Asbury Park Mess

Struggles continue at Asbury Park Public Schools, reports the Asbury Park Press. There is a “profound disagreement” between Superintendent Denise Lowe and State Fiscal Monitor Frank Sinatra over whether or not the 2,000-student district needs another administrator to mentor principals. Lowe says “yes” and Sinatra says “no,” because in a “district this size” the superintendent can surely supervise principals. (Here’s the School Board minutes that cover some discussion of this matter.)

The Press also mentions the School Board’s response to the our newly-reauthorized Interdistrict Public School Choice Program, which would theoretically allow up to 10% of Asbury Park students to transfer to another Monmouth County school district. Sinatra advised the Board to cap the number of students allowed to leave at 5%; enrollment is declining as it is.

A little paranoid, no? After all, the only “choice district” in Monmouth, i.e., other traditional public schools open to Asbury Park’s kids, is the agricultural program at Allentown High School, which has exactly one seat available for the 2011-2012 school year. Even non-aspiring farmers might fight for the seat because here’s Asbury Park High School’s DOE data for the 2008-2009 school year: 72% of its students failed the High School Proficiency Assessment in language arts and 86.1% failed the math portion. After three tries, only 34.9% were able to pass the HSPA; a stunning 64.6% relied on the Special Review Assessment, which has since been eliminated after the DOE determined that it was impossible to fail.

Average SAT scores are 325 in math and 330 in verbal. Total cost per pupil? $21,177.

The younger kids don’t do much better. At Barack Obama Elementary School (formerly Bangs Avenue Elementary) 87.7% of 3d graders failed the NJ ASK 3 in language arts and 75.3% failed the math portion.

Speaking of interdistrict opportunity (or not), seven miles down the road at Manasquan High 100% of high school juniors and seniors passed the HSPA. 94% are college-bound and average SAT scores are 521 in math and 504 in verbal. Cost per pupil is $14,310. There's also a charter school in Asbury Park, Academy Charter School, which enrolls 195 kids in its high school program, with 159 on the waiting list. It's not Manasquan, but 85% of its kids pass the HSPA. FYI, 15.3% of Academy's students are special ed kids.

Meanwhile, Asbury Park worries about enrollment ( 478 kids in 2009 at the High School) and jousts with the Fiscal Monitor about adding administrative positions. But this is old news. Asbury Park Public Schools underwent QSAC monitoring (NJ Quality Single Accountability Continuum) a formal review by the DOE in 2007. Final scores for the district:

Operations Management: 72% of indicators met.
Personnel: 28% of indicators met.
Instruction and Programming: 15% of indicators met.
Governance: 11% of indicators met.
Fiscal Management: 36% of indicators met.

Minimum score for each section is 80%. Asbury Park failed every one. Meanwhile, the Fiscal Monitor suggests that Asbury Park apply to be a choice district itself and "develop a performing arts academy at the high school level to draw in students." Maybe they'll hold a lottery.