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Director’s Dismissal Divides Charter School Community

Teachers and parents speak up at school board meeting.

The recent and abrupt departure of HoLa has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the school’s teaching staff, of which many attended Wednesday night’s school board meeting on Thursday night.

The reason of Acosta’s departure is still unknown and the members of the school board declined to comment on the matter. Parents who attended the meeting aired their own concern, and to showed their support for both the teachers and the school board on Thursday.

“[The parents] just want to say and make it known that we respect the boards decision,” said Alexandra Black. “We came to this school because of who is on the board. I trust them and whatever they are doing they are doing in the best interest of the children.”

Last week the staff and parent community received a late night mass email from the school board announcing that Acosta had been placed on administrative leave, without offering an explanation.

This surprised the teaching staff, which considered Acosta a consummate professional who was doing her job well.

“The first time I had to reread [the email],” said an HoLa teacher who asked to remain anonymous. “It was unbelievable, very unexpected. [Maria] was very respectful, professional and supportive. She always tried to make sure all parties were happy and involved, and made sure we felt supported.”

According to a second teacher, who also declined to give a name, a majority of the teaching staff came to the meeting to show their support for Acosta and outrage with the board for their handling of the matter.

 “It was an abrupt removal," she said. "A lot of the teachers were very upset."

Acosta was brought in from the Lenape Meadows School District in Mahwah, where she served as an assistant principal and bilingual classroom educator since the early 1990s.

In addition, many of the teachers stated how Acosta was key in maintaining the peace between parents and the educators. Teachers expressed their frustration with at times overzealous parents, who would question their professionalism and even addressed them inappropriately, the teachers said. The teachers said they feel that the board has not set boundaries with the parents and Acosta was the one who set those boundaries.

The board reiterated they cannot discuss what happened, but said that the decision was not arbitrary.

“The teachers are the heart and soul of this school and we support them, and want them to be happy in their professions,” said board president Jennifer Sargent. "We are trying to do everything in our power to move [the replacement process] quickly. I have incredible respect for the teachers."

In the interim, the school’s business manager, who is certified as a supervisor, is acting as the school’s director. Sargent is hoping to have a replacement by the end of the month.

As far as any future discussion about Acosta’s reasons for stepping down, Sargent said it depends on how they are able to resolve the matter and without infringing on Acosta’s right to privacy.

Some of the parents did express concern over the handling of Acosta’s dismissal, and has made them uneasy about the school’s future.

“You do this eight weeks into the school year, to me that is far from stable,” said Paul Fried. “To me it seems the board is micromanaging and not letting the professionals do their jobs. I don’t think they thought this through.”

Fried and his family moved back to Hoboken for the school system. This is his daughter’s first year at HoLa.

“We are thinking about switching our daughter,” Fried said. “I am slightly disappointed and alarmed with what’s going on here.”

A majority of parents still seemed to maintain their confidence in the school, the board and teaching community.

Parent Ellen Marcus-Azzolini said she doesn’t know if the matter with Acosta could have been handled any differently because no one knows what happened, including the possibility that Acosta may have stepped down on her own.

“We don’t know what happened,” said Marcus-Azzolini, but she added, “my heart sank when I read that letter."

