperation on the part of the school to make an appeal to the courts."

LisaD February 17, 2013 at 01:25 PM
With all due respect, Hebrew is a dead language only spoken by Jewish people to other Jewish people in Israel. Even in Israel, the official language of business is English.
Kevin Wyman February 18, 2013 at 12:16 AM
It's actually kind of funny if you think about it. There are 7 billion people in the world and yet of these, only 5.3 million people actually speak Hebrew and most of these are in Israel. That is less than 0.1% of the worlds population....now if all of these live in Israel, then the percentage of Hebrew speakers in NJ is even less, yet our education dept thinks we need a publicly funded Hebrew Charter school? Well, as my wife likes to say..."at least they can speak with her mother"
WMS826 February 18, 2013 at 01:03 PM
Hope they make millions from you. Time to get organized and be a voice for what your needs are or be subjected to these lawsuits and loses.
just my take February 19, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Normally when I read a bunch of crazy people who post in the comments section like this, I think they are just that. But, I am increasingly concerned that these people are involved in the educational landscape here in East Brunswick. Particularly the Hatikvah founders here may consider some distance between themselves and these children.
Slav B. Shuravesky February 19, 2013 at 02:51 PM
Last I checked EB schools were still blue ribbon. As to the quality of Hatikva's education, will we ever know? When will the school publish the standardized test results? All we have as of now are unsubstantiated claims of superior education.
Slav B. Shuravesky February 19, 2013 at 03:16 PM
You do not need to be an anti-semite to wonder why would someone create a charter school in the township with blue ribbon school system. There are some claims of superior education, but where are the standardized test scores to prove it? Three elementary schools in the district deliver scores at least 10 points higher (mostly 15-20 points higher) than the state average. So what problem exactly is Hatikvah addressing?
FromEBNJ February 19, 2013 at 03:23 PM
I understand it might be hard differentiate but this law suit is about land use and the town overriding the appointed zoning boards ruling nothing more. As far as Hatikvah school is concerned they are a charter school that has been approved by the state and answer to them not East Brunswick. There is a history of charter schools being closed down for failing to meet academic standards and that is the state to look at..
Jessica February 19, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Hatikvah should have never been approved as a Charter School but it is here to stay and all the money spent on Lawyers, both by the EB BOE and now EB Council could be better spent elsewhere. In 2005 EB schools enrollment was 9030 Students, 2012 enrollment is down to 8308, shrinking enrollment is a major reason the BOE is fighting Hatikvah. Notice how enrollment has dwindled yet our School Taxes continue to rise along with the School Administrator payroll. EB Schools ranked 71 in the state in 2010, in 2012 we are now #121 heading in the WRONG direction! Are you getting the idea the schools are losing their focus?
Kenneth February 19, 2013 at 06:48 PM
I am sure the school board is kicking themselves for not consolidating the elementary schools and leasing out the remaining building and actually turning some profit. After all, it takes leaders to make those decision. To most, the BOE has two goals: First, being an employment agency for the NJEA and second building huge expensive buildings as monuments to themselves!
FromEBNJ February 19, 2013 at 07:31 PM
Very true. When they had a chance to close Memorial School they didn't. We still don't know how much that school cost the EB taxpayers
Slav B. Shuravesky February 19, 2013 at 07:43 PM
Why would they close any of the Blue Ribbon elementary schools. Why anyone would opt to go to the "cat in the bag" outfit like Hatikvah is a bit beyond me. Clearly that choice is not made based on academic criteria. Hatikvah is yet to publish a single test score for its student body while public elementary schools routinely produce test scores that exceed the state average by a minimum of 10 points (and most frequently by 15 or 20).
FromEBNJ February 19, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Slav Why because the EB BOE over built giant palaces that we no longer need and are now burdened with paying off the bonds they floated. Maybe you don't understand how the charter schools are financed. Each district that sends students to the charter school pays the charter school 90 percent of what the cost is in that child's district and the district keeps 10 percent for administrative fees. This means that East Brunswick makes 10 percent for doing nothing. They basically used this money plus some of the other monies suing Hativah school in court when they tried to close them. Now with the town council over stepping the zoning board we as taxpayers will be paying to defend this action in court and if the town does loose we will be paying damages to the owners of the property. This is a good waste of taxpayer dollars.
Slav B. Shuravesky February 19, 2013 at 08:13 PM
My child attends Warnsdorfer. It is neither giant, nor is it a palace. It is however ranked 9/10 by the greatschools.com It is also pretty full. I do not see excess capacity in the school system at this time that would support the idea of closing one of the schools. No two elementary schools could accommodate the full student body. If you have the numbers that prove the opposite, please present them. EB BOE is not perfect, and there is definitely some pork in the system. But it does provide first rate education for EB kids. So I still do not see the rationale for Hatikvah. Charter schools have their place in districts where public schools are failing to provide safe and effective learning environment. In a school district with blue ribbon schools, I see no purpose for them.
Kenneth February 19, 2013 at 08:34 PM
Slav, The town used to have 9 elementary schools. Now they have 8. At one point, they actually had 7. But later re-opened one when enrollment increased in the 80's. The 9th one became a part of Churchill Junior High when they took 6th graders out of the elementary schools and converted Hammarskjold Junior High into a middle school. Charter schools are not for inner city kids. Charter schools are about choosing one's education. They are regionally placed schools that draw from host communities and surrounding towns. I don't see an issue with having that choice. The enrollment data in the township school system shows a decline of 1,000 students since 2004 based on published figures. Another writer suggested the town close one elementary school and open a performing arts charter school and charge them rent. That is an excellent idea, but doubtful it will ever happen because the BOE lacks vision and innovation. They criticize the charter school for having outside funding when they should actually be taking notice, and considering that in their own budgeting. You state that Warnsdorfer provides a first rate education. If a charter school provides a first rate education, are you still against charter schools?
