Thursday, May 31, 2012

FinBoy© Pitches a Fit

GA's heard from multiple disparate sources that James 'FinBoy©' Barracato is not a happy tuna.

It appears this fishy is suffering from exposure, feels betrayed, and is not pleased with the return on his investment of Beth Mason Benjamins on a series of Page 3 ad purchases in The Hoboken Reporter.  

Beth Mason page 3 ad buys on May 6, 13, 20 and 27 editions of The Hoboken Reporter.

It appears there was some kind of quid pro quo arrangement between Barracato and the paper- at least in FinBoy©'s mind.

You see, back in April he and Beth Mason had a face-to-face meeting with a new reporter there.  They provided him with 'materials' for a hit piece on Mason's (blogging) critics, alleging Nazi discourse and films had been used against her.  Well, FinBoy© did such a thorough job of indoctrination that GA recognized the reporter's questions as originating from a familiar Weehawken fish tank . 

Imagine that- this prideful fishy marches in and out of the offices of The Hoboken Reporter with the kind of access only Mason's checkbook can buy.

If you read GA then you know the rest of the story.

In a nutshell, Horsey and I blew their shit up. Once the Barracato behind-the-curtain machinations were exposed, the hit piece was killed.

Worse, the tricky tuna was caught on his own hook- his electronic signature was left on a Photoshopped 'screen shot' offered as evidence to The Reporter.

GA calls it karma.  FinBoy© called it betrayal.  What do you call it?

Yep, Barracato was furious  his (and Beth Mason's) face-to-face meeting with the reporter was published here.  And humiliated that he left electronic fin-prints all over his doctored 'evidence'.

Enter Al Sullivan. 

GA suspects Al thought The Hoboken Reporter needed to 'respond', and burst an artery of ink on it this past weekend.  In it, he published the name, James Barracato, identified him as an operative, and made it CLEAR that the 'evidence' submitted to the Reporter had all context removed.

Yes, Barracato's denial was published, but it was lame and easily disproven. Barracato claimed he scrubbed text and images from the 'screen shot' because it was "8 pages long".   Have you seen the post, folks?  It's perhaps 2 pages- 3 at most.

No FinBoy©, you cooked up 'evidence' for your evil Mason-funded plot and got BUSTED. 

Thanks to Al Sullivan,  Barracato's exposure as a klutzy-operative went from local Hoboken blogs to ALL of Hudson County AND he didn't get his hit piece published AND Beth Mason's ad buys are under more scrutiny than ever AND it looks like his influence at The Hoboken Reporter is waning...

Well, multiple sources report that Barracato blew up at Dave Unger, publisher of The Hoboken Reporter!  Loudly.  Waaaaaaaaah.  Imagine that!   What would make him THINK he could march over to a newspaper publisher and SCREAM at him for telling the truth in his paper?

GA applauds Al Sullivan for letting us know WHO tried to deceive your paper.  And smear me. The only part missing was on whose behalf.  But GA heard a rumor your piece may have had some editorial tweaking. Is it true?

As you know Al, these ad buys and FinBoy© strong-arming Unger is Mason's effort to co-opt The Hoboken Reporter now that her former media venue,, is a graveyard.

What Unger needs to realize is that the influence of Mason and her operatives made that site so partisan and nasty  that it drove away traffic and destroyed any credibility the site had.  Unger would be advised to stay far away from the Mason crowd, and talk more to folks on the 'other' side.

And FinBoy©, you need to understand that messing with people's lives has consequences.  For you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Timmy to the Rescue

Have you been wondering what the 4th Ward's Timmy Occhipinti has been up to?   It's right here on  Facebook:

Isn't that terrific?   Not only does our hero discover a gaping pothole on Monroe Street, but photographs the perilous death trap for dissemination on social media to connect YOU with his find!

(Does anyone know if he Tweeted the killer chasm?)

So I guess you know answer to this: which of these Explorers shared his amazing discovery via social media:
a)  Magellan 
b)  Marco Polo
c)  Ponce de León
d)  Christopher Columbus 
e)  Leif Ericson
f)  Tim Occhipinti
As Tim told us on Facebook, he bravely managed this crisis by notifying the City- via letter.

