New Charter School Divides Community

Supporters and opponents discussed the matter at length on Tuesday night.

divided parents and school board members on Tuesday evening. In a 5-2-1 vote, the board—following nearly four hours of public discussion—voted to oppose

“This school has created such a rift,” said founding member of the school and Councilman-at-Large David Mello.

Opponents say that DaVinci will take away funds from the students in the district’s schools and will create segregation along socio-economic and ethnic lines. Those who support the new school say it adds more school choice and will encourage more young families to stay in town.

The split became clear throughout the night, ending in a divided vote by the board. 

Superintendent Dr. Mark Toback has already written a letter to the state commissioner of education opposing the new charter school. The five Kids First majority members voted to support the superintendent’s position. Board members Frances Rhodes Kearns and Maureen Sullivan voted against and Peter Biancamano abstained. 

The decision to approve the new charter, however, is completely in the state’s hands. 

“I have no clue why we’re even voting on this,” Biancamano said. 

For Mello, the school is supposed to keep young families in town by providing more educational options. “I look at my daughter’s pre-K, almost none of them are attending our public schools,” Mello said. "I am not saying that’s right. But it is the reality.”

In the traditional Hoboken public schools, roughly 70 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, Toback said. In the charter schools this percentage is about 15 percent. While DaVinci founder Laura Siegel called that divide “distressing,” she added that the school is working to include children from all different backgrounds. 

“We are not a boutique school,” said DaVinci founder Jamie Rice. “We are not designed to serve one part of the population." 

Many parents praised Hoboken’s traditional public schools throughout the night, while others expressed their worry about the perception of Hoboken’s schools. Most vocal about the district’s shortcomings—perceived or otherwise—was board member Sullivan.

“If half the school aged population isn’t going to school here, we’re doing something wrong,” Sullivan said. “We cant put the genie back in the bottle. People have decided they want other schools.”

, Toback said. Most of the funding of a charter school comes from the local school board’s budget.

“I know there is a negative impact involved for the public schools if this charter is granted,” said Gregory Bond, the parent of a student at the . “There is going to be a net cost to the public schools.” 

While charter schools are public, the schools are run independently as if it were a separate district. 

“My responsibility is the children currently enrolled in this district,” said board member Irene Sobolov. “How can I approve an expenditure that puts not single penny back into the penny of those children?”

Cutting more than $1.1 million from the school budget, Toback said, will have to be done by cutting extracurricular programs and activities.

“A new charter school will be devastating for this district. I don’t see how any of you can vote for it in good conscience,” one parent told the school board. While another argued that if parents want to found a new school based on popular demand, the board of education shouldn’t stand in their way. 

The charter school application has made it through the first round. Now, the founder have to wait. The Department of Education will make a decision by September. If the charter gets approved, DaVinci is scheduled to open in September 2013.

