Marion P. Thomas Charter School (MPTCS) is the largest independently- operated free public charter school in Newark, NJ. MPTCS was established in 1999 by a group of individuals, mostly members of New Hope Baptist Church, who were born and raised in Newark and wanted to provide the best possible educational experience for the next generation of Newarkers.
Dr. Karen Thomas, MPTCS’ CEO and Superintendent, was one of those dedicated members, who ultimately left her corporate job to insure the school’s successful implementation. In addition to leading MPTCS through its initial stages, she has guided the school through the past 17 years of obstacles, accomplishments and growth.
About Our Namesake: Marion P. Thomas - Marion Pope Thomas hailed from a small family in West Virginia. She relocated to Newark and during her lifetime she was a model, flight attendant, mother and wife to Rev. Charles E. Thomas, the pastor of one of Newark’s pre-eminent Baptist churches – The New Hope Baptist Church. Marion was an early champion of the idea to establish a charter school for Newark’s youth. She was actively involved in the planning process and wanted to insure that Newark families had a quality option when it came to education. Unfortunately, Marion succumbed to cancer before the school opened its doors. It was decided to memorialize her commitment to Newark’s future generations by naming the school after her.
1999 - MPTCS officially began in 1999. It began in the basement of the New Hope Baptist Church. The school started with about 60 students; covering kindergarten through 2nd grade and was contained in four classrooms. The school quickly outgrew the New Hope location and was briefly located on Mt. Prospect and soon moved to Muhammad Ali Avenue in the basement of Hopewell Baptist Church.
2005 - Each year MPTCS grew by one grade level. By 2005 it was clear that the school could no longer be contained in Hopewell Baptist Church’s basement. School leaders discovered 370 S. 7th St., the home of a former Newark institution, Chad Science Academy. The facility was for sale and Friends of MPTCS (a non-profit entity) purchased its first facility for the exclusive use of Marion P. Thomas Charter School. The school housed kindergarten through 8th grade in what is now known as Buildings A & B.
2009 - In 2009, the school’s growth spurred the search for another facility. There were several vacant lots next to MPTCS and it was discovered that the land was owned by the city of Newark and St. James AME Church. MPTCS was able to acquire the land and the decision was made to create an early elementary wing. The wing, comprised of several prefabricated buildings, is now the home of our Primary School, which houses Prekindergarten and kindergarten. The primary school also features a multi-purpose room, where students eat lunch and staff workshops and special events take place. While the main building houses 1st through 3rd grade and includes a gym/auditorium and stage.
The year 2009 also marked the birth of the middle school at 308 S. 9th St., which is owned by the Chad Foundation. The middle school currently houses the 6th through 8th grades. It has a gym/auditorium with a full stage and four floors.
2011 - School leaders began to notice a pattern – incoming kindergarten students did not possess the skills necessary to excel in early elementary school. The prekindergarten program was established in 2011 to provide scholars with the essential skills needed to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
2014-2015 - In 2014, MPTCS merged with Visions Academy, a charter high school. That merger resulted in MPTCS becoming a “crayons to college” school, encompassing prekindergarten through 12th grade. The merger resulted in MPTCS leasing a Crawford Street location for the lower high school (grades 9th & 10th) and acquiring the Shipman building, which was the former location of the upper high school, housing the 11th & 12th grades. With the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, the shipman campus was repurposed to house the 4th & 5th grade academy, MPTCS’ new upper elementary wing. The Middle School administrators serve as the school leaders for this site.
2015 - MPTC High School of Culinary & Performing Arts The MPTC High School facility is the newest gem in the MPTCS facilities portfolio. This state-of-the art building was constructed to meet the needs of the new offerings for our high school scholars. The facility features 38 classrooms, 4 fully equipped state of the art science labs, media and technology rooms, individual and group music lesson rooms, a black box theatre, culinary learning center and a dining facility.