Kenneth February 19, 2013 at 08:46 PM
Just curious Kelly, what building in town could the school occupy without the building becoming a non-taxable property? Please post a list of those properties below. If the owners of 7 Lexington decided they would rather sell the building to a church then guess what? Tax exempt. Will you be filing an appeal on that one too?
Slav B. Shuravesky February 19, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Kenneth, if every parent pulls their kid out of a public school so that they can learn Swahili or Interpretive dance or a million other special interests that no school system could possibly accommodate, we would have no public school system left. We rely on public school system to provide the kids with basic education. It is up to the parents to do the rest if they so choose. Pulling kids out of some of the best schools in the state to place them in some fly-by-night operation with no track record and no accountability is a disservice both to the kids and to the public education system.
Kenneth February 19, 2013 at 09:13 PM
Slav, did you ever own a business? If so, were you offended if your competition called you fly-by-night simply because you were new? If the charter school was not doing things right then why would they have a waiting list? Regarding your statements about every child wanting to learn something that interests them, I say let them. Parents should actively encourage them at the youngest age possible to take interest in something that they WANT to excel at and learn and then let them become a master at it. That is much better than shoving years of memorization down their throats to pass some standardized test.
Gene February 19, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Kenneth, There are so many charter school lobby soundbites in your post that simply aren't true. As far as the waiting list, Hatikvah often claims a waiting list while simultaneously having open seats in certain grades. Also, there is no verification process or any oversight of these supposed waiting lists by the DOE or any other body. They can claim waiting lists all they want, but they mean nothing. (Washington Post recent article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/10/the-exaggeration-of-charter-school-waiting-lists/) Second, on your point about standardized tests, the charter schools in NJ are required to submit students to the same standardized tests - unfortunate for both groups. Third, on your point of charter schools being meant to be regional, East Brunswick was the only district named as a host district unlike most charter applications, which negated any voice in the process for towns like Highland Park which are equally impacted by Hatikvah. Forth, your take on financing of charters is ridiculous, There is no mythical 10% left behind. The per pupil formula is based on a percentage of average students, but Hatikvah teaches a different population of students. Moreover, there was no savings to the district when the amount left with the students. No staff reduction, no reduction in fixed building expenses. You want to talk about being a business owner, imagine your overall income cut with no reduction in expenses.
can't make this up February 19, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Kenneth, you haven't caused enough harm to students in East Brunswick?. Now you want them to lose one of their school buildings and inconvenience families who'd like to send their children to the local neighborhood school?!
Jarhead February 19, 2013 at 10:53 PM
It''s all, about theEB NJEA, You know those lovable madcaps that extort our tax dollars and then funnel them to politicians that will be bend to their will. What we need in NJ is 21 school districts, not 600. One district for each county. Think about it. One superintendent, one assistant superintendent, and jettison a few thousand assistants to the assistants that suck tax dollars and sustain the public school cartel in NJ. As for "Blue Ribbon Schools", You could win more "Blue Ribbons" at the County Fair for your tomatoes. What a joke!!!
Gene February 19, 2013 at 11:47 PM
Jarhead, how can you be in favor of less districts and still support opening charter schools, when every charter school opened is one more school district? Each charter or LEA is treated as an additional school district by the DOE and has all the additional expenses included hiring one more SBA.
Jarhead February 21, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Gene, I know that one district per county will never fly. The NJEA has enough money to " persuade" the politicians to not even consider that idea. What I don't like is my tax dollars extorted by the education cartel being used for political donations to politicians that whose stance I do not support. So, since I do not have a choice, I'd like to direct those extorted funds to the Charter School. And by the way, the public school budget in EB is now being formulated by the BOE. Do you know what the acronym "BOHEICA" stands for? Bend Over Here It Comes Again! Taxes, taxes and more taxes!
Dan F March 06, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Here's the latest. http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20130306/NJNEWS/303060024/Hatikvah-charter-school-files-complaint-state-authorities
FromEBNJ March 06, 2013 at 10:31 PM
Should be interesting if there is proven collusion between Save our Schools and East Brunswick BOE. Wonder what is happening on the East Brunswick council and responding to the law suit. They only have 10 more days to respond,
Slav B. Shuravesky March 06, 2013 at 11:10 PM
Should be interesting if there is a proven track record of harassment law suits by Hatikvah. Whose money is this school using to file all these law suits?
Anne March 07, 2013 at 03:30 AM
New Home News article: http://www.mycentraljersey.com/proart/20130306/njnews/303060024/hatikvah-charter-school-files-complaint-with-state-authorities?pagerestricted=1
Anne March 07, 2013 at 03:33 AM
This is pretty interesting, too: http://mothercrusader.blogspot.com/2013/02/why-is-fox-news-contributor-and-nj.html
Jarhead March 07, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Slav, I would bet the taxpayers are footing the legal costs to defend the Town Council and the BOE. Just like we did all the other times the township tried to thwart this school and failed!! Wonder whose footing the bill for Cornavaca and Rampola? Better not be the taxpayers!
FromEBNJ March 19, 2013 at 05:15 PM
Did anyone hear any updates on this. The town council had 30 days to respond to the lawsuit.
EB Resident March 20, 2013 at 03:50 AM
The council is just trying to right a wrong. Sure, somehow this religious school was approved by the state. But it is clearly a religious school hiding behind a thin self described veil of "international". No clear minded person could drive by the current location, look at the signage, and conclude otherwise. Anyone who believes that church and state should be separate, which was one of the fundamental drivers of this nation's founding, would vote to shut this school down. While we are at it, busing children to a Catholic school on the taxpayer's dime is also clearly unacceptable. End it now.

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