macintosh November 22, 2011 at 11:59 PM
They don't have a reason...they are still looking for a reason for this stupidity they have committed. Of course the only thing they have is that the Director wasnt taking the parents shit anymore and neither were the teacher. Some of these ridiculous parents are actually saying how they support the teachers...these are the same parents that gave them SHIT about everything last year.....JACKASSES!!!!
macintosh November 23, 2011 at 12:06 AM
Sally....it is "unfounded" because NO ONE knows why.....and their for reasons we can't disclose now is BULLSHIT!!!!
Rob November 23, 2011 at 01:54 AM
macintoshita? wow! all time low.
Passkey November 23, 2011 at 02:22 AM
As we all know, Dr. Petrosino was never employed full time at any other job while he was full time in the Hoboken School District. This is clearly another baseless smear attack.
Sally McBride November 23, 2011 at 02:28 AM
macintosh, is it "no one knows" or the "people that know will not disclose"? I am sure many people know, just only the ones that need to know right now
Redrider765 November 23, 2011 at 04:33 AM
And we all know he didn't work full time here either.
ggaelg November 23, 2011 at 05:13 AM
looks like now yuppies wants kids bilinguals and they are not prepared for a mixed classroom population, segregation and racism the yuppies wants to run the scool now
friendly fire November 23, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Nice grasp of the english language. Perhaps a little more schooling for you is in order.
ggaelg November 23, 2011 at 05:56 PM
thanks yuppie for the tip you are so nice. thats why hola is in trouble in first place.
ggaelg November 23, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Now the school is run by a board without the qualifications to run a language school, or is even bilingual. And Hello parents kids are suferring this poison enviroment.
friendly fire November 23, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Wiskeytango, is that you? Let me explain one thing to you, briefly. The only problem with Hola, is the long wait list of people to get in.
ggaelg November 23, 2011 at 09:20 PM
Hum long wait list by any chance that means to get rid of some kids????? Maybe those who really has bilingual background and poor social enviroment ?????? And confused is this a public school????
friendly fire November 23, 2011 at 09:36 PM
I think "confused" sums it up nicely. In the midst of your confusion, try not to be so divisive towards a community that truly cares about all children, not just of those of a certain economic or ethnic background.
ggaelg November 23, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Hope all ends up nicely like u said for the kids the most they are our future :-)
Enough November 24, 2011 at 04:00 AM
Godwins law does not apply to Hoboken internet comment sections. I wish it did. In fact, some internet threads have been started by Nazi references. This is a fairly new development, but it is a fact. Welcome to Hoboken in the Zimmer era.
InfotainMe November 24, 2011 at 12:12 PM
Yes, Hoboken "in the era of Zimmer" is much more internet savvy. Unfortunately, and to your eternal frustration, your team still isn't internet savvy. Just the Many Faces of Lane (all of which seem to be on hiatus since the Ricciardi arrest), Keim occasionally, and yourself. Unless you're counting that cyber rest home for a handful of bitter old men, Hoboken 411. You are therefore always badly outnumbered, as private citizens will always outnumber paid hacks. But private citizens trumping dirty money is the central feature of "the Zimmer era" after all. Now go make yourself useful and baste the turkey.
Bob R November 25, 2011 at 04:00 PM
I think you mean Kreim, Info. Kreim. As for Lane and his wife's various monikers, they never seem to have had Enough.
leafy November 25, 2011 at 05:00 PM
HR--in case it's not clear to you...when college professors talk about their grant money, that is money they are awarded to sustain some kind of research project. To say Petrossino has three jobs because he earned an NSF grant is incorrect. The NSF grant helps fund the research at UT. When I was in grad school, there was a professor on our faculty who worked two jobs: he taught at Harvard 2.5 days a week and then returned to the school I attended to do his other full time job. Many people in the US work more than one job...just because Petrosino's work is white collar doesn't set him to a different standard than blue-collar work. The higher ed world affords tremendous flexibility to its full-time employees and if you live under the impression that higher ed is run like high schools, then talk to people who work in higher ed. The variety of job descriptions is great and there is much more to their work than classroom instruction. Advising PhD candidates, supervising graduate students in their research, running personal research projects and various university committee work is part of the job. You don't need to be on campus to do all this work, you might be working on weekends or in the evenings on such things. The comments here about higher ed work life are full of misconceptions.
johnsmith November 25, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Seems Petrocino is reading this thread. Maybe he elp can clear up questions regarding Hola Board members administering the school and the contracts and loan questions? All those things come before the Hola Board members.
johnsmith November 27, 2011 at 04:39 AM
no comments regarding the contracts or loans? Are the agendas and minutes online? As a public school, I would think those things would be online. Any one have link?
Hobbs November 28, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Councilman Occhipinti was put on the Boys & Girls Club to give him some cred when Mason, Russo and Raia ran and paid for his campaign as their additional vote on the City Council. Now he remains mute on the whole Hola mess. I guess he understands his position. GOT TRANSPARENCY ?
holaparent2 December 01, 2011 at 04:08 PM