GA has obtained this exclusive copy:

The Chorus Grows Louder


Do you see that?

The number of 'thumbs-up' supporting Maureen Sullivan's decision to LEAVE Hoboken's School Board ASAP has more than QUADRUPLED since GA checked less than 24 hours ago!   Incredible.  It's like a tsunami sweeping through our city- 59% of the 1,185 visitors don't want her back. 

What could be the reason?

Publishing closed session discussions online?

Publishing confidential BoE contract negotiations?

Publishing confidential BoE business?

Bashing her fellow School Board Trustees online?

Perhaps all of the above. 

And more.  Like trashing Superintendent Toback under Sullivan's screen name, franksinatra.

Click HERE  to read her sign-off letter.

Science Project

Today is the Wallace School Science Fair, and here is LA's (Little Avenger's) project: calculating the food energy in a marshmallow!  (She's in 4th grade)

You didn't know that could be done at home, did you?   She built a simple calorimeter like this:

She calculated one marshmallow contained 45 food Calories (the heat released from the burning marshmallow to raise the temperature of 50 ml of water 9 degrees Celsius).

But best of all, LA got to eat the marshmallow.  Yum.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Glad to See Mo Go?

GA was perusing the HR today, when this caught my eye:  Maureen Sullivan's letter exiting the School Board stage with an enthusiastic response from the public.

This is no James Barracato screen shot, folks.  More than 50% of visitors gave her decision the 'thumbs-up'!

Want to see where it is now?  Click here.

Page 3 Girl

Those who follow Hoboken politics (you) may have been surprised to see the following in this week's Hoboken Reporter:
  •  Beth Mason's employee, Matt Calicchio, on the cover in a feature story about his June 7 trial date.  He's accused of harassing a School Board mom in the presence of her 5 year-old daughter.  
  • Beth Mason's employee, James Barracato, describing his failed Nazi-smear attempt against GA to Al Sullivan in Al's weekly column, Between The Lines.
Very interesting, right? 

Because historically, the editorial bias of the paper would never have published either. The Calicchio story reveals the ugliness of longstanding Dark Side tactics- bullying and intimidation of political opponents.   The Barracato story takes the behind-the-scenes operative and exposes his lame and tawdry effort to feed their paper a false Nazi-narrative against a blogger (me).

Both men, Calicchio and Barracato work for the same boss.

Beth Mason.

Both men, Calicchio and Barracato, were on her payroll at the time of the alleged harassment and the ginning up a Nazi-narrative for the local press while peddling it to Jewish watchdog groups.

But HER name was conspicuously absent from both Calicchio and Barracato pieces.

Why?  Because...

Beth Mason is The Reporter's Page 3 Girl!

That's 4 consecutive weeks of 1/2-page ads on page 3- premium space- with no election in sight.  

May 6, 2012- The Hoboken Reporter, page 3

Turn back the clock to late April, and one may imagine this ad space was booked about the time Barracato was pimping the  'Nazi blogger' piece to The Reporter.  Remember?  That's when GA and MSV got emailed accusatory questions and were offered a chance to "defend" ourselves.

What preceded that?

Barracato meets with the publisher, and reporters, peddles his drek, hands them Photoshopped MSV and GA screen shots. Then, boom-boom-boom-boom: week after week of ad-buys.


May 13, 2012- The Hoboken Reporter, page 3

Well, the story Barracato pitched never got published.

So at the end of the day, what did Mason's money buy?

It bought what you didn't read in either Calicchio or Barracato's piece: a name.

Beth Mason.
May 20, 2012- The Hoboken Reporter, page 3

If Mason's name was ever written in either piece, it didn't survive editorial review. 

So you have 'political operatives' named without naming their (known) employer.  Th HR writes as though these 'untethered' political operatives are 'driving the bus'.

They're NOT.  It's Beth Mason.

So... how much LONGER should we expect our newspaper to keep her OUT of the story.  But not for Mason hiring/directing these named individuals, there would BE no story.

(But its OK to name her victims, right?)

May 27, 2012- The Hoboken Reporter, page 3

Now, GA was in the Union City courtroom last week.  So were Mason's videographer Tim and his assistant Not-Perry, and BoE member Carmelo Garcia's sister-in-law Tanya, who works for Mason as Gallery 1200.

