Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sad Night at the BoE

Wallace Field Day 2009

Last night's Board of Education meeting was moved to the Wallace gym in anticipation of a packed house. On the Agenda: the 2014-2015 budget with presentations by Superintendent Mark Toback and Business Administrator William Moffit.

What a depressing night.

The gym was packed; with parents, kids, teachers, district employees.  Emotions were palpable.  GA was taken by how many children were there, how young they were- the oldest looked to be perhaps 10, most were younger.

After the budget presentations  was the public portion.

First up was a parent who ended his remarks with something like "kids can't be educated in Hoboken schools."  I looked around at how many little ears in the room heard this adult's disparaging assessment of our district- its teachers and children, 70% of whom qualify for free and reduced lunch. A mom trotted her two young children to the mic to plea for the Board to keep their school open.  Hoboken District Transportation bus drivers, about to be laid off because of budget cuts, were pleading for their jobs.  (The Hoboken district provides transportation for kids with special needs.)

All of this was incredibly sad.

Wallace Field Day 2009

What really disturbed me was the procession of  small children indoctrinated in the false belief that their school was being closed.   Small, scared children went to the mic, some speaking Spanish, pleading to keep their school open.  A lot of children.  These little ones told the Board how they would miss their friends, how their teachers would miss them.  Some said they would have to "move away."

But their school is not being closed, nor has the Board asked for it to be closed.

Why would children be told that?  The only 'at issue' matter in the BoE's petition to the NJDOE is the expansion, not the survival of the school itself.

It was very depressing.  These poor kids were traumatized, parents cruelly manipulated. You will see more tonight: a City Council Resolution sponsored by Castellano and Russo to scare Elysian and Hoboken Charter parents into thinking their schools are on the chopping block.  Disgusting.

Clearly, there is an active disinformation campaign fomented by anti-administration, anti-Reform political forces- like Anthony Petrosino on the board of HoLa, Beth Mason on HCTV, Carmelo Garcia's press junket and tonight's City Council Resolution attacking the BoE and Leon Gold.  Their false message: that HoLa is being "shut down" and looking to shut down the other Charters.

Bullsh*t.

Politicians: blow all the bullshit around you want, but do not exploit children to sell your schlock.  

Wallace Field Day 2009
Speaking of schlock-meisters, Beth Mason didn't show, but her ally Ines Garcia Keim was there and in a Pinocchio moment, told this whopper: "...there are 1,700 students for a $62 million dollar budget."

No, Ines.  It is (approx.) 3,200 students: 1,700-1,800 Hoboken Public School District + 800 pre-K + 650 students in 3 Charter Districts.

Folks it was not pleasant.

The ubiquitous Patty Waiters, paid aide to Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia,  popped in, screamed at BoE President Leon Gold for a bit and the crowd cheered approvingly.  I wonder if any in the cheering crowd knew of Ms. Waiters' anti-Semitic remarks at May's HHA meeting?


GA spoke to Toback after the meeting.  I asked him why the "renewal" verbiage in the petition, why that was in there if the petition was aimed at expansion. He said the lawyers inserted it because the application is a "renewal and expansion" application.

Well, in my view this so-called 'lawsuit' has been spun into something it is NOT by the usual pack of political vultures.  Simply put, it is a call for the NJDOE to do its due diligence and perform a comprehensive analysis on the impacts of the expansion on district students.  A hopeful outcome would be that the State would increase funding for the district to make the HoLa expansion sustainable and doable. 

Isn't that what we all want?

The Hoboken School District will not get help until we demand it. 

The actions of the district have received support from heavyweights like Education Policy analyst Diane Ravitch and public advocacy groups like New Jersey's Education Law Center, which wrote: 
In four of the past five years, the district has experienced double-digit increases in the funds allocated to charter schools and anticipates sending almost $8.5 million to charters next year. According to Dr. Toback, Hoboken is facing the prospect of significant teacher and staff layoffs and program cuts.

“In approving the renewal and expansion of the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School, the NJDOE acted with disregard for our State constitution, Supreme Court guidance, and its very own administrative code,” Dr. Toback said. “Given the negative impact of the Department’s decision on the district, the Hoboken Board of Education was left with little choice but to take action to protect the educational programs for the children attending the public schools.”

“Education Law Center supports Hoboken’s call for a comprehensive analysis by the NJDOE of the impact of charter expansion on district students,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “The Legislature and the Court have made clear that the Department must consider student segregation and the ability to provide a thorough and efficient education before granting a charter application, renewal or expansion. This is essential to ensure charter schools improve, and not undermine,education for all Hoboken students.”

