Hoboken Education Association president Gary Enrico reiterated Tuesday his belief that the quality of instruction is the not the primary factor motivating parents to pull their children out of the Hoboken public school system.
The real reason local parents opt for charter schools, according to the longtime high school music teacher and marching band director, is to avoid having their kids mix with kids from public housing.
“We have great teachers, we have great schools, we have great facilities,” Enrico said in response to comments critical of the district made by school board candidate Brian Murray at the June 11 board of education meeting. “It is not good enough because they don’t want their children in the classroom with the kids from applied housing or the projects.
“If I’m wrong I’d love to be corrected, but I doubt it,” he continued. “It’s impossible. So let’s call it the way it is.”
Local bar owner and charter school parent Joe Branco, who was in attendance when Enrico made his initial remarks two weeks ago, said during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting that he was offended by the teacher’s words and thought he owed charter school parents an apology.
“Mr. Enrico owes the charter school parents an apology for making such a blanket statement like that because I took it very offensively,” Branco said. “I should be offended or upset that I took my kids into a charter school? I should feel guilty?”
Branco, whose children attend HoLa, said he wasn’t opposed to enrolling them in Hoboken public schools in the future, but currently preferred HoLa's curriculum.
“If Hoboken High does get its act together by the time my kids are there, I’ll be more than happy to send my kids to Hoboken High,” he said. “You can take that to the bank.”
Enrico replied publicly that he stood by his earlier remarks and said others within the district had received them positively.
“The comments that I got from the faculty members and the people who are in the district basically applaud what I said that night,” he said. “I stand by what I said because it’s something that’s been building up in me for about 15 years now. I still haven’t received an answer as to why people will not send their kids to the public schools in Hoboken.”
Board member Carmelo Garcia, who is the executive director of the Hoboken Housing Authority and a close friend of Branco’s, said he felt Enrico’s comments were inappropriate and only contributed to preserving the prevailing class barrier in Hoboken.
“You mentioned this had been sitting in you for 15 years,” Garcia, a former student of Enrico’s at Hoboken High School, said. “I think sometimes that perpetuates the rationale of why residents have a tendency not to want to invest, because it creates a divide.”
When asked directly whether he believed charter school parents held racial or socioeconomic biases that caused them to take their kids out of the public school system, Enrico declined to comment, saying that one needed only to "look outside of Demarest at dismissal time and tell me what you see."
Demarest School, located at 158 4th Street, houses students from both Hoboken Charter School and Elysian Charter School.