But reporter Stephen LaMarca only mentioned me there.  How come?

LaMarca wrote a very fair, balanced piece on the BoE 2 weeks ago- not an easy feat for such a  hot-button issue. Which tells me the kid can write well and be fair.

So with respect to not mentioning the Mason entourage in the room, I will assume LaMarca didn't know who they were.  I will point them out to him next time.  Yep, Mason had her crew in attendance- a handful of people on her payroll sitting in the court room- but only Minutillo's 'side' gets mentioned.

In conclusion, GA's got a question for Dave Unger, the publisher of The Hoboken Reporter.
Is the Page 3 Girl buying ads or protection or BOTH?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Barracato's Letter to the ADL

GA was fascinated to learn that James Barracato, a Hoboken resident living in Weehawken, wrote a letter to the Anti-Defamation League complaining about yours truly! 

Well, GA has obtained an exclusive copy of the Barracato letter! 
Dear Mr./Ms. ADL,

I hear you Jews believe in a merciful God, so please have mercy on me.

I have spent the last week scanning GA's blog- over 1,100 posts- to nail her as a Nazi but couldn't find a fucking thing. When I told my boss Councilwoman Beth Mason, she threw a saucer at my head which left a dent the shape of Rhode Island.

"You'd better find something or next time that crater in your head will look like Texas!"

Mr./Ms. Jew-guy, she means it.   

Do you know after the stunt to get GA arrested for a blog post failed she jumped on my foot wearing cleats?  My foot resembled a waffle iron for a month and I couldn't take my girl dancing (see above).

Then there was the stunt to have GA thrown off the Zoning Board... did you know my comrade Lane Bajardi toted a color xerox of a turd around in his briefcase to public meetings like a naval officer carrying nuclear codes?   Bajardi gave them out to the media- it was so stupid even The Hoboken Reporter took a pass.

Well, Boss Mason was so PISSED we failed to get GA booted off the ZBA that I told everyone GA was "appointed by the Mayor" (LIE)- not by unanimous City Council vote (TRUE).  

"Weehawken Trout, I'm warning you... get her off the Zoning Board or I squeeze your nuts in my nutcracker till they burst!"

Then Boss Mason threw a 12-person set of silver forks at my head but thank goodness, only 5 pierced my thighs and 2 got my abdomen. (The one that skewered my crotch required me to get full surgical reconstruction- things haven't 'worked' quite the same down there since.)  Do I have to talk about THAT? It's embarrassing. But it did get me 'Handicapped Driver' plates so now I can park in Hoboken. 

Well, here's where YOU come in Mr./Ms. Jew-guy.

My boss Beth Mason decided once and for all to go after the bloggers in Hoboken.  And we LOVE  the whole Nazi- thing.  That's the BEST way to smear someone!

We did it to GA before, remember?  

Yeah, and GA found out how we used Larry Stempler, my boss's donor and fundraiser in our Nazi-smear plot and contacted all 38 members of the NJDC Board of Directors AND its 2 Senate sponsors! Boy, did THAT stunt BACKFIRE. GA humiliated my boss, Beth Mason!

"I am the VICTIM!  Me, me, me! Make sure everyone knows WHO the victim is!  That's what I pay you for. Now go make me a victim of a Nazi-smear campaign!  Or you'll be wearing that..."

And she pointed to a stuffed, wall-mounted deer head.

You'd better believe my boss Beth Mason got me so terrified that I spent 7 days and 7 sleepless nights scouring GAs blog (it's really funny- have you read it?) until... I found the words "gas chamber"!

Of course, I had to pull these 2 words out of context, remove all eight images, remove text and remove the title Nurse Kevorkian To Meet and Greet Victims to completely rob it of it's context. Here's what Al Sullivan wrote about the doctored screenshot I submitted to his newspaper, The Hoboken Reporter:
The phrase was minus the images and the other references so it was out of context.
Enough said?  

Now I am writing you Mr./Ms. ADL- Boss Mason and I know how this stuff pushes your buttons- BEGGING you to condemn GA so I won't have to wear that frigging deer head.

You know, some people call me a scumbag.  I call it a living.

