By Elizabeth Wulfhorst
COLTS NECK – Dan Simon announced he will be leaving his post as principal of Colts Neck High School at the end of the school year for a new venture in Asbury Park.
Simon, who has headed the high school since 2013, has signed on to lead the nascent College Achieve Greater Asbury Park Charter School as its executive director and principal. The dual role will allow him to make the important decisions about the school’s budget and the recruiting and hiring of faculty and staff, while staying involved in the day-to-day activities of the students.
“I have always considered myself an academic,” said Simon, but “I don’t have to be the expert.” His goal is to hire those experts who will form the backbone of his new team, a philosophy Simon has adhered to in all his educational roles.
Prior to running Colts Neck High School, Simon, a long-time educator and administrator, led High Technology High School as its principal to a national No. 1 ranking, according to U.S. News & World Report. This achievement put him on Mike Piscal’s radar, who understood the “special level of commitment” necessary to achieve that kind of excellence. Piscal, the founder and CEO of College Achieve Public Schools, the entity which oversees an expanding network of charter schools in New Jersey, said he knew Simon would be the perfect fit for the College Achieve mission: to prepare students to excel in and graduate from the top colleges and universities in the nation.
Simon’s “consensus-model” of education, in which students, parents, teachers and the community work together to educate the child, aims to ensure success for the long term. And “Dan is a lot of fun,” according to Piscal, another important factor is his hiring. Instilling a love of learning in students is what makes them work harder, said Piscal, not dogmatically demanding they do so.
Simon and Piscal plan on ensuring the success of its Asbury Park students by more than doubling the amount of time normally spent per week on teaching science and history, and implementing an immersive writing program that challenges students to think critically in all subjects. Piscal also emphasizes the need to get all students reading at or above grade level as soon as possible.
“We are going to make an impact in Asbury Park,” said Simon. “Just watch us.”
The charter school will initially enroll students in kindergarten, first, fifth and sixth grades, adding two grades in each successive year until it becomes a fully-formed K-9 school by the end of its first charter term. If the charter is renewed, the school will then expand to include a high school. The goal by 2020 is an enrollment of 1,000 students.
The projected enrollment for the 2017-18 school year, according to Piscal, is 276 students. The lottery phase of enrollment has passed and students are now being accepted on a first come, first served basis from any municipality. The school currently has students enrolled from Asbury Park, Long Branch, Ocean Township, Neptune City and Red Bank.
This article was first published in the March 30-April 6, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.
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