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Teachers Union Head Reaffirms Controversial Stance on Charter School Parents

Hoboken Education Association president Gary Enrico said he believes there's something beyond academics that's keeping local parents from enrolling their kids in Hoboken public schools.

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.

4thefamily June 26, 2013 at 08:06 PM
I am confused about the comment. Aren't all students allowed to attend charter schools? Are students from public housing not allowed to attend charter schools? I was under the impression that charter schools did not discriminate based ethnic or financial background. If anyone is eligible to attend, how can you say your not wanting your student to associate with a particular group? I'm new to the area so I may not have all the facts.
HudsonStreet June 26, 2013 at 08:59 PM
Few have played the race card and used class warfare to divide Hoboken for their own political advantage more than Carmelo Garcia. Sadly, as the November elections draw near some will continue to use these tactics to gain power.
LoveHoboken June 27, 2013 at 08:53 AM
If Mr. Enrico is typical of instructors at HHS, you can bet my kid won't go there. What a hateful, untrue accusation. Academic performance is the key, and Hoboken's public schools must raise their game to attract young families. And yes, kids from public housing can and do enter the charters' lotteries.
Redwing forever June 27, 2013 at 09:42 AM
Mr.Enrico moved out of Hoboken along time before the all the new white people moved here, so if Mr. Enrico loves the Projects why did he and his family stay in hoboken years ago before all the white people moved to hoboken, he is a sad leader maybe that is why test scores are so so so so LOW. keep teaching 1 to 3 kids a day for the money he makes, this is why people will not send there kids to the hoboken schools.
Redwing forever June 27, 2013 at 11:06 AM
and under Mr. Enrico the band was disbanded and it was Peter Ising that made it happen with the rockin redwings so maybe things like this give the theachers bad names.
Redwing forever June 27, 2013 at 11:13 AM
Its like the Board member that said the 8 th Grade in the High School is so Good that after that she sends her kid to High Tect. i guess that Hoboken High is not good for here Kid Sad.
Hermes Wears Adidas June 27, 2013 at 11:14 AM
When you have a marble mouth as your leader, you get what you vote for! The teachers in the union need new blood...if you google his name you see numerous videos of him yelling at the school board. If my employees yelled at me they would be out the door faster than a Hoboken teacher on the last day of school!
cassandra June 27, 2013 at 01:24 PM
Posted a comment on this yesterday . Received email that it was live. Never saw it. Was it removed or just a glitch with new system?
Zak Koeske June 27, 2013 at 01:25 PM
@cassandra - A glitch. I think there were numerous comments that got lost when the site transferred over last night. Sorry about that.
cassandra June 27, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Thanks Zak.
cassandra June 27, 2013 at 03:51 PM
According to the theory of disparate outcomes supported by the US Department of Justice, with which I do not agree , the charter schools are guilty of discrimination if their student body does not reflect the demographics of Hoboken children attending public schools. Since charter schools are funded by the public they are considered public schools. Students attending private or parochial schools do not enter into the equation .
Carol Harrison June 27, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Mr. Enrico's statement is not completely wrong. I was on the fringe of group of parents talking about where the kids might be placed for kindergarten (last summer). One living in southwest part of town was fearful her child would be sent to Connors because the district wanted to assign students to their closest school. She did not want her kids in school with the project kids. Parents that value a good education regardless of economic station will do what they can to make sure their kid has the best education. My friend grew up in Newark projects in 70s/80s. His mom worked hard and found scholarships to Catholic school for her kids. Parents in the projects have put their kids on the lottery to go to the charters. Parents who care make sure their kids do their homework. Parents that don't value education don't participate. On the flip side I have see parents so arrogant that money can buy the everything and had kids that got into trouble. Those parents were also not participating. I know someone who wild older sister was sent to fancy boarding school, where she found other pampered kids who were wild and came out with even worse trouble.