"You're supposed to PLANT stories in the press you imbecile, NOT be in them! I'm going to have to buy MORE ads to keep MY name OUT. You incompetent fool. Some covert, behind-the-scenes operative YOU are. Now wear THAT, Bambi!

Please have mercy on me!  Please condemn GA!  And I've got more good Nazi-stuff coming- the next one is about a HORSE.

Love you Jews,

James Barracato,
Beth Mason webmaster and paid political operative (The Hoboken Reporter left out that part!)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

Sandy Hook beach yesterday at 8:30 am

Are you-all enjoying your weekend?

Yesterday was a perfect beach day... sunny, breezy, crystal clear sky until around 2:30 pm when a thick cloud cover rolled in.  But by that time we were roasted and ready to go.

Well, there is a LOT to discuss: Matt Calicchio an HR cover story (wow),  Al Sullivan's copious ink spillage on James Barracato's Nazi stunt (not good when a 'behind-the-scenes' political operative becomes the  story),  lively online debates on the future of Hoboken's school district (keeping it civil)...   

GA's got a lot to say.  Later.

In the meantime, let's remember what Memorial Day is about: all Americans who have died in all wars.  

Remember them and pray for them.  And give thanks. They are our heroes.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Beth Mason Newsletter

The Lesson of Roque

Much ado about a recall (buy this stylish cap
at GA's Recall Beth Mason Gift Shop)
Yesterday's arrest of West New York Mayor Felix Roque and his son, Joseph for the hacking and attempted take-down of is a lesson to all Hudson County elected officials.

But not the one you think.

What struck GA about the father and son operation is their emotional reaction to an opposition tactic- a 'mean' recall website.

That a Hudson County politician familiar with our native muddy milieu would be so thin-skinned about a dopey recall-stunt is really shocking.   Imagine, he was pissed-off enough by it to risk his political career to destroy it.

But his inability to ignore it destroyed him.

So, elected officials.  How to avoid Roque's fate?

Don't read the blogs or opposition web sites. Stay OFF.  Let your surrogates do that for you. Understand, you will be savaged in that old Hudson County way. If you can't take it, you shouldn't be in politics.

Need a mousepad from GA's Recall Beth Mason Gift Shop?

Yes, the net is a powerful organizing tool and way for political activists to share and disseminate information the mainstream doesn't. How much of it bubbles up into the general public is the question.

Because the political blogosphere is rife with operatives, an official will be fooled into thinking the discourse is 'real' when in fact it's not.  For years, Lane Bajardi and his wife, Kim Cardinal, have posted under a dizzying array of screen names on Hoboken411 and now on Patch. James Barracato, formerly known as Hudson Shark has used a variety of names on  All three spew a lot of    canned-drek. (When Barracato isn't busy trying to peddle Nazi narratives to The Hoboken Reporter).

So, elected officials stay off.

Like Hoboken Mayor Zimmer. 

Sorry ops but the Mayor does NOT doesn't read Hoboken411, MSV, or GA- nor do her antennae bleep, bleep bleep orders to us on what to write. That's a fact.  Zimmer has no idea how she's been defiled on Hoboken411 or praised on GA.  Or how her life was threatened on Hoboken411.  Unless she was told by a surrogate.

(Has the HPD paid this guy a visit yet? This post is still up.)

As for Roque, the Jersey Journal has a fascinating timeline posted.  Which illustrates the effort Roque and son are alleged to gone to in order to silence the opposition.

And that's the last lesson.  Let your opposition speak.

Speaking of which, have you been to GA's Recall Beth Mason Gift Shop where you can buy this attractive Boot Beth Mason modern wall clock? 

Even celebrities shop at GA's Recall Beth Mason Gift Shop!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Today in Court- UPDATE

That is, the trial of Matt Calicchio, Beth Mason's 'Chief of Staff'- charged with harassing a School Board mom, Theresa Minutillo,  in the presence of her 5 year-old daughter.

Stay tuned. 

(Update, 4:45 pm)
GA stopped by the Union City municipal court at 1:30 pm today, and was surprised to see a nearly-empty room- including the judge.  (The trial had been scheduled for 1 pm)

The judge strolled in at 1:55 pm.  La-di-da.