prosbus May 18, 2012 at 11:57 AM
In the article we read, "The children that we have to worry about are these children that are failing now." Hoboken resident Ruth McAllister asks the Board not to pass Hola at tonight's meeting. (see McAllister has been elected to the Board the percentage of students attending a school that failed to meet adequate yearly progress has gone from under 14% to over 90%...for 2 years in a row). "Hoboken cannot afford a trendy new program where it is wanted but not needed," said Jean Marie Mitchell. (the lack of insight and educational innovation by Jean (Marie Mitchell is now costing the Hoboken Public Schools millions of dollars a year.) Kids First made every excuse under the sun for not voting for Hola. Now Hola is a charter school with a substantial wait list and another example of the Board being unresponsive to the communities needs.
CuriousGal May 18, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Trendy? Concentrate on student success? Let's not forget the educational benefits of a dual language program that many of the Board members choose to ignore (recall the benefits were articulated on many occasions to the Board and community). Dual language is a sound educational approach that leads to great student success: http://tinyurl.com/87jlhfv Its unfortunate Kids First were either ignorant or incapable of understanding the needs of the community they serve.
Hobbs May 18, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Always remember that Hoboken's OLD GUARD politicos are desperate to regain control of the BOE and return it to being a patronage mill. That should never be allowed to happen.
Redrider765 May 18, 2012 at 12:45 PM
And our board was right in not wasting money setting up yet another program that would require a whole new staff that speaks fluent Spanish, is trained in teaching in Spanish to run a program in Spanish that would be separate from the rest of the school system. We can't afford to be wasting all this money running a half dozen or so separate programs for a school system that is smaller than many public schools! It is just a waste of resources.
Journey May 18, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Mrs. Garcia and Raia did have a majority on the board, but one of their own broke with them and one was absent. Mr. Farina is not a member of Kids First, and did not have a track record of siding with them. Mr. DeFalco was absent, also beyond the control of Kids First. While I think knowing more than one language is great, this plan was dashed together behind closed doors (not very transparent) and would have cost money, much better used on the fundamentals.
pied piper May 18, 2012 at 01:07 PM
What an inane arguement: board majority: kearns, garcia, defalco, farina, raia There's your 5 votes. If they wanted to vote for it- they could have- They didnt.
Gardiner4Freeholder May 18, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Giant Hostory Lesson: When the vote came up for HOLA there had previously been claims that HOLA had the funding under Raslosky. As history now shows the Funding with HOLA was never there. I was at the meeting when that was revealed. This is just histrionics from prosbus, the curious twinkie eater and the mistress from Secaucus. From the BOE perspective and the Pupie majority, this was largely a political stunt to divide while at least the motives of the parents behind HOLA were sincere. I give Pupie credit, he knows how to play people (and for those he can't persuade, buy heir vote). HOLA never had the funding. I thank Jimmy Farina for voting this down.
Redrider765 May 18, 2012 at 03:39 PM
And there is no bigger patronage mill than running a small BOE that has to by law have an administrative & support staff capable of running a school district and a half dozen or more separate charter schools that all must also have their own separate administrative & support staffs that duplicate the work being done over at the BOE. It is no wonder the people who like to waste money think this is a good idea.
CuriousGal May 18, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Reformerus_Gianticus- Reallocation of resources is not synonymous with increased expenditures. Of course money was there for Hola. It did not require any special funding other than some initial professional development. Teachers salary, books, equipment, space all would have come from the existing school budget and resources just directed toward the dual language program. Simple school financing. I'm not sure what meeting you were at or what you were told, but a dual language program would not have cost any additional money. Maybe different personnel -- but not extra money. It is clear how the current and future Kids First Board members felt about Hola: Theresa Minutillo -- voted no Rose Marie Markle - voted no Carrie Gilliard - voted no Jean Marie Mitchell- spoke out against Ruth McAllister- spoke out against
Journey May 18, 2012 at 06:44 PM
And what would have become the program/department/etc that the money was reallocated from?
Redrider765 May 18, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Resources aren't being reallocated when you create redundant support systems to run a separate organization that is run parallel to an already existing organization that provides the same functions. You are duplicating expenses. But you already knew that Kim.
Hoboken1653 May 18, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Why are you leaving Jimmy Farina off? He voted no. All you are trying to do is damage the Kids First. You have ZERO interest in good education. You are hoping to help Michele Russo, Beth Mason, Frank Raia, and Matt Calichio get control of the school board. People who have a long history of robbing the taxpayers, Russo, and being the least educated in town, Mason and Calichio