franksinatra June 27, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Enrico has quite the nerve. Nothing has hurt the public schools more in recent years than the firing of two of our best teachers, high school drama director Paula Ohaus and gifted-and-talented teacher Cheng-Yen Hillenbrand. The Kids First faction that controls the school board and Superintendent Mark Toback pulled the trigger but Enrico had a huge role in pushing them out. He did nothing to help them keep their jobs--even though it was his job as the union head to do so. He completely looked the other way, currying favor with Toback and KF and collecting political capital to use in fights he cared more about, like raises for himself and his other union cronies. Enrico is a hack in every sense of the word and is exactly the type of teacher that turns off newcomer parents and convinces them to look for alternatives. He comes across as uneducated, lazy and incompetent. When he ran Saturday U for the gifted and talented kids (a paying job he was given to soften him up for the contract negotiations), his disorganization and lack of creativity with the program were infamous. Finally the program was abolished. And Hoboken High hasn't had a marching band in 20 years, despite his title. He has proved totally incapable of organizing one with actual high school students. And of course, why didn't he put his kids in the Hoboken schools? He moved to Paramus, not exactly a diversified town. Hoboken High had a teacher last year, Judy Burrell, who didn't show up class on 78 days--just because she didn't feel like it. Did Enrico support calls for her firing? Of course not. And yet he wants newcomers to send their kids to his school.
Carol Harrison June 27, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Judging Mrs. Ohaus's statements actions, she didn't help herself much, either.
Nimkel June 28, 2013 at 09:59 AM
Completely with LoveHoboken...Why would I send my child to Hoboken public school when comments like that are made by someone who teaches there and is the Head of the Union... Wow! Shocked and saddened...
Daria Gluck June 28, 2013 at 10:05 AM
Enrico should be ashamed of himself.
Carol Harrison June 28, 2013 at 11:39 AM
Ps. My kid is on public preschool. She will go to public elementary school. I will not rule out specialised public schools like High Tech, if she is interested and skilled in that way. Who knows she might turn out be a performer or athlete, but so far she is not bad at addition and subtraction. She will do fine in the public schools because my husband and are involved. Her pk3 teacher was surprised she was doing addition, since it is not covered, but they were doing number recognition and counting and my kiddo started verbally adding. Because we are teaching her too.
Carol Harrison June 28, 2013 at 11:44 AM
In not on. Damn touch screen.
Cecilia Lisa June 28, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Charter schools have a lottery system, for one, siblings get first priority and the rest of the children are picked from a hat. I have been in the lottery 3 years and have yet to be picked. My first year in the Hoboken Charter Lottery experience was amusing, there was only 1 seat available for that incoming year to Kindergarten because of the siblings first rule.
Christine Smiley Sander June 28, 2013 at 11:54 AM
Occam's razor... And here's the simplest answer: unions and their ridiculous idea of entitlement negotiating keeps higher wages and quality teachers from choosing a public school system. Pay them the wage they deserve, offering a 503b retirement program and END pensions etc. hire aides to do the paperwork, not to entertain the classroom while the teachers have meetings after meetings about test scores and let them do what they signed on to do... TEACH. Stop the excuses, the indoctrination of racism by falling back on it every time you don't like the TRUTH and try holding parents accountable for their lack of participation and support. Schools aren't meant to substitute nutrition and discipline. Not rocket science here people!!
Redwing forever July 01, 2013 at 01:24 PM
Were are Kids first on this why have they not come out to say Mr. Enrico is wrong do they think he is corect
lorraine morgan July 04, 2013 at 09:10 AM
The sad part about Mr Enrico's "Demarest" statement is that the Hoboken Public School Children should be housed there. Why is a Charter School given priority over Hoboken Public School ? Where was Mr. Enrico's outrage on this matter? The superintendend/assistant super/ba etc all moved there. Guess they didn't want any students/teacers/staff around them
Carol Harrison July 05, 2013 at 03:11 PM
There are Hoboken public school kids there. Per-K 3 and 4. Moving administration from Wallace to demarest allowed the district to get Wallace students out of those temporary trailers.
cassandra July 05, 2013 at 06:19 PM
I was not aware of the sibling rule. Discriminatory against newcomers?
Cecilia Lisa July 05, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Not so discriminatory but preferred I guess.
Carol Harrison July 05, 2013 at 08:26 PM
I dislike the sibling rule. I don't know if other towns use it. But I can see the practical benefit to families. It would be hard to get three kids to school at the same time, if the each went to different school at opposite times. If the district staggered the start times by 15 minutes, it might make drop off and pick up easier.

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