The court room was still (nearly) empty- except for a couple of Hoboken mom-supporters sitting with the mom-Plaintiff.  Calicchio, the Defendant, appeared about 10 minutes later, dapper in a suit and a mouthful of chewing gum.  

Chomp chomp chomp.

Along with his attorney Elise DiNardo, in came two members of the Mason cabal: Tim the videograher, and the silver-haired gentleman he travels with- a Perry Belfirore look-alike.  (I'll call him Not-Perry. Not-Perry fell asleep at the last City Council meeting- someone shot a video of him snoozing away.)  GA was told Carmelo Garcia's sister-in-law, who works at Mason's Gallery 1200, was with the group, too.

Well, to make a short story shorter, the trial ended up being rescheduled for June 7.  The reason: there was another case being heard first- starting with a 'motion to suppress' hearing potentially followed by a trial.  Perhaps many hours of waiting.

So, the mom-Plaintiff opted for a new date, having her 5 year-old at home to consider.

 Just imagine the Mason paycheck for that one court appearance: DiNardo, Tim, Not-Perry, Carmelo's sis-in-law, and Calicchio.  All on the clock.

Frank's Ticket?

GA woke up to this tune on the radio... I love JT.

Folks, I'm finding this one hard to swallow- like finding a cashew and an almond in your jar of peanuts.  Here's what I found in my Inbox:
Pupie Frank has engaged Nathan Brinkman and Liz Markevitch to run with him on a slate.


GA is not surprised that Frank would run- why not?  

Raia served on the BoE for years, and  was School Board President in the 2005-2006 school year- the year of the Great Cell Phone Give-away!

2005-2006 BoE Audit- page 133

 GA hears that Carmelo Garcia was the BoE's Vice President during the 2005-2006 term  which is also known as the Juicy Steak era...

2005-2006 BoE Audit- page 157
and the Trump Plaza Get-away...

 ...also called the Disappearing $1.9 Million Dollars Trick...

2005-2006 BoE Audit: page 50

... and the Friends and Family JOBS Program Era...

2005-2006 BoE Audit: page 40
(GA can summarize the 2005-2006 Friends and Family JOBS Program:)

And imagine getting FIRED from one of those mystery-jobs, but still getting a paycheck...

2005-2006 BoE Audit- page 43

Did I forget to tell you the HVAC Repair Guy ($96,000 year) was invited to Atlantic City, too- and even got a $300 stipend!  (What would somebody DO with all that money at Trump Plaza casino?  Hmmm...)

People, there's more, more, more in that 297 page BoE audit!   Take a look.

What can YOU find?

Now amidst conversations about charters and public schools, let's remind ourselves the kind of  LONG-TERM abuses to Hoboken's public schools that preceded the current Kids First Reform era- by people who are chomping at the bit to take over our schools AGAIN.

If they were decent leaders, Kids First would not have inherited the disaster in 2009-2010 that they found when Kids First has an audit performed for 2008-2009 school year.

Scathing audit of Hoboken Board of Education shows more than two dozen irregularities

“It was just shocking,” said Board of Education trustee Maureen Sullivan.

In a random sampling, auditors found two cases in which funds raised by students through candy sales and other activities were used to reimburse teachers for stolen iPods – to the tune of $400 each.
In addition, overtime was being improperly approved by consultants, instead of employees, auditor Dieter Lerch said at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

Auditors also found that stipends to several employees were either not approved by the board or did not have other necessary documentation. Sullivan said in most of those cases the work was likely being done, despite the lack of documentation, but that interim Superintendent Peter E. Carter said he would conduct a thorough investigation to make sure.

Parents at Tuesday’s board meeting reacted with horror.
Interesting then, if the rumor is true. Why would Brinkman and Markevitch-  Republican activist allies of Maureen Sullivan- join a Raia Ticket?

Our schools are in a period of recovery- a long way from the Era of Abuse.  So many are working to 'right the ship' as more use them, discover how special our teachers are, and that are kids are happy- in spite of the divisive language of political operatives.

OK, back to JT to relax.