prosbus May 18, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Journey/RR- Since the dual language program was to begin in Kindergarten there would be little/no negatively impacted program/department/etc. It would have grown into the district one grade at a time beginning in Kindergarten. For example, if you have enough students for 10 Kindergarten classrooms (@ 15-20 students per class for sake of argument), it does not matter *economically* if 8 of those are "traditional" kindergartens and 2 are "dual language" kindergartens (same number of teachers, books, equipment, space, etc...). Similar logic would apply as students migrated vertically until they reached grade 6 (the planned terminus of the program if I recall correctly). In addition, there is the likelihood that the district may have attracted ADDITIONAL children to stay in the district because of the dual language immersion program. At @ $21,000 per student, the increased revenue stream would have been generally seen as beneficial.
pied piper May 18, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Bottom line- Raia majority (raia, kearns garcia, defalco and farina) had the votes to approve and they didnt. One month after that vote it was discovered that Raslowski overspend the budget and the surplus was gone. Cuts had to made. So NO there was not enough money in the budget for Hola, as RG accurately stated. AND, state law mandates that all new programs be cut before others. This program was never going to come to fruition and they knew it- They just wanted to divide the community right before the election. Re: Hola's costs- Hola wanted it's own seperate admin staff , seperate support staff , seperate office with seperate office staff, seperate library, seperate space within wallace (displacing current students) seperate after school enrichment program,1 teacher and 1 teaching asst. per room.and a full summer enrichment program. Check out their charter school- look at the admin and support personnel and costs. They were over 2mm in the first year.
prosbus May 18, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Hoboken1653: If you look at my post on this thread posted at 2:59 am on Friday, May 18, 2012 you will see the former Board member was listed. I imagine CG left the gentleman off of her post since it was not relevant to the main point of her post, namely, the opposition of Kids First to the Hola/dual language program in 2009.
pied piper May 18, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Mitchell and McAllister were not on the board at the time- but nice attempt to try to confuse people.
Grafix Avenger May 18, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Fascinating. My first glimpse of prosbus Bajardi was at a School Board meeting where he stood up and spoke eloquently in that buttery baritone AGAINST the HoLa Dual Language Immersion program in the public schools. That's when I met Maureen Sullivan, who was there vigorously opposing HoLa. It looks like they've switched horses, and oh so conveniently forgotten them good old days. The Dark Side makes one forget. BTW, did you see the death threat posted on Hoboken411? Against the MAYOR. prosbus' and Sullivan's friend. tsk tsk. Absolutely nuts. http://grafixavenger.blogspot.com/2012/05/breaking-hoboken411-posts-death-threat.html
Grafix Avenger May 18, 2012 at 10:37 PM
And your hubby Bajardi "spoke out against"... yep, my first glimpse of him was at the mike, as he spoke in that buttery, smooth baritone... against HoLA Dual Immersion in the public schools. Do you remember that or was your head in the Twinkie barrel?
pied piper May 19, 2012 at 02:25 AM
correction: sp-separate
pied piper May 19, 2012 at 02:59 AM
NJ article on March 17th 2009, meeting-(meeting immediately after the Hola vote). "The bad news, said Raslowsky, is there have been significant cuts in the budget across the board, and teacher layoffs are likely." Here's some more info from the same meeting (posted March 18th) The tax levy, or how much Hoboken taxpayers pay to the schools, is increasing as the budget goes up, from $35.8 this year to $36.7 million next year. But this year, there's a 1.8% decrease in the actual school tax rate; basically, the money Hoboken taxpayers pay to the schools gets spread around to all the new development in town (or, rateables)."
pied piper May 19, 2012 at 12:26 PM
pied piper 6:30 pm on Friday, May 18, 2012 Mitchell and McAllister were not on the board at the time- but nice attempt to try to confuse people.
Grafix Avenger May 20, 2012 at 01:13 PM
My comments on this thread sat in moderation for over 30 hours. What gives? OK, back to the idiot spin of prosbus and CG- and they know well what they are doing since prosbus articulated his opposition to HoLa 4 years ago. Yes, prosbus was AGAINST HoLa before he was for it. The opposition of future board members was NOT over a Dual Language Charter- it was HoLa integration/ sharing resources with the Hoboken public school system which included the discussion of moving (our) kids out of Wallace to make room for it. The founders of HoLa didn't applied for a Charter AFTER was rejected for integration into our district. And there was NO opposition for the HoLa Charter from the Hoboken School District. I am sure this will have to be repeated over and over like a mantra, as these idiots spray the boards with lies like a cat in heat sprays furniture. Not sure why THEY are spinning about HoLa... probably out of ammo. But there are more of us to set the record straight.