And the approved budget?
2014-2015 BoE Budget
General Fund Current Expenses...............$ 43,354,763
Contribution to Charter Schools................$ 8,277,790
Capital Expenditures..................................$ 601,364
_________________________________________________
Total General Fund Expenses...................$52,233,917

Grants and Entitlements.........................$ 12,616,694
Debt Service Fund..............................................$ 0
_________________________________________________
Total District Budget..............................$ 64,850,611

Well folks, staged theatrics on deck for tonight at the City Council.  Stay tuned.

Wallace Field Day 2009
 

6 comments:

  1. Sad, indeed. It's a shame how BOE meetings get hijacked. What a sad environment for the young kids to be in.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Where there are large pubic budgets, there will always be nasty, shameless grifting dark siders.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm really not sure how you can sit there and say that the BoE is not calling for HoLa to be shut down. I guess I respect that you believe the words coming out of his mouth, unfortunately they don't actually have much relation to the words on the actual piece of paper that the "Petition" has printed on them. It states more than several times in the document: "WHEREFORE, Petitioner demands the following relief: a. The March 5, 2014 renewal and expansion of HoLa be set aside;"
    It says pretty clearly "the renewal" AND "expansion" not just "the expansion be set aside."
    Where I do find myself agreeing with you is in the fact that it is horrible for these children to have to go through this. But the Board is pretty clearly lying about their intent here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sitting very well. The BoE is NOT calling for HoLa to be shut down. Here is what you and others need to understand.

      HoLa submitted it's expansion request within a RENEWAL application, not an EXPANSION application. The LEGAL response was therefore, necessarily, to the RENEWAL application, which the BoE has called a "renewal and expansion" - that is the way the legal process works. HoLa bundled the renewal with the expansion, thus the petition applies to the renewal and expansion. The petition would not be legally viable otherwise.

      READ THE PETITION: http://www.hoboken.k12.nj.us/hoboken/Recent%20News/_Petition%20to%20NJDOE%20regarding%20HOLA%20Expansion.pdf

      3. On or about October 15, 2013, HoLa submitted a charter renewal application to Christopher Cerf, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education at the time...Attached as Exhibit A is a true and authentic copy of HoLa’s October 15, 2013 Charter Renewal Application.

      4. On or about December 10, 2013, Dr. Toback wrote to Mr. Cerf
      objecting, not to the renewal of HoLa’s charter for grades K-6, but as to the request to expand to 7th and 8th grade. Attached as Exhibit B is a true and authentic copy of Dr. Toback’s December 10, 2013 letter to former Commissioner Cerf

      31. As part of the renewal, Mr. Popoff decided to grant the expansion to 7th grade for the 2015-2016 school year and to 8th grade for the 2016-2017 school year. (See Exhibit E)

      NO, my friend. The Board and Dr. Toback are not "lying."

      There is a huge political upside for some in fear-mongering tactics. The usual vampires have exploited it already- a Mason HCTV video, a Carmelo Garcia press junket, a Castellano-Russo City Council Resolution (which the sponsors pulled). Petrosino, may be the worst of the dis-informers.

      You are welcome to contact me offline if you want to talk about it: grafixavenger666@gmail.com

      Dr. Toback said it very clearly at the Tuesday meeting: the BoE does not want to shut down HoLa. The issue is the expansion. Ask HoLa why it bundled the expansion with it's Renewal application. It has caused much grief among HoLa families.

      Delete
    2. The petition seeks specific relief:

      - Renewal and Expansion (document where expansion is requested) to be set aside until such review is completed (review can be completed in a week)

      - Expansion not be granted until a remedial plan has been implemented and proven effective



      - Implementation of a remedial plan to address the issues of funding and segregation within the currently approved grades, if a renewal is granted.

      - Any other further relief the Commissioner deems just and equitable.

      Hola's director chose to file the expansion "application" in the renewal application. This is not the norm. Expansions are done separately from renewals and have different statutes and processes. Why she chose to do this? Before, hola submitted its application, Barbara Martinez sent out several mass emails stating
      We need your help to expand our school
      be sure to write to the njdoe explaining how important the school is and note that you would not send your child to the public schools
      There are those who would seek to block this expansion we need your assistance.

      Obviously, if the two applications were separate, while people would prefer a 7th and 8th grade, there would be no fear just hoping for the additional grades.

      I might add, there was no rush for 7th and 8th, it wouldn't start till 2015. The amendment could have easily be filed immediately after the renewal, as is stated in the statute. The director knows this, she somehow got the 6th grade through on it's own application just the year prior.

      But this way worked out very well in garnering parental support.

      Btw, did the director ever remove the false data stating that the charter school is funded by the state? It was requested that she remove that from the website as it is false and misleading.

      Delete
  4. Its clear the New Jersey Department of Education had no issue with Hola submitting a renewal and expansion application concurrently. Any further speculation on motive seems subjective and counterproductive.

    ReplyDelete