 On the roof, the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let's go up on the roof (up on the roof)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mason Staffer's Court Date Tomorrow

Matt Calicchio accompanies Beth Mason to a Fox Hills community meeting on April 17, 2012. credit: MSV

Beth Mason Staffer, Matt Calicchio, will finally face the music at 1 pm in a Union City municipal court tomorrow, charged with harassing a mother in front of her 5 year-old daughter outside Wallace School.

Why would he 'allegedly' do this?

The mother is an elected School Board official on a coalition opposed by Beth Mason, Calicchio's employer.  That's Kids First.

The Kids First mom was 'allegedly' followed into a pizzeria by the Mason staffer, where he sat across from her and her little one and stared at them.  He did not order any food there.   The much larger man sat and watched the mother and her little girl.  And watched. 

That incident happened in September 2011.

Ah... sweet.  Calicchio and Mason, arms entwined after the SOTC on Jane 25, 2012. credit: MSV

Was it the same day GA observed Callichio lurking at Wallace school?

I don't know.  But it was last September.

GA witnessed Calicchio on Wallace School grounds at recess, standing outside the gate (street level) facing in to the playground (below street level).  Calicchio stared at me as I searched for my 8 year-old daughter in the crowd of children. He continued to stare as I spoke to Wallace Principal Jay Medlin about whether her teacher had dismissed the class yet.

Personally, the big fellow doesn't intimidate me, but recall being disturbed at his presence at a school among children.   With good reason, apparently.  Um, allegedly.

Why was he sent there?  Allegedly.

Calicchio and Mason leave a BoE meeting.  credit: MSV

Perhaps the answer will be forthcoming tomorrow at his trial.  Perhaps the prosecutor will ask what he was doing at the school, and if he was 'on the clock' for Beth Mason at the time he was  there.

I saw him there in September- not alleged.

Some of Mason's political opponents and critics are (also) mothers.  Is nothing sacred?  Allegedly?

Stay tuned for more.

Matt Calicchio leaves the SOTC with Beth Mason. The two arrived and departed separately and did not sit near each other at the event.  credit: MSV

Standing Up to Bullies

Matt Calicchio and Beth Mason meet outside after Zimmer's SOTC, January 25,2012. Note their arms around each other. Cute couple! This was after Calicchio was charged with harassing a BoE official in the presence of her 5 year-old. GA witnessed Calicchio hanging around the Wallace playground after recess last September.  Did Mason send her employee (Calicchio)  there?  Did he harass the mother 'on the clock'?   credit: MSV

GA will have more to say later, but here is a shout-out to those victims of a systematic campaign  against Reform's activists, elected officials and public officials using the COURTS and the media to suppress free speech and civic participation.

GA is proud of all of you for standing up. 

And there is quite a bit going on 'behind-the-scenes' which I look forward to sharing with you.

Did you know that Matt Calicchio is on Beth Mason's payroll?   He seems to be the COURT guy. Filing complaints or provoking them.

And James Barracato?  He's the media guy.  Meets with publishers and reporters.  Does photoshops.  Peddles Nazi narratives.

There is a LOT of money changing hands here.  A LOT.   Ad revenue, payroll we can see.  We can only speculate on promises, or donations funneled through shell companies.

The targets don't have much dough.  But, thank G-d it seems to me we've the got balls to stand up to bullies.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Simply Ruthless?

GA had a debate with a friend over the words 'ruthless' and evil'.  He found my use of the word 'evil' to describe persons and their conduct to be over-the-top, telling me that 'ruthless' was the correct descriptive.

Here's the definition of ruthless:
without pity or compassion; cruel; merciless.
Oh, come on... isn't all that "cruel" and "merciless" stuff kinda evil? 

I bring that up because I think the distinction between the two provides cover for those enterprises that cooperate with ruthless politicians in exchange for a revenue stream- technically not blood money, since nobody's died.  But if you consider a person's reputation something which can be pounded and left to languish bloodied online perhaps to never recover- and the beating was administered  by an enterprise receiving ad revenue from the 'ruthless' politician, well...

Why isn't that evil?

They didn't call him Dr. Ruthless.

What about a politician whose intellectually compromised paid 'henchman' lurks at a public school playground, yells at a parent in the presence of her 5 year-old and follows them into a pizzeria to sit and stare from feet away, having purchased no food?   Note the parent is a School Board member opposed by this politician.

