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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.

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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