I find it absolutely shocking that there are those of you who actually think Maria's leave came out of the blue. Really? You think the Board of a new, somewhat controversial school, really wants this kind of heat? You think Jen Sargent who has worked tirelessly for 5 years to get this school going, WANTS all the accusations of cronyism, etc. that are being thrown at her? Seriously now. Have none of you ever worked anywhere? Of course there was a file on Maria. She's been aware since last April that she needed to do better. I'm a parent at Hola and I liked Maria personally and initially found her quite attentive, but as the year went on, she became less and less available and this year she had checked out. I grieve for the teachers. It stinks to lose a boss, especially one you really liked, but we've all been there. It happens, and rarely do the worker bees ever know why. I'm so glad that she was a good boss for them, but she was not a good administrator for the school. She dismissed concerns about security, repeatedly. She answered emails10 days late or had them written by her favorite teachers. She didn't return phone calls. She didn't show up to the science fair or the school's Halloween Party or Board meetings. If you cared about your job, wouldn't you do everything you could to save it? (continued)
Hoboken Answer December 01, 2011 at 04:14 PM
That's a lovely dissertation leafy. What say you about the no bid Frank Raia contract?
Hoboken Answer December 01, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Why are you shocked? Admin issues are typically handled when school is between semesters. So you believe Maria's removal is okay, and admit teachers don't. At the same time you feel it's justified based on your knowledge of violations that the teachers, re: "worker bees" don't. Why should your view be taken over the teachers? And can you tell me why Jen Sargent is acting as a superintendent of the school issuing emails on the new director and attending the school like an administrator on a daily basis? My understanding is this is not behavior legally acceptable in NJ. In no way is that a question on her caring and dedication. Throw in some questionable loans and a no bid construction contract on a TAX PAYER PAID BUILDING and there's a lot of problems here. If you care to address it, we're all ears.
holaparent2 December 01, 2011 at 04:21 PM
She didn't produce a curriculum until this year & that was written by the teachers more than anyone. We have a great teaching staff (Maria's good at hiring!) who have guided and instructed our children phenomenally. My child is bilingual after one year of school, and is reading fluently, loves math and science and has many friends. I love Hola. I didn't expect it to be perfect. David, the business administrator from last year left for a job that was more in his field. The nurse was replaced, because she didn't show up to work. In what world do you people live that you have guaranteed jobs for life regardless of performance? We retained all but one teacher from last year. Of course there are parents who over-step. That's true everywhere. Are we an active community and sometimes a little over-zealous? Probably, but that's a product of being at a school that needs money, nourishes volunteerism, and wants a strong community. We are not all yuppies. In fact, the school is more diverse this year than it was last year. The BNRs want to tear down everything. They hated Jack, but he's the only person that ever brought real change to Hoboken schools. The hate Hola, because it's new and different. It's all so provincial and sad. I know there is a lot of history around Frank and all sorts of insider mumbo jumbo that goes along with everything in Hoboken, but none of that has anything to do with what is actually going on inside the walls of Hola.
holaparent2 December 01, 2011 at 04:53 PM
I'm not saying my view should be taken over the teachers, I'm saying that in situations like this, there are various things to be considered and I'm saying that she wasn't dismissed out of the blue. Do you think it would have been appropriate to keep Maria in charge, just b/c the teachers liked her? I've liked bosses before that were fired. The teachers know different things than the parents, b/c they have a different relationship with the school than the parents. It could be argued that the teachers should have been kept more in the loop, but is that respectful of Maria's privacy or HR standards? Have you known in the past all the ups and down of your boss' tenure? I didn't mean worker bees to be disparaging. The teachers are the heart and soul of our school, but it still needs to be run properly. They have recently hired a wonderful interim director named Elizabeth Willaum, so your concerns about Jen overstepping can be alleviated now. I don't know if she should have been on the premises in the manner that she was for the two weeks the school was without a director. Who else should the email about firing and hiring come from? She's the founder of the school. How did Elysian and Hoboken Charter handle it? She was trying to ease the transition for parents, students and teachers. I can't fault her for that. I assume that with a new school mistakes are going to be made. No one is trying to break laws. Why such vitriol?
holaparent2 December 01, 2011 at 04:53 PM
I can't speak to the contract issue, b/c I know nothing about it. The Board meetings are open to the community. You are welcome to go and air all of your concerns.
Hoboken Answer December 01, 2011 at 05:07 PM
I asked some questions and you are trying to address them in the best way you can. Don't take that for vitriol as I happen to support Charter Schools. At the same time, being a taxpayer means there's an expectation of accountability and following the rules. Everyone has to follow the law including board members. To you question on how others have handled similar issues, perhaps you should advise the HoLa Board to engage with the local charter schools. But what I'm hearing is there is a lack of concern for the law and more an interest in the "I'm doing it, it's right" mode and the law doesn't apply.
holaparent2 December 02, 2011 at 02:16 PM
This whole thread is extremely vitriolic and much of it written by people who know little of what they speak. I wasn't referring specifically to you.
Concerned December 04, 2011 at 03:07 AM
As an experienced teacher and a parent, I have been working in a public school district for over seven years, and I have participated in at least four curriculum committees. Teachers are always doing the majority of curriculum writing. I myself have assisted with writing at least four all of which were later adopted by the board of education. This is common practice in the world of public education.

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