Simply ruthless?

Why isn't that evil?

What about a politician who dispatches the same intellectually compromised henchman to file criminal complaints against prominent reformers and elected officials, who dispatches a personal videographer to stalk reform officials, to lurk at their homes, follow them on the street...

Simply ruthless? 


Monday, May 21, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

On the chopping block?
Yesterday Da Horsey wrote this:
"There's valid arguments made on both sides but one striking factor is clear from the proponents of the new charter.  There's little or no concern on the impact to the vast majority of district students in creating a new charter to benefit themselves."
That's what GA calls the elephant in the room: the impact on Hoboken Public school students. 

Some (not all) of those supporting a new district acknowledge the elephant, but say that numbers march from one balance sheet onto  another ("the money follows the child") and no one gets hurt.   

Is that true? What is the impact of a new charter on the Hoboken public schools?

To answer those questions, we need a person who is knowledgeable and objective- with no interest in the outcome- political or otherwise.

Enter retired Hoboken B.A. Robert Davis. 

For those who don't want to watch the 12-minute video of his comments at the May 8th BoE meeting, I'll summarize for you.

Davis served as the Assistant Commissioner of Finance to NJ Governor Florio in 1993-1994 and then was asked to stay on by Governor Whitman.

Davis was part of the team who created charters in NJ.  The creation of charters was prompted by these state takeovers:
  • 1989- Jersey City Public Schools
  • 1991- Patterson Public School System
  • 1995- Newark Public School System
Or as he put is: "Charters were founded in New Jersey in the context of meeting the educational needs of kids in Newark, Patterson, and Jersey City". 

Interesting, huh?

Davis spent 22 years in Montclair public schools and according to him, chose magnet schools as a way of integrating their schools instead of forced busing, etc.  Under Davis, Montclair had 8 elementary magnet schools, including 'specialized' Gifted and Talented, Performing Arts, Basic Skills, Future Studies, Montessori.

Davis compared charters in Hoboken to magnet schools in Montclair where "each parent feels the school is meeting the unique needs of what they think their child should have as a program".

Davis feels that in Hoboken, the notion of a Charter school- a political solution to meeting the educational needs of poor children who could not afford private school- has morphed into a magnet school model.  Here's what he said about Hoboken's charters: 

"They are not charter schools, they are magnet schools."

Remember as you watch, Davis was not there as an advocate. He is impartial in this debate. 

Partial transcription of former B.A. Davis' remarks on May 8, 2012:
"Whoever said the public schools are not impacted, and the money follows the student, and there's no impact on the public schools, I can tell you that having prepared your last 3 budgets they don't know what they're talking about.  
 I prepare a budget for you each year with the expected increases in salaries, supplies, contractors' services- everything if we operated as we did this year.  And with that we try to keep the tax levy flat and get the state aid numbers certified and we hope to move from there. 

The last number I get is the allocation to charter schools.

So when the whole budget is developed, go back and look at the document you got.

In 2010-11, at the last  moment we're told your allocation for charter schools is $4.9 million.

This year, at the last moment we were told it's $6 million.

Next year's budget we're told at the last minute it's $7.2 million.

So now at the last moment my allocation for charter schools has to go up from $6 million to $7.2 million.  Those of you on the Finance Committee and  I think I met with other Board members separately also, you know that we had to make a lot of adjustments to accommodate that.  

The idea that the money moves with the kids is FALSE.  For example, 40% of your budget is on support services. Principal's salaries, guidance counselors' salaries, nurse's salaries, utilities, fuel oil, electric light bills, telephone bills... that's 40% of the allocation I can't touch.

I can't tell the principal to come in 2 less days because a bunch of kids moved to the Charter schools.  I can't turn the heat down in the winter to 60 degrees because we have fewer kids and that 40% of the money went to the Charter schools, so for all intents and purposes, right off the bat I can't touch 40% of that money.  

The other 60% you have to find out for classroom (piece?), how many teachers do you have to cut if you lose x-amount of pupils.

And unless they come in bunches- 25 kids at grade level- you're not going to be able to cut too many teachers.

So something DOES have to give.