prosbus May 21, 2012 at 01:59 AM
pied piper- CG clearly listed who voted "no" and who "spoke out against" and a previous post of mine makes very clear that Mitchell and McAllister were public speakers at the meeting where Kids First members unanimously voted the Hola dual language program in feb 2009. No one is trying to confuse anyone. In fact, the more facts that come out, the better it is for all concerned.
Grafix Avenger May 21, 2012 at 11:10 AM
prosbus Bajardi, future BoE members spoke against HoLa integration with PUBLIC schools. As I did, as YOU did. We all SUPPORT the Dual Language Charter. Don't you? Or STILL opposed? The exhumation of this talking point shows how little you've got to discuss. Or as my people would say, you've got 'bupkis'. prosbus is milking an imaginary divide, got no influence... just a little voice on a message board. *chirp chirp* Sorry your plan on the Hoboken Reporter combusted. Like I said, your influence in this town is over. *chirp chirp*
prosbus May 21, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Grafix Avenger: Hola applied for a charter only AFTER the program was rejected by Theresa Minutillo, Rose Marie Markle, Carrie Gilliard and Jim Farina (1 member was absent and the Board was short 1 person due to a resignation so only 4 votes were needed that evening). Nothing had to be "shared" with the district, Hola would have been a program within the Hoboken district and cost would have been integrated into the district budget (see explanation above). GA claims there was "no opposition from the Hoboken School District"???-- here is a story from nj.com with the title "Hoboken Board of Education votes not to implement dual-language program" (http://www.nj.com/hobokennow/index.ssf/2009/02/hola_1.html) Only in GA's world is voting down Hola equal to "NO opposition"--
CuriousGal May 21, 2012 at 02:06 PM
HoLa was not intended to be integrated with the PUBLIC schools, it was going to be a program WITHIN the PUBLIC schools. MItchell spoke out against Hola. McAllister spoke out against Hola. And Kids First voted unanimously against Hola as an integrated program in the Public Schools. Now, the superintendent is trying to use some technicality (500 students? 25% of population?) as a reason against DiVinci and ALL the existing charter school and you tell us that there is SUPPORT? At least have the conviction to stand behind past statements and actions. Seem like some editing has gone on with the May 7th meeting on Ch. 77, don't you agree?
Grafix Avenger May 21, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Clueless prosbus, I was there- YOU and Maureen Sullivan 'rejected' HoLa intergation into public schools. Maureen was quite vocal- I'll bet we can pull some video railing against HoLA. And of you, too. Yes, of course "SHARING" resources for the program- our building for one- was inherently part of absorbing it into our district. We all KNOW they applied for the Charter AFTER it was rejected by the Raia majority (Phil DeFalco stayed home on this critical vote- think about that, prosbus). T Exhuming HoLa is dopey strategy. So, keep it up! prosbus is Hoboken's reverse-Midas; everyone he touches loses.
ThisMeansWar May 21, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Prosbus and CG - are you two still pretending you aren't sharing the same IDs and answering yourselves? Oh, that's just adorable. Like little kids playing dress-up. Prosbus: "63% of the school districts in the state of New Jersey have no plans of moving their April elections. They want you to believe moving the elections is VERY popular. It isn't. Not even half the districts are doing so. But, the lies and smears continue." http://hoboken.patch.com/articles/hoboken-school-board-proposed-to-move-election-date#comment_2443563 CuriousGal: "63% of the school districts in the state of New Jersey have no plans of moving their April elections. They want you to believe moving the elections is VERY popular. It isn't. Not even half the districts are doing so. But, the lies and smears continue." http://hoboken.patch.com/articles/hoboken-school-board-proposed-to-move-election-date#comment_2441917 A note to folks playing the game at home. Over 400 of districts with budget elections moved their elections to November with barely a month to think about it. But as curious/prosbus inadvertently warned you (about themselves) "The lies and smears will continue."
prosbus May 21, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Influence ebbs and wanes but truth remains
Grafix Avenger May 21, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Grab a dictionary, CG. 'Integrated' with the public schools as in 'becoming part of a whole (district)'. No editing on the Channel 77 broadcast of the May EIGHTH (not 7th) meeting- I have the dvds. It's ALL there. In fact, perhaps the most compelling presentation of the night was by former B.A. Davis, who was on the ground floor of developing NJ charter schools in the Florio and Whitman administrations. His insight and objectivity (he is retired) is fascinating. Read what Davis had to say about Charters in Hoboken and the proposed expansion to a 5th district. http://grafixavenger.blogspot.com/2012/05/elephant-in-room.html As for CG, she is in campaign mode with circular 4-year old discussions of HoLa and the BoE. Oland had better have more to say than 4 year-old history, especially when some of Frank's current allies spoke against HoLa's attempt to join the public school district (Bajardi and maureen Sullivan). Sad, cg and prosbus are so over in Hoboken.


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