Now it is true I said that we were able to accommodate that the last two  years. To lower the total expenditures, to slightly reduce the tax levy, add some staff and add program and accommodate the charter schools significant increases.

But keep in mind that was dealing with significant large numbers of retirements, 34 and 36 in reality, that were due to the changes in pension law and those initiatives.  You will not have that again.

So if you have another year next year and that $7.2 million goes to $8 million or $8.5 million, you WILL be making some cuts.

And I guarantee you that.   

And anybody thinks you don't have to cut the budget, I would welcome them to come in and visit the Business Administrator's office the day after the governor releases the State aid notices and you get the charter school allocation and you've got the budget set up to operate as normal, and then you get told you've got to move a million dollars to the Charter Schools. And you don't want to simply add a million dollars to the tax levy- I don't think.  

And you're not gonna get the free ride of the retirements again. For sure.  As a matter of fact we budgeted only 12 this year.  And you know... maybe you'll make, I, I think that's an absolutely fallacious statement that the money moves with the kid.

By the way, I would agree with the Charter school people that they're not getting all the funding they need.  But that was a political compromise made by the Whitman administration when they desperately wanted the Charter schools to pass and they wanted to take the money from the public schools but in a way that it didn't appear that bad at first. You've got to put that in political context of 1991, 92, 93... cause remember the takeovers were 89, 91 and 95.  And that statute was passed in 95.

So I urge you to think forward,  because the next year it'll be the Montessori people saying "this is what my kid needs', and then it'll be the performing arts people- "this is what my kids needs",  maybe ultimately you should close those 10 school buildings and have 10 separate magnets, there are bills being introduced today- they're not moving too fast, that permit parochial schools to move religious imagery and file as a charter school.  And you know, as long as they did it in the right way, it would be hard to deny them.

The whole thing has morphed from the original intent, to deal with the problems of kids in the urban centers, who were doomed unless they could get some alternative, now morphed into as I sit here and listen to this tonight... we're a town of magnet schools.  "My kids needs Gifted and Talented, my kid needs Dual Language"- that's fine.  I did 22 years... we had a very successful magnet school program in Montclair, voluntary integration program and it worked fabulously. Iowa scores went from 50% pre and post basic skills went to 90%.  No one argues those merits.

But be careful. 

Because if you treat Charter schools like Magnet schools- which is what you're doing- I'll give you 4 ,5 more, parents will keep coming in here... Montessori would be nice to have... a lot of people believe in Montessori education.

Not speaking pro or con.  A lot of the facts I heard were true, but food for thought."
There you go.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Today is Jersey Cat Adoption Day!

Today is Cat Adoption Day at Hoboken Pet, 524 Washington Street starting at 12 noon!

Meet  Janet, one of the Jersey Cat's cuties available for adoption!   (Did you know Janet won an award at the Garden State Cat Club Cat Show for her magnificent stripes?)

GA isn't sure if Janet will be one of's beauties appearing live today at Hoboken Pet, but if she's stolen your heart you know where to find her!  Meee-ow.

Here are some of Jersey cat's beauties waiting for forever homes now:

Jada- adult female
Jada stole my heart... GA just loves, loves, loves calicos.  Has anyone got spare room (and love) for this big girl?

Kurt- young, male (black and white)
This Kurt is not running for Hudson County Freeholder, but he is cuddly, sweet and adorable- like the big one.

Esti- adult, female
Couldn't you get lost in those big eyes?  GA hears that Esti is a lap cat!  Is yours available?

Betty- young female
Betty is a playful kitten- another calico beauty. She's a social  butterfly and a lap-lover!

Niko- young male
Niko is an award-winner!  He won a ribbon for 'Most Decorative Cat' at the Garden State Cat Club Cat Show!  Graceful, exotic... and a purrrrfect companion.

Archie- young male
Archie's got one fluffy tail!  Couldn't you see waking up to that face on your pillow?

Darrin- young male
Darrin's claim to fame is his easy-going, friendly nature. He is a happy boy and loves the company of creatures large and small.

Well, those are just a few of Jersey Cat's available kitties- and you can meet some today at Hoboken Pet's Adoption Day. So, if you were thinking about adding a furry friend to your home,